Sunday, October 28, 2012

Oslo Beer City - a follow up

Back in June I wrote a piece on Oslo Beer City, looking back at its rapid development and the current state of a vibrant beer scene. Four months later feels like an eternity, when I look back at all that has happened in Oslo this fall, so to do justice to the original post, here is a follow-up with the most recent events.

Beer Palace
Address: Holmens Gate 3
Re-opens: November 14, 2012
Type: Beer bar
Taps: 30

At the beginning of August 2012, the Beer Palace pub on Aker Brygge closed its doors for some serious renovations. The bar upstairs and several rooms were rebuilt and a new cooling room with extra tap lines have been constructed. From what I've been told, the new bars will have more than thirty tap lines - making Beer Palace one of the best stocked draft beer pubs in Oslo.

The bar is scheduled to re-open on November 14th.

Soon-to-open Crowbar & Bryggeri in Torggata.

Crowbar & Bryggeri
Address: Torggata 32
Opens: Late 2012 / early 2013
Type: Brewpub
Taps: 5-6

This is a brand new brewpub that will open up in Torggata 32, where the old Greek restaurant Zorbas used to be and, more recently, the short-lived Closer Café & Bar. Erk Potur, who also owns Café Laundromat, has put 10 million kroner into renovating the place and buying a brand new 5 hl microbrewery from Flecks in Austria. Brewmaster Dave Gardonio, formerly of Ægir Bryggeri, has been employed to design and brew a range of new beers.

Beer writer Espen Smith, who also helped planning the brewpubs Amundsen Bryggeri & Spiseri in Oslo and Sundbytunet at Jessheim, has helped to plan the style and look of Crowbar - which will be "rougher" than the other brewpubs with a focus on meat and beer.

No opening date has been published, but the micro brewery should be operational in November.

Grünerløkka Brygghus
Address: Thorvald Meyers Gate 30 B
Opens: "Sometime" 2013
Type: Brewpub
Taps: Unknown

After more than two years as a gastropub, this place is set to live up to its name ("brygghus" means "brew house" in Norwegian) by starting its own micro brewery sometime in 2013, making it the 5th brewpub in Oslo (unless beaten to the finish line by someone else).

No date has been posted yet, but it seems that the daily manager, Kjetil "Kjell Pop" Johnsen, has picked up some brewing skills and will act as the inhouse brewer at Grünerløkka Brygghus.

Address: Maridalsveien 17
Opened: October 2012

This indoor food mart opened up at the old iron works property Vulkan by the Akerselva river in Oslo in October 2012. In addition to stalls selling short traveled, small producer food - from cheese and cured meat to fresh seafood and vegetables - the place also sports som really nice beer places.

  • Øltorget: This is a small but well stocked beer pub, run by the people behind Ølakademiet and Akersberget restaurant in Oslo. The pub offers ten beers on tap, but have around 20 tap lines for future expansion. The place also plans to have about 300 types of beer on bottle.
  • Grünerløkka Brygghus: This is a satellite of the pub at Grünerløkka, offering 8 different beers on draft and serving warm food made behind the bar.

Address: Maridalsveien 17 (below Mathallen)
Opened: October 5, 2012
Type: Bar
Taps: 6

About 50 meter long and only 5 meter wide, with space for 200-250 guests, Smelteverket has opened up in the cellar underneath Mathallen at Vulkan. It's the perfect place to go when you're feeling overwhelmed by the crowds upstairs. Its claim for fame is the 25 meter long bar, surely the longest in Norway, and the twenty iron cast windows, along the outer wall, providing great views of the Akerselva river just outside.

Smelteverket with its 25 meter long bar.
There are four "filling stations" along the long bar, where guests can order 6 different beers on tap, usually some industrial lagers but also a couple of craft beers. On my first visit to Smelteverket they had Ægir IPA and Kinn Thorvald's Red Ale on draft. Smelteverket has the same owner as Grünerløkka Brygghus, Jan Vardøen, so the two pubs will most likely share many draft beers.

