Dusseldorf – Drinking the Alt Bier

Dusseldorf is traditionally known as the city where they brew Altbier. There are numerous breweries in the old town area of the city that get packed starting around 7PM. I visited five different spots and of the five, only one was comfortable accepting payment via credit card. A few said they accept cards but require a 100 euro minimum charge, which might as well be cash only. Beers are served in 200ml glasses so while you go through quite a lot of beers, it takes five to drink a full liter.
I started at Uerige first, where I met a Korean woman visiting Germany from Los Angeles and ended up joining me for the rest of the night to chat while we drank. Uerige had one of the more traditional feels of the bunch and also the beer that was the most hoppy/bitter. I had a lovely salad there with my beers. Their Altbier had notes of bitter acorn, notes of cherry, and a lingering bitterness. Though a number of the altbiers we tried were hoppy, they tended towards the bitterness over aroma, letting the malt character shine through.
In most of the breweries they would constantly roll out wooden casks and pour glass after glass of beer. In a few of the more busy spots they seemed to empty a cask in 30 minutes or less. Perhaps it was because it was early but at Uerige they didn’t constantly serve us like they did at some of the others but we still got our beers quickly. My companion enjoyed the altbier at Uerige the most of the bunch. It was a highlight for me as well though I appreciated some others for their more restrained bitterness.
Next on our list was Zum Golden, right up the street, though they were closed that day. We made our way to Zum Schlussel next, where we had the sweetest of the beers with more notes of caramel and molasses and a more creamy head than the others. They seemed to be the biggest space of them all and the restaurant was packed with most tables either occupied or reserved. If you plan to eat with a group at one of these breweries, you should make a reservation or expect a wait.
We set up at Zum Schlussel in a standing area in view of the casks not far from the front door and watched as they filled beer after beer to deliver to the tables around us. We each had two glasses here and moved on to the next spot, Im Golden Kessel, just down the street. There we stood to drink as well and experienced our first constant serving of beer. The beer there was a bit closer to Uerige in flavor and bitterness. The important thing at most of these spots is the beer is so dry that it is easy to drink through glass after glass without issue. Our drinking was occasionally interrupted by the popping sound of a new cask being tapped.
After a few beers we moved on to Kurzer, the newest of the bunch and also the place with the youngest crowd. They used a different sort of cask that was much smaller but had no issues keeping us constantly supplied with beer. I initially got some notes of Indian Curry (masala chai) that thankfully dissipated over time but in general this was not a favorite of mine. We also might have been turned away except the people who reserved the table where we set up did not show up. Here again they required cash to pay for the beers, despite the modern feel.
We moved on to Fuschen, where we stood near the entrance as well. This place was also packed but we settled in a bar area where they were happy to serve us beers. By this point the flavors were all starting to blend together and it was hard to distinguish one from another. We finished our few beers there and moved on to Im Golden Ring that seemed like it was on the ground floor of a hotel. Though they were getting ready to close, they didn’t mind serving us.
This was the first spot that had something other than Altbier on the menu and actually gave you a menu of drinks. We each ordered a larger 400ml pour there. The other tables appeared to be all drinking Weissbier. This was also the one spot that I was able to pay with a credit card. I found their version of Altbier to be quite mellow and also similarly caramel forward.
My experience with the breweries was much enhanced by having someone with me to chat with. The Germans around us didn’t seem to speak any English and also didn’t seem very interested in chatting. Like with Dublin, I could tell that for the visitors to these breweries, drinking is more important than tasting and few people were sipping their small beers. While it was fun to visit a bunch of different breweries, you may find it equally enjoyable to set up in a spot and drink much more there. Just make sure you have cash handy. The standard price per beer was between 2 euro and 2 euro 50 cents, which makes it between 4-5 euros per American pint. 200ml is just under 7 ounces so two beers is slightly less than an American pint.
In case you have your fill of Altbier and decide you want something different, you can find some craft beer either at local shops off the beaten path or even a bar in Old Town area. Holy Craft has a bottle shop in Friedrichtrasse and a bar in the Old Town area of Dusseldorf. I only visited the bottle shop but it is a good spot where you can find various craft beers and also sample German classics like Berliner Weisse and Gose, both slightly sour, though the German varieties are much more yeast forward (like a traditional weisse beer) than we are used to in the US.

