So there I was, in the Rhein und Ruhr Megalopolis last week to give the Germans a piece of my mind, at a philosophy conference in beautiful Bonn. Of course the area is well known for two of Germany’s more interesting beers, Kölsch from Köln, and Altbier from Düsseldorf, neither of which is a lager as commonly conceived (at least, they are not fermented with Saccharomyces pastorianus which is responsible in part for the familiar taste that many lagers have, although they probably are Lagered, that is, stored at cold temperatures after primary fermentation is complete, just as most modern beers are.) which is nice to see, not that I didn’t enjoy a couple of perfectly good glasses of Stauder Pils, the local beer in Essen, where I was staying.
On my final day, Sunday, we ventured in to Düsseldorf before I flew home in the evening, and as seems to always be the case in German towns I visit, they were having a big party in the city centre. We mingled around the bustling squares, there was some sort of “Jazz Marathon” afoot, and plenty of music. We ate Thuringer bratwurst, and sampled fine altbiers from the iconic Uerige, from Frankenheimer, and Schlüssel at least, probably Diebels, and I may be leaving some out. Just as in Köln where we saw them filling the little 20cl glasses of Kölsch from a fast pouring tap, 20 or so at a time without turning off the tap, the stand outside the Uerige brewery had a simple cask up on the table, when one ran out, they hoisted another up, slammed in an old style tap and hammered what I presumed was some sort of spile in to the top, and the tap was opened and I didn’t see it shut off while I was there at least. One barman poured and the other served.
My favourite alt of the day was one from a small microbrewery, the Kürzer Brauerei, on Kurze Strasse, which
only had a 2000L capacity, although from what I could see it had a pretty hi tech setup. It was a real microbrewery, the brewing gear was in the back of the slightly industrial, functionally furnished bar, it wasn’t behind glass, but merely roped off. The alt was tasty, it was malty and well hopped, similar to Uerige which I think is the bitterest of the well known varieties. It may even have been more hopped still.
I asked could I poke around, no problem I was told. In fact, I had a good chat with the friendly young barman, who I took for an Australian but who in fact had grown up in Papua New Guinea. At least he took my Australian comment as a compliment.
The setup was very interesting. As far as I could make out, the beer was brewed as normal, except I think they harvested the c02 from fermentation. It was secondaried in conicals at roof height I guessed, and then passed through a rather large plate filter. At this stage the barman wasn’t sure of the procedure, “I only sell it” he told me. What he could tell me was that they didn’t use kegs, instead there was a rather large (I would estimate 200L) horizontal tank suspended from the roof near the bar, and the beer was fed from that to a glass container that refilled automatically, and had an adjustable level sensor. It looked a bit like one those things that has margherita mix or something like that in some bars, you can make it out in the picture, as well as the holding tank. So as far as I could see, the beer was probably filtered and recarbonated with the harvested c02 in one of those smaller tanks, then pumped to the holding tank at the bar, where it fed by gravity to the glass serving vessel, which then poured by gravity also. There was no external serving gas used.
The bar was only open since October, I don’t know if they had been brewing before that. The friendly barman was delighted with this system, they didn’t need to use kegs anymore, so no more lifting for him. They Also owned a bar down the road, and the one directly across the street. “We still fill kegs for the bar down the road” he told me, but the bar across the street is equipped with a similar serving system. “We just use a giant hose to fill it from here!” he told me.