After only a few weeks Smelteverket has turned into a commercial success, it's usually packed at night, so make sure to be there early to get a seat. Because Smelteverket also has an entrance from the bridge at Nedre Foss its opening hours are independent of Mathallen.

BRU: Vulkan Pub
Address: Maridalsveien 13 (next to Mathallen)
Opens: November 2012
Type: Beer pub
Taps: Unknown

Located in Maridalsveien 13, right next to Mathallen and just a few steps away from the old bridge factory at Vulkan, BRU: Vulkan Pub will be one of the smallest in Oslo with a floor space of just 19 square meters.

The pub is owned and will be operated by the people behind Ølakademiet, who also run the Øltorget pub in Mathallen and the old Akersberget resturant just up the hill. The pub is scheduled to open in November and is closely associated with a new micro brewery, Vulkan Brygghus, that is located at the same address and will brew beer for Vulkan Pub, Øltorget and the Akersberget restaurant.

Address: Waldemar Thranesgate 10, entrance from Ullevålsveien (St Hanshaugen)
Opens: November 9, 2012
Type: Restaurant with draft beer
Taps: Unknown

Smalhans is a new restaurant opening up in Waldemar Thranesgate 10 at St Hanshaugen on November 9th. This location has been used as a restaurant since 1921, but the Smalhans concept is a new one with focus on reasonable prices and good rustic food. The place will also offer Norwegian craftbeer an draft, including beer from HaandBryggeriet, Schouskjelleren and Ægir.

Oslo Beer City keeps getting better ... 2013 should be an amazing year!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Munich Oktoberfest 2012

For a number of years I've thought about visiting the famous Oktoberfest in Munich, the world's largest beer festival. This year I finally got the chance as I had already planned a road trip through Germany in the right time period, but before delving into my own impressions of the 2012 festival I'll say a few words about its history and current status.

Welcome to the Oktoberfest 2012.

The Oktoberfest history
The origins of the Oktoberfest goes back to October 12th, 1810, when Crown Prince Ludwig - the future king Ludwig I of Bavaria - married his beloved Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. At this time, the state of Bavaria had existed for only four years so the people in Munich were jubilant and proud to celebrate the marriage of their own future king and queen. And celebrate they did!

The wedding celebrations lasted five days and took place on the meadows in front of the city gates, where people could watch horse races while indulging in beer and food. The horse races and celebrations proved so popular that they were repeated at the same place the next year, giving rise to the tradition of the Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest has been held almost every year since 1810, it has only been canceled 24 times - because of either Cholera outbreaks (in 1854 and 1873) or war (the Franco-Prussian War and the two world wars).

While the original Oktoberfest started out as a relatively short and small, local festival, for and by the citizens of Munich, it has now expanded into a 16 days long beer and food extravaganza, with more than 6 million visitors annually - from all over the world. It has become the biggest tourist attraction in Munich, bringing in close to half a billion euro to the city's coffers every year.

The Ochsenbraterei tent, famous for its grilled oxen.
- Sponsored by one of the Big Six.
Despite all the tourists and the cheap souvenir stands, the festival is still very much a Munich festival - rooted in the local beer and food culture. The big tents are all sponsored by the original "Big Six" Munich breweries; Augustiner-Bräu, Hofbräuhaus, Löwenbräu, Hacker-Pschorr, Paulaner and Spaten. Late arrivals, such as the world famous Schneider Weisse brewery - established in 1872, are not found on the Oktoberfest bill.

Today the meadow where the Oktoberfest is still held lies safely within the city of Munich, just a kilometer south west of the Hauptbahnhof main railway station, and it has been named after Ludwig's young bride: Theresienwiese or Theresa's meadow, often just called the Wiesn.

For the 2012 Oktoberfest, which started September 22 and ended October 7, there were 14 large tents and a number of smaller with a total seating capacity of about 100,000. The larger tents can typically seat from 5,000 to 8,000 guests and they usually feature an oompa ensemble, playing traditional Bavarian drinking songs. The smaller tents are more focused on either entertainment or speciality food, such as the famous Fischer-Vroni tent which has been selling all kinds of grilled fish (and more recently sushi) since opening up in 1948.