My favorites:

  1. Uerige – this was the most complex tasting beer of the bunch.
  2. Fuschen – Lovely traditional feel, and delicious beer.
  3. TIP: Remember to bring cash because most of these spots are Cash Only or have a minimum charge of 100 euro on a card.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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Thoughts on the Dublin Beer Scene

Dublin has a variety of beer options, whether you are looking to sample local craft beer or simply drink the local styles. There is no shortage of Irish stouts and red ales on Nitro for you to enjoy at the various pubs. Unlike many other areas, you don’t currently have the options of visiting breweries except for Guinness. Thankfully Galway Bay Brewery has seven different pubs in Dublin you can visit to enjoy their variety of house beers and many guest beers.

There is a certain simple pleasure to sipping reds and stouts after getting used to hazy Ipas. Most pubs I visited had the standard Guinness and Smithwicks (red, pale, and blonde) on Nitro and many had other red ales or stouts on Nitro as well. While you can get Smithwicks in cans, nothing compares to the nitro pours at the pubs.

Though I visited around 15 different pubs over many days, I never once encountered a dirty glass or dirty lines. There is a dedication to quality presentation at the pubs in Ireland that American bars could learn from. Pints are strictly defined and most pubs served me an identical amount of beer when I ordered a pint. You can always order a glass if you want a half pint of something at a pub and they won’t mind. Most were also happy to give me a taste of a beer or two if I wasn’t sure what I wanted.

There is a roasty character to the proper Irish red ales I drank over the last few days that I haven’t often encountered in the US and I will miss this flavor. I also had a few lovely Irish Pale Ales (IPA for short) that were similar in character to English bitter styles. In Dublin you can also find both Irish and English craft beers in the stores. I only encountered Cloudwater beer on tap once and they had run out before I ordered it.

Besides the much hyped Cloudwater from Manchester UK, you can find other local Irish versions of kettle sours, hazy Ipas, and others at liquor stores around the Dublin area, typically called Off-License on a sign outside. The one can of Cloudwater hazy Ipa I bought was fantastic and I highly recommend grabbing some if you are looking for that style. My recommendation is to drink all the craft Irish stouts, reds, and pales you can find and add in the occasional pint of Smithwicks. I have only had terrible experience with the local lagers, sometimes called blonde ales, and would suggest you never order those.

Of the various craft beer bars I visited, the two connected with Galway Bay Brewery were my favorites. You can find a list of their Dublin pubs on their website and you should consider visiting one of their pubs at least once. My only complaint is that they have the same food menu at each of them, so you don’t get to try unique food at either spot. I greatly enjoyed their pub ale and they also have a delicious milk stout and various hoppy offerings to try.

Outside the craft pubs, your lineup would typically look like this.

During my four days of drinking in Dublin, my only other complaint is that I didn’t have any serious conversation at the various pubs I visited. It must be too obvious that I am a tourist with my camera over my shoulder. In all, I found my experience in the Dublin pubs to be much superior to my past visit to London. Though it could also have been my approach to the pubs that was different as well.

On my lats evening in Dublin, I decided to finally visit the local pub near where I was staying in my Airbnb near Drumcundra station. The pub there had a drastically different feel and was clearly the spot for the locals to spend their evenings drinking and watching football. I spent a few hours there enjoying the conversation they were having, watching the games, and drinking a few pints. It was a highlight of my trip.

Pubs to Try

Dublin has a variety of pubs you can visit but the ones below are some of my favorites.
1. Any of the pubs connected with Galway Bay Brewery. The staff was always welcoming and they have a good number of guest taps.
2. The Stag’s Head – We visited on a crowded evening and the place had a lovely energy about it.
3. Darkey Kelly’s – Nice traditional Pub that has live music in the evenings.
4. Get out of Downtown Dublin and visit smaller neighborhood pubs. This is the way to get the best local experience.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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Santa Rosa Breweries – Henhouse, Moonlight, and Woodfour

Henhouse Brewery

Henhouse Brewery was our first stop on our second day. After visiting the main brewery location, I was told that they have a sour brewery location elsewhere although this is only a review of the main brewery location. They have a large building which has a decent amount of indoor seating and fairly large outdoor seating area. Like other breweries in the area, pints were a better deal than tasters so that is what I stuck to here and elsewhere.

I started with their house saison which was super dry with lingering notes of black pepper, mild bitterness, and hints of pear. After that I ordered their beer titled independent AF IPA. The beer was hazy thanks to the addition of wheat malt. It was hazy in appearance but not particularly juicy. The beer had tons of hop aroma with notes of papaya and an herbal bitter finish. I left with cans and they have been enjoyable once I returned home.

