2017 Beer Travel Series - Germany
It took a while, but I have finally had the chance to backtrack all of our travels in 2017. It was a year that was jam packed with new experiences. We truly feel blessed to have such a kick ass year, we got to see some really amazing places...
Our visit to Germany was part of our European excursion that we had back in July of this year. Our good friends, Katie and Jo had moved to Germany a few years ago and we finally had the chance to go visit them and plan an adventure to a few countries together. We landed in Germany to kick off this trip and got to see their house and small town before embarking on a trips to Greece and Italy. We flew into Frankfurt and hopped in Katie's car for a ride on the Autobahn en route to the Ramstein area.
When we arrived in Germany we had just enough time to check out a summer fest in a park near Katie and Jo's house before we were to leave for Greece. The park was packed with people, numerous stands slinging sausages, crepes, pizza (believe it or not...), a bunch of beer stands and a pretty elaborate live music stage (as a musician myself, I was quite impressed). The park that held this summer fest was interesting to say the least (in a good way..). The park was littered with various life size models of dinosaurs...Pretty random, but it made for an interesting atmosphere to enjoy some German fare. I b-lined right for the bratwurst stand to indulge in my first German sausage in GERMANY! I paired it with a fresh German Pils from the beer vendor near by. I closed my eyes and bit into a piece of heaven. It was a very enjoyable night, the weather was pretty perfect and it was a great way to kick off our European vacation. The brief time in Germany was a bit of a tease as we boarded a plane to Greece the next day.
After exploring Crete, Santorini and Venice we boarded a flight back to Germany. I was eager to eat more sausage and enjoy more fresh beer. We woke up at the crack of dawn the first morning back....actually Im pretty sure it was still dark out. Jo is in the US Air Force and on the Ramstein base, they had a group that ran day trips to various parts of the country. We booked a spot on a day tour checking out some castles which included a sail on the Rhine River.
It was pretty amazing to see so many free standing castles on the countryside. They littered hills over looking the river. Sounds cheesy, but the images that we were seeing were straight out of a fairytale. It really did look like a painting every which way you turned..After doing a tour of a local castle we boarded our bus and headed down into the valley right on the bank of the Rhine. Right near the docks where we were to board our boat for our river sail stood a quaint little German shop. As part of the tour we had a scheduled session with the shop owners for a tour of the store and some wine tasting. Upon entering the store the walls were littered with homemade German cucko clocks... and various handmade German trinkets.
The wine that we were tasting was German Eiswein. Now...Im not a wine connoisseur by any means however, it was still kind of cool to try something so unique as ice wine. Ice wine s a type of dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. The sugars and other dissolved solids do not freeze, but the water does, allowing a more concentrated grape must to be pressed from the frozen grapes, resulting in a smaller amount of more concentrated, very sweet wine. With ice wines, the freezing happens before the fermentation, not afterwards. Steffon, the shop owner and producer of the ice wine, went on to tell us how production of this wine is very risky in a sense that it is not always guaranteed that the harvesting season would be a good one. Climate plays a huge role in harvesting these grapes at the right times. In turn, this production limitation made Steffon's Eiswein quite expensive....I'll stick to good beers, thanks for the samples though Steffon!
After a sampling of Steffon's wine and a round of German shots outside of the shop it was time to board our boat for our cruise down the Rhine.
The boat had a large rooftop deck which we quickly grabbed a seat and ordered a round of German Pils. We sipped on our refreshing beers on a cool summer's afternoon taking in the views of the castles we passed on the way down to the valley and raised a glass to the statue of the Lorelei.
After a full day of traveling with a tour group we wanted to have a day at our own pace and explore one of the bigger towns near Katie and Jo's house. We went into town for lunch and found a brewpub adorned with gorgeous copper kettles.