The how and when
Despite being a big city of 1.4 million, the massive influx of visitors to the Oktoberfest - in the millions - means that the Munich hotels will get swamped and turn up their prices. Many of the hotels will be fully booked long before the festival starts, so even if you're willing to spend big bucks for a room in central Munich you may not be able to find any.

It's both cheaper and easier to find vacant rooms outside the city, and transport is not a big problem since the metropolitan area has a very efficient railway system which can take you from the outlying districts to the heart of Munich in less than 45 minutes.

Because of this, and for reasons which will become apparent in a future post, I decided to stay in Freising, a town some 40 km north east of Munich, not far from the international airport. From Freising you can take the fast commuter train, which departs a couple of times every hour and run all day long. This train takes less than 30 minutes to München Hauptbahnhof, in the heart of the city, which is just a short walk from the Theresienwiese or from Marienplatz for that matter.

Ein, swei, drei - prost!
At a quarter to 10 on a sunny Monday morning in September I went in through the main gate at the Wiesn, ready for my first Oktoberfest. Many other visitors had already arrived and were walking around between the tents, taking photographs or just enjoying the fine weather while waiting for the festival tents to open.

A long queue of several hundred kurt lederhosen clad men had already formed in front of the Hacker-Pschorr tent, but that was fine by me as I had no intention of going in there.

Augustiner Festhalle with an oompa band on stage.
My tent of choice was Augustiner Festhalle, sponsored by the oldest brewery in Munich,  Augustiner-Bräu. This brewery has made beer in Munich since 1328!

Not only is Augustiner-Bräu the oldest brewery in Munich, but they make the beer that many locals claim to be the best - the Augustiner Edelstoff Helles. And, finally, the Augustiner Festhalle is the only tent at Oktoberfest where the beer is served like in the old days, straight from large, 200 liter woodens casks, only assisted by gravity. Thus, for me the choice was rather simple.

Inside the Augustiner Festhalle there was still plenty of space at 10 am, roughly half the tables were free while the other half were reserved. It turned out that most of the free tables had been taken by the time I noticed them, but since many of the reserved tables were reserved from 4 or 5 pm, probably for groups of people coming straight from work, I sat down by a table that was free for the next seven hours. That was plenty of time to enjoy the beer, food and atmosphere in this tent.

As I'd never been to Oktoberfest before I was uncertain about how to order beer and first tried asking a man standing by the large wooden cask in one of the four schänkes (a schänke is basically a filling station for beer), but he pointed at the girls running around with large beer mugs so I sat down again and finally managed to attract the attention of one service lady. Two minutes later she was back with a Maß - a 1 liter beer mug - of the 5.6% strong Augustiner Edelstoff Helles.

I had worried it would be tough to empty the large mugs of beer, before the beer went flat, but it turned out to be no problem at all. The Edelstoff is such a tasty, refreshing and drinkable beer that before I knew it I was looking down into the wide glass at a small puddle of golden liquid far down there at the bottom.

Drinking large volumes of beer was also helped / promoted by the many girls walking down the aisles in the tent, offering freshly baked, warm and salty brezn from big baskets. Brezn is better known as brezel in the rest of Germany or pretzel in the US. This salty delicacy is a match made in heaven with German helles beer, take my word for it.

Schänke number 2 (out of 4) in the Augustiner Festhalle
- serving Edelstoff Helles straight from the cask.

The first couple of hours, the large tent remained fairly quiet and relaxing, but around noon just about all the seating space had been occupied and I noticed people standing along the sides, waiting for someone to leave or for their reservation to kick in. It was getting harder to move around, both for the beer mug carrying girls and for those guests needing to go to the toilets, as a large number of standing guests blocked the aisles.

Around noon the stakes were raised when an oompa band entered the raised stage in the middle of the tent and launched into a series of drinking songs of which I just caught the omnious "ein, zwei, drei - prost!" upon which the band leader raised his own Maß and toasted together with the audience before swallowing a good mouthfull.