Moonlight Brewery

Moonlight is known primarily for their dark lager titled death and taxes. It was strangely cold in their tasting room when we stopped by and there was also a painting class going on so we didn’t stay too long although the few beers that I had were quite excellent.

I started with their Pilsner which was nice and traditional, classic and dry with notes of hay and overall easy drinking. The beer is served as a full half liter. I had tried their death and taxes beer before so when I saw that they had a beer called boney fingers, a slightly stronger version they make for Halloween, I ordered that immediately. The beer was roasting and mildly smoky with notes of dark chocolate and perfectly balanced. I grabbed a four pack before I left and am glad I did because the two I have opened so far were quite excellent.

I finished with a low alcohol saison called Wee Nibble. The beer was dry and lightly herbal with hints of lemon and banana. It was a solid version of the style. Moonlight seems to make some of the more traditional beers of the breweries I visited and so would make a good spot for someone to visit who is there for Russian River primarily.

Woodfour Brewery

Before leaving town, we made our way to a brewery called woodfour, known for its barrel aged beers and sours. They have a spacious indoor seating area and large outdoor deck with covered seating.

I started with their Berliner weisse, a beer that they spontaneously ferment. It was hazy yellow with subdued tartness and notes of peach and mild funk. If I had any room left in my suitcase, I would have bought some cans to bring home because it was quite excellent. Rather than having a version with fruit added, they offer you to order the beer with syrup although I prefer to drink plain.

Next was there wild Saison called Brett mother. It was intensely funky with notes of acorns, mild lemon, and grapefruit that comes out as it warms up. The first few sips took some getting used to but I grew to enjoy the beer before I finished the glass. I finished with their sour farmhouse ale which was intensely tart with notes of green papaya and peach and as you get used to the beer the funky base comes through with notes of earthy malts and hints of acorns. I don’t know if it was this particular beer or the fact that I was drinking three sour beers in a row, but I was unable to finish my third beer. I think perhaps their house yeast didn’t agree with my stomach in such large quantities.

Woodfour has a special style slightly different from other sour breweries out there so it’s hard to compare them to my favorites. They certainly have achieved a nice house yeast flavor that is distinguishable between their sours. They also had a lovely dark lager with coffee that my husband enjoyed while he was there.

Known for:
Visit Woodfour if you are interested in trying some unique sour and funky beers.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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Where to Drink in North Park Neighborhood of San Diego

North Park is a thriving residential neighborhood with tons of bars and restaurants and now breweries. I am going to list all of the breweries and also highlight some of my favorites. There are really two smaller clusters of breweries, one along El Cajon Boulevard and one along University Avenue.

Furthest South in North Park area is Modern Times’ satellite tasting room nestled among various restaurants. They focus on hazy IPAs, barrel aged stouts, and sours and you can pick up limited amounts of their cans from this location. If you want their barrel aged sours, the selection is wider at the main brewery. Thorn Street is not far down the road, easily walkable with their brewery location where they largely stick to traditional styles. Neither of these locations has food.

On your way up to University Avenue, you will pass Mike Hess brewing, a large tasting room that is usually crowded. I haven’t visited them in years and suggest you stick to other nearby stops instead. My fellow beer blogger Craft Beer in San Diego considers Hess one of his favorites so perhaps I am just missing something. Check their tap list first to see if the beers interest you. Also on University is North Park Brewing, a young brewery that partnered with Mastiff Sausages for their kitchen. They have excellent food and vegan options (including vegan sausage). This is one of my favorite places to visit in the area because they have excellent IPAs and also brew the occasional flavorful low alcohol beer, sometimes an English mild or dark lager. I end up drinking their mild beers so often I forget to order the IPAs. Lately they have started brewing the occasional hazy IPA and some have turned out quite good.

A short walk north from there, you will pass Toronado bar on your way to Rip Current’s North Park tasting room, Belching Beaver’s north park tasting room, and Second Chance’s small neighborhood spot. Toronado is a local favorite featuring a variety of beers on tap. Rip Current is known for excellent IPAs, but they also brew fantastic German styles, stouts, and barrel-aged stouts. Belching Beaver is mostly known for their IPAs. They recently started making some hazy IPAs and also have a young sour beer program with the original brewer and blender behind the now closed Toolbox brewing. Second Chance makes excellent beers to style and is one of the few local breweries that makes an excellent Irish red that is available year round.

