One of the most enjoyable experiences for me as a beer lover is to enjoy beers at their source. Beer geeks travel the world far and wide to enjoy what the world of beer has to offer. Germany is without question one of the world’s greatest brewing nations, and a trip to Germany is order for any beer lover. Munich immediately comes to mind when taking a “beer trip” to Germany, but I am happy to say, there are other parts of Germany that are worth a visit, who enjoy their own unique beer styles, and beer cultures. If you ever decide to take a trip to Germany, a visit to the state of North Rhine-Westphalia is in order. It is here that you will find many of the industries that help fuel the German economy, and it is here that you will find the cities of Cologne, and Düsseldorf.
So why Düsseldorf? The answer to anyone who is familiar with German beer, already knows the answer. Düsseldorf is the home of a very special beer style known as altbier. It is one of my all time favorite beer styles, and is one I sorely do not get enough of. If you are going to venture to Dusseldorf, you will find a number of places to enjoy Altbier. All are pretty much worth a visit. When I visited Düsseldorf, I had one place in mind. It is a about a 15 minute walk from the train station to the Altstadt or "old town" but one that I just had to make. dat leckere droppke or "the delicious drop" is the slogan for a very special German beer.
The beer I speak of is the legendary Zum Uerige Altbier. So what makes this beer and this style so special? A lot really. Alt bier or "old beer" is a very local beer style, which is brewed in and around the city of Düsseldorf, Germany. What makes it special is the fact that it is an ale, not a lager, and "old beer" refers to the fact that the first beers brewed in Germany, were ales, not lagers. Lagers of course, now dominate German brewing, but there are areas of Germany that never took to them. The brewers in Düsseldorf were never persuaded to change to lagers, and we as beer lovers should all be grateful. By style, alt is a delicious, copper colored, malty, hoppy beer, which is just so drinkable. Brewpubs and breweries in Düsseldorf specialize in this very local style, and take great pride in it.
Zum Uerige is a brewpub located on a busy corner street in the heart of the Altstadt, and brews what has been called the bench mark example of alt bier. When I entered Zum Uerige for lunch and took a seat, I was over come with joy and great expectations. When one of the Kobes (pronounced kerbiss) or blue jacket, blue apron wearing waiters, came by my table rolling a wooden barrel of altbier past me, I knew I had finally arrived. I have had other German alt biers, and would try other outstanding examples on my trip to Düsseldorf, but this beer is without question, still my personal favorite.
Uerige Altbier pours to a beautiful, bright, copper color, with a bright white head that clings to the glass, and a soft to moderate amount of carbonation. The nose on this beer is fantastic, with vibrant herbal/grassy hop aroma, paired with subtle hints of nutty malt. The palate on this beer is soft and malty, with incredible clean and nutty malt flavors. As the sea of clean malt flavor ends, this beer finishes with a vibrant burst of grassy/herbal hop bitterness that lingers on the tongue.
At the brewpub this beer is served by gravity from a wooden barrel. The Kobes circle the rooms with metal trays full of 0.25L short glasses of freshly poured altbier, and will continue to replace your empty glass until you tell them to stop. They mark you coaster each time with a pencil, and when all was said and done with, my friend and I had consumed 11 glasses of altbier (I had 8, he had 3). Uerige Alt is an amazingly drinkable beer that you just can’t get enough of. It is so flavorful, clean, smooth and drinkable. The aromas and flavors vom fass at the brewery are just so fresh and flavorful, you really have to come to Düsseldorf to experience the magic of this beer.
In the meantime, I am happy to say it is available in 11.2 oz brown swing top bottles, which retail for about $4 a bottle. It can even be found on draught, in select markets at good beer bars across the US. The price for this beer seems a little inflated, but for a classic like this, I say well worth it. Uerige Alt is a very food friendly beer, and would be the perfect match for grilled bratwurst or roasted pork. I enjoyed glass after glass of this beer with some delicious potato soup, a mettwurst, and liverwurst with bread and butter. For more information about this beer, and its big brother, the rare, Uerige Sticke visit their site at: http://www.uerige.de/.