It was about this time that I realized it was time to move on if I wanted to see some of the other tents, as the Augustiner Festhalle was now approaching a very packed condition. So after two nice hours and three Maß of Edelstoff I left the tent to take a look outside the tent.

The horse drawn Augustiner-Bräu Faßwagen from 1901
- still used for transporting wooden beer kegs.
Outside things had become a lot more chaotic than when I arrived, it seemed that several tents were so full that bouncers had been posted to stop more guests from entering - so instead people roamed around between bratwürst stalls and the smaller tents.

When I looked up towards the main gate I saw a continous stream of people entering, so it was obvious it would just get more cramped at the Oktoberfest. Thus, after pushing my way through the crowds for a few minutes and taking photographs of the Augustiner-Bräu Faßwagen, a beautiful horse drawn wagon from 1901 which came with more wooden beer casks for the Augustiner Festhalle, I extricated myself from the crowd and left the Wiesn for a quiet biergarten in Munich.

Concluding remarks
The Oktoberfest is a strange mixture of circus, carnival and Bavarian holiday, you'll see all kinds of people from all walks of life. The party factor is high and probably grows as day turns into night, so if you're up for that and a bit cramped space the Oktoberfest should be rigth up your alley.

As for myself, it was worth making the effort and I did enjoy the short spell in Augustiner Festhalle before it started getting rowdy in there. This was a once in a lifetime event for me, I will certainly return to the lovely biergartens and cozy bierstüberls of Munich, but not during Oktoberfest.

A Maß of Augustiner-Bräu Edelstoff Helles
- my best memory from Oktoberfest.

More photos from the 2012 Oktoberfest can be found in this Flickr set.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Leipzig beer or so the story Gose

During my September 2012 road trip through Germany I made a stop in Leipizg, the historical city in Saxony where matemathician and Newton's nemesis Gottfried Leibniz was born, to check out its current beer scene and in particular to locate and taste the almost extinct beer style known as Gose.

The Altes Rathaus or Old City Hall in Leipzig.

So the story Gose
You may never have heard of this style of beer before and it was a close call that few of us would have, because in the 1960s Gose went extinct! Fortunately, with the growing interest in old beer styles, the Gose has been revived and is now growing in popularity both in Germany and in America.

Gose belongs to the famliy of sour wheat beers which once was brewed across much of northern Germany and the low countries (today Belgium and the Netherlands), of which Berliner Weisse and Geuze are two other remaining examples. Common among these beers were the low alcohol, usually from 3-5% abv, and high attenuation, making them dry and less sweet than many other styles. This made for a refreshing, everyday beer that could be drunk in large quantities.

Goedeker's Döllnitzer Ritterguts Gose
- the original since 1824.
The style gets its name from the town of Goslar, in Lower Saxony, where it was first brewed in the early 18th century. In those early days, Gose was a spontaneously fermented beer, but when brewing science improved in the 1880s the brewers in Leipzig turned to top fermenting ale yeast and added lactic acid bacteria to recreate the sourness of the wild fermentation.

Gose is brewed with at least 50% malted wheat, and because it's also brewed with coriander and cooking salt it doesn't comply with the strict Reinheitsgebot - the Bavarian purity law. But that offense was not at all uncommon in the north of Germany, where local brewing traditions held sway until the pilsner craze arrived in the mid 19th century.

By the end of the 19th century, the city of Leipzig had adopted Gose as its own beer and a number of local breweries were making it. The beer was so popular that dedicated Gose bars, called Gosenschenke - "Gose tavern", appeared all over the city.

However, the popularity of Gose took a nosedive at the start of the 20th century, and at the outbreak of World War Two only one brewery - Rittergutsbrauerei Döllnitz - brewed it. When that brewery folded in 1945, one of its brewers - Friedrich Wurzler - took the Gose knowledge with him and started his own Friedrich Wurzler Brauerei.