I sat at the bar and ordered the Weisswurst and washed it down with some tasty Dunkels brewed in the brewhouse. After having our full it was time to walk off our meal. The weather was rainy and a bit chilly, perfect for a stroll down cobble stone streets full of shops. After we took in the local sites we became thirsty and found a local bar that was set on a second floor of a building overlooking the area where we went for our walk. I was in the mood to try as many beers as I could and saw that the bar had a flight on its menu. I confirmed with my wife that I should go ahead and order our flight and she headed to the bathroom. When she came back the look on her face was priceless....I was in shock myself. The flight was not your traditional flight....It was the length of a ski and the width of a 2x4.
The beers ranged in color from dark to light. Trust me...my shock and awe of this huge flight was not over. I had my first experience with German Cola Weizen....In Germany it is typical for drinkers to mix in Cola to various beers hence creating something called Cola Weizen. Depending on what region of Germany you are in, the name of this concoction could vary.
The Reinheitsgebot or German Beer Purity Law limits the amount of adjuncts that are added to the brewing process. Due to this, it leaves a lot of room for drinkers to add their own additions to the beer they consume - Cola being one of them.....I was not warned of this and when I took my sip I was quite surprised. To be honest I didn't care very much for Cola Weizen....not my thing, but good for you Germany - do what you gotta do!
After heading back to the house Katie and Jo mentioned that there was a Belgian beer bar within walking distance. I love Belgian style beers and as the years go on it's started to really become my favorite style. When we got to the bar it looked as though the staff was prepping to close for the night even though they still had about two hours or so left before their listed closing. Sorry guys, we're from America and Im here to drink! The waitress brought over the menu....It was maybe two feet long and double sided....Full of beer! These are some that I ran through:
Enigma - Black Fuel - Beligian Strong Dark Ale - 9.5 ABV
Duvel Moortgat - Duvel Tripel Hop Citra - 9.5 ABV
Brasserie d'AHoublon Chouffe - Houblon Chouffe 9 ABV
The bartenders started to pick up that I was really into beer. They called me up to the bar and told showed me their collection of rare beer. They made a suggestion, Trappist Westvleteren 12 from Brouwerij De Sint - Sixtusabdij van Westvleteren, dubbed the "best beer in the world". They warned me that it was expensive and at this point I didn't really care about price.....turned out to be about 10-15 Euros I believe? A bargain for someone who frequently drinks beer in New York City...
Westvleteren is a brewery founded in 1838 at the Trappist Abby of Saint Sixtus in Vieteren, Beligium. The beers are brewed by Trappist monks and the beer is sold in small quantities weekly from the doors of the monastery itself to individual buyers on an advance-order basis. The bar was down to their last bottle and I grabbed it real quick. I find the acquisition of this beer to be really interesting. I wont clog up this blog post, but if you want to read more about it you can check it out here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westvleteren_Brewery. Needless to say I really enjoyed this beer. It is a great quad and if you ever stumble upon it please be sure to add it to your list.
We wrapped up our trip to Germany with a visit to the city of Heidelberg. Again, the weather was damp and dreary, perfect setting for a day in an old european city. Heidelberg Castle towards over the city. We walked up the path to the top of the castle and admired the views from the gardens. There's a lot of WWII history here and it was pretty surreal to see in person. After we walked back down from the castle, we worked up quite the appetite. On the drive over to Heidelberg Jo was talking up a brew pub and we headed straight for it. We peaked into the window of Vetter's Brauhaus and it was VERY quiet.
We put our name on the seating list and did a photo op on Old Bridge Gate. Our timing was pretty clutch, right after we took some pictures we were greeted to a seat. The menu was full of great beer, loads of sausage and meat dishes, the copper kettles were the backdrop of the dining room and huge chandeliers made of hops hung over our heads.
Vetter's Brauhaus was known for their Vetter 33, a dopplebock clocking in at 33% alcohol, once dubbed as the strongest beer in the world (Guiness Book of World Records). On this trip I was able to try the "best beer in the world" along with "the once strongest beer in the world"!
Before we knew it, our Euro trip came to an end. It was time to head back to Jersey with memories we'll remember forever and some new inspiration for Terra Costa Beers! I need to spend more time in Germany and explore more beer. I really also need to spend some time in Belgium.....2018 how about more Euro trips?!