Once you reach Belching Beaver you are fully into the El Cajon Blvd part of town where you can find Tiger Tiger, Pariah, Eppig, A hard Kombucha brewer, Home Brewing, Barn Brewing. Further North you will find Fall Brewing, Poor House. Of these my favorite is Fall but Pariah and Eppig are great too. Tiger Tiger is connected with Blind Lady Ale House and serves their house beers from Automatic Brewing on draft along with a variety of local beers. All pints there are served in imperial pint glasses, giving you a full half liter.

Pariah and Eppig opened around the same time and both have excellent beers. Pariah I visit mostly for IPAs though they have a variety of styles available. Eppig I mostly visit for lagers including one of the best dark lagers in town. I haven’t yet visited their neighboring hard kombucha spot and don’t plan to because I drink kombucha as an alternative to beer and prefer my home brew.

Home Brewing is a quirky spot connected to a home brew mart but they have been doing quite a few interesting collaborations and can releases lately that tend to be good. It is a good spot to visit if you want to learn about some more obscure styles. I haven’t been to Barn brewing yet and don’t expect to anytime soon. Nobody talks about them in my circles and I assume they have a more local following. They are owned by the same people who opened Poor House.

Fall Brewing is a local staple both for excellent IPAs and lagers. They also brew a variety of other styles reliably well. I tend to order their English Pale Ale there simply because nobody else does a beer like that around town like they do. Poor House is a quirky neighborhood brewery that I haven’t been to in many years. They are similar to Barn in that nobody really talks about them but they are still around so I assume they have a following as well.

Further East along Adams you will find Kensington Brewing and Blind Lady Ale House home of Automatic Brewing. Kensington Brewing I have been to only once and don’t expect to return. They have a similar neighborhood feel and lack the excellence of others in the area. Blind Lady Ale House is a restaurant focusing on pizza and serves their house beers from Automatic Brewing along with a variety of other guest beers. They also serve all their pints in imperial pint glasses giving you a full half liter. If you haven’t heard of Automatic Brewing don’t be surprised. They hardly market themselves as a brewery online. But they do make some great beer.

Must visit stops If you only have time for a few
Fall Brewing
Rip Current
Modern Times
North Park Brewing (serves food)

Other standouts
Belching Beaver
Second Chance

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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Santa Rosa Breweries – Fogbelt and Cooperage

It is common for people to take a trip to Russian River brewery in the Santa Rosa area. Most people will go just for that one brewery but there are many others around that are worth visiting in their own right or stopping by if you don’t feel like waiting for a table at Russian River. I decided to make a trip to the Santa Rosa area to visit these breweries and see which ones stand out to me.

Fogbelt Brewery

Shortly after landing, I stopped by Fogbelt brewery. It was quite noisy inside as is typical for Friday nights at breweries. Their pricing made sense to order pints because it was five or six dollars a pint as opposed to two or three dollars a taster. I started with their wet hop Redwood Hill IPA. The beer had a copper color with earthy and piney hops nicely balanced with a malt base and medium lingering bitterness. It reminded me of a slightly more resinous version of blind pig and Russian River. Notes of orange blossom come through as it warms up.

I ended with a dark sour called Methuselah that was nicely balanced with notes of caramel and raisins with a smooth oaky finish and hints of red wine, cherry, and dates. Before I left I noticed they had some Carolina reaper hot sauce, hot sauce made with one of the spicy is peppers on the planet. When I asked for a taste, they brought me a chip and a little bit of hot sauce and it was delightfully flavorful and spicy such that I left with two bottles. If you are a fan of extremely spicy hot sauces, make sure you stop by just for that. This hot sauce has become part of my regular rotation at home and I’m glad I got two.

If you are not a fan of noisy breweries, I would suggest avoiding fog belt on Friday nights. They also came highly recommended for their food, although I did not try any because our flight was delayed quite a bit and we arrived after having already eaten. Fogbelt is worth a stop if you enjoy more traditional approach to your hoppy beers, which I expect you do if you are in town for Russian River.

Cooperage Brewery

After fogbelt, we went straight to cooperage brewery. They had a more open feel and dispersed the sound a bit better. Their templates seem to be almost exclusively hoppy beer focused. This should have suggested that I may not enjoy the English mild but I went for it anyways to start.

The English mild on tap was dry with notes of acorns and mild smoke. The beer was fairly lacking in flavor for the style and not impressive compared to others I’ve had recently. I finished with the beer called Wookie of the year IPA. It was excellently balanced with tons of hope aroma and notes of resin, lemon, and light pine. The beer had a soft mouth feel with mild bitterness on the finish. This is a good spot to come visit if you are looking for more IPAs.


Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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Exploring San Diego's Craft Breweries