The Friedrich Wurzler Brauerei continued making Gose, even after Wurzler died, but in 1966 this last gosebrauerei closed too. The Gose had gone extinct. And it would probably have remained so, if not for the opening of the Gosenschenke Ohne Bedenken in 1986, an event I'll return to a bit later in this post.

Where to try it?
There are several places in or near Leipzig that now goes under the term Gosenschenke, selling fresh Gose from draft or in the famous long neck bottles. For this visit I decided to stay in Leipzig proper, which ruled out some remote places and breweries, but at least I was able to visit the place where Gose was revived as well as a proper Gosebrauerei.

The old Bayerischer Bahnhof railway station in Leipzig.

In the south of Leipzig, at Bayerischer platz, tourists can marvel at the beautiful portico and architecture of the oldest, preserved railway station in Germany: The Bayerischer Bahnhof or Bavaria Station.

This railway station first opened up in 1842, taking passengers to Bavaria and beyond. By the 1870s more than a million passengers left from this station every year and it had several golden decades, around the turn of the century, with long distance trains stopping here to pick up passengers for Rome or Naples.

However, the two world wars slowed down the long distance traveling and in 1943 the station was heavily damaged by Allied bombs. After the war, in East Germany, there was little money to restore the ruined buildings, so the station was left in disrepair. Fortunately, talk of demolishing the building never went any further and in 1975 the Bayerischer Bahnhof was declared a National Monument. Thanks to Bavarian railway enthusiasts the old portico was later reconstructed the way it had been before the war.

In 1999, the owner of Schneider Bräu in Weißenburg, Thomas Schneider, made a deal with the national railway company, Deutsche Bahn, who owned the old railway building, that he would renovate and restore the building to its former glory but with the addition of a brewpub. A brewpub that would make the old Leipzig speciality, Gose.

Gosebrauerei Bayerischer Bahnhof in Leipzig.

After 14 months of renovations and construction, Gasthaus & Gosebraueri Bayerischer Bahnhof opened up on July 19, 2000, in the old railway building, with a modern brewhouse constructed by Kaspar Schulz in Bamberg. An adjoining biergarten was also added, allowing guests to sit outside, under shady trees, on warm summer days.

During my visit, Bayerischer Bahnhof was fenced in due to construction work so I had to walk around the back and enter through the biergarten. This construction work, by the wat, has been ongoing for several years and is related to the new Leipzig City-Tunnel, which will link Bayerischer Bahnhof to the Hauptbahnhof, 2 km to the north.

The biergarten was really quiet and cozy, with a couple of dozen tables in the shade of the leafy trees and a schenke which served cold beer and warm brezel (i.e. pretzels). With the railway building on one side and a quiet residential area on the other, I couldn't hear any city traffic so it felt like being in the country!

The schenke offered four different draft beers, one of which was their Gose:

  1. Original Leipziger Gose (4.6%)
  2. Schaffner - Bayerischer Bahnhof Naturtrübes Pils (5%)
  3. Kuppler  - Bayerischer Bahnhof Weisse (5.2%)
  4. Heizer  - Bayerischer Bahnhof Schwarzbier (5.3%)

The Gose poured a hazy golden color with a big, white head. It sported a mild sour fruit aroma and had a mild salty mouthfeel with a tart lemon flavor. Fairly refreshing and good. Other than the Gose I only tried the schwarzbier, which combined a good roasted malt character and dark chocolate really well.

I wouldn't mind spending more afternoons here, with a cold Gose and a fresh Brezel.

Bayerischer Bahnhof Original Leipziger Gose
@ Gosenschenke Ohne Bedenken

Gosenschenke Ohne Bedenken
Ohne Bedenken, which means "without concern", has played an important role in the revival of Gose and the history of this Gose tavern goes back to the heydays of Gose. In 1899 the Cajeri family moved to Gohlis, back then a little village just north of Leipzig, in Hauptstraße 38 (now Menckestr 5 in Leipzig). Here they opened the Gosenschenke Ohne Bedenken