Dusseldorf Altbier – Sip Back & Relax
Dusseldorf Altbier: An Institution.
Altbier or Alt is a top fermenting beer that originated in the German Westphalia region and later grew in popularity around the Rhineland, and no more so than in Dusseldorf.
Dusseldorf is perhaps one of the most un-German of German cities. Neither dour nor glitzy nor jovial, it is instead laid-back, fashionable and cosmopolitan. Dusseldorf is cool, both literally and metaphorically, like its signature brew. It rarely gets very hot or cold in the city, which has important ramification for the types of beer that one could brew there before refrigeration. Thus, altbier is the slowest and coolest fermented ale in the world. The greatest altbiers are fermented by a specialty ale yeast at a cool 55 °F (13 °C), almost as cold as a lager.
This gives Dusseldorf Altbier a clean and crisp taste, with some fruitiness, and is similar to some lager beer styles.
Düsseldorf has a number of house-breweries where altbier is brewed on premises, with three of them situated in the center of the Altstadt or Old Town.
Zum Uerige (The Grouch) is perhaps the best known of the Düsseldorf house-breweries. Located in a large Altstadt building not far from the Rhine, Uerige is made up of many interlocking rooms that range from warm and cozy—where the wood is darkened from years of patrons’ cigarette, cigar and pipe smoke—to a huge beer-hall-like seating area.
Zum Schlüssel (The Key) is a subsidiary of the larger Gatzweiler Brauerei, located elsewhere in Düsseldorf. Gatzweiler in turn is owned by the larger Hannen Brewery of Mönchengladbach, which itself is owned by the even larger Carlsberg Brewery in Denmark. Established in 1850, Schlüssel is a large, open place, dominated by light pine wood with many large tables for seating.
Brauerei Im Füchschen (The Little Fox) opened in 1848. It is another large, open establishment with two big front rooms and a huge back room. An upper deck in this rear area is a perfect location to drink, eat and watch the crowd below. Füchschen is known for having a great restaurant with a menu that features traditional German food.
Altbier is usually served in small, tall cylinder-shaped six-ounce glasses, with waiters carrying full trays of the beer around the premises (and outside on warmer evenings) looking for thirsty customers. No need to pay straight away – coasters are marked with a pen to keep account of how much has been consumed. Like a restaurant, patrons only pay when they choose to leave although the final bill doesn’t tend to be that high given that each beer costs between €2-€3 depending where you go.