Monday, June 29, 2015

MAKIN' THE GERMAN BEER SCENE, PT. 1: ALTES MÄDCHEN BRAUGASTHAUS

So it was that I found myself in Germany this past week, and in need of a good beer. I swapped my job with a Norway-based company for one based in Hamburg, Germany – and so now when I travel for work, dollars to donuts it’s most likely going to be to Alemania, Tyskland, Deutschland – whatever you call it where you’re from. Last time I was in Hamburg, a mere four weeks ago, my beer excursions were limited to the odd hefeweizen at dinner. I aimed to change that this go-round, and set my sights on a place I researched online: the ALTES MÄDCHEN BRAUGASTHAUS, or “old girl beer & food house”. It was so good I went there twice.

First of all, unless you’ve been livin' under a bratwurst, you know that craft beer is exploding not just in the US of A but all over the first and second worlds as well. Even Germany, the land of the uber-restrictive reinheitsgebrot, is not immune from the charms of the American-style double IPA, the tripel and the pumpkin peach ale. They’re loving it all over here, and Altes Madchen appears to be ground zero in the large Northern city of Hamburg. It has a great craft beer store right out in front, called CRAFT BEER STORE if you can believe it, and then the lovely patio and high-ceilinged beer/restaurant Altes Madchen on the inside. It appears to be the place to party down in Hamburg on the weeknights, but responsibly. No crowds of drunk German oafs singing St. Pauli or Bayern Munich fight songs; rather, many couples, groups of friends, older people (like, older than me!) and the odd collection of glass-clinking bros.

I’ll say up front that the food here's not much to write home about, but I’ll also admit that I feel this way just about everywhere I go in Northern Europe. If it’s not fish-based, Asian-run, or some awesome sausage place (stay tuned for an upcoming post on our trip to Berlin), then dinner north of France/Italy is probably some undifferentiated, potato-filled pile of mediocrity. Maybe that’s a little harsh and unfair. OK, it is. (I feel the same way about Spanish food, by the way, minus the potatoes). The beer, however, is a blast and a half. The German craft beer scene!! It’s on. Let’s have a look:

RATSHERRN - “ZWICKEL"Ratsherrn actually owns this place. I probably should have

mentioned that up front. They’re Hamburg’s most popular craft brewer, from the looks of things – and their beers are the majority of those on draft here. Their zwickle? Well, first you need to read up on what they are here. I’m not sure I’d ever had one before. This is creamy and super-smooth, and tastes almost like a pale ale that’s been shorn of hops. I wanted another one, but pressed onward. 8/10.

RATSHERRN - “ROTBIER" – Well, you can’t win ‘em all. This red ale was crisp, mild, also creamy. And also flat and exceptionally uninteresting. 6/10.

HOPFENSTOPFER - "CITRA ALE" – Says “American pale ale” right there on the bottle. You like us, you really like us! Soapy, golden yellow, aspirin-tasting hoppy ale. Germany, if you’re gonna ape our styles you need to at least meet us halfway. 6/10.

RATSHERRN - "MOBY WIT” - Frothy and nearly white witbier. Light tartness and a really refreshing zing. Smooth and satisfying, definitely one to dial up next time I’m back here. 7.5/10.
 
SCHNEIDER WEISS - “TAP 6 UNSER AVENTINUS” - A weizenbock that rings in at 9% ABV. Fruity (plums) and boozy as hell. I couldn’t deal. I’ve struggled with this style of beer in the past and this is no exception. 5.5/10.

BREWERS AND UNION - “SUNDAY IPA” - I’d never heard of them before, but from the looks of things they’re a gypsy brewer focused on bringing great craft beer to Germany. This one’s mediocre but it’ll do. A very simple and smooth IPA, light like a pale and milder than that. Also got a little aspirin-ish toward the end. Oooh, I hate that. 6/10.

Stay tuned for our coverage of our trip to Berlin this past weekend. And if you’re up for a trip to Hamburg anytime soon, Beer Samizdat recommends ALTES MÄDCHEN BRAUGASTHAUS without reservation. Experiment a little and maybe you’ll wade through some middling beers like I did, but that’ll happen anywhere, am I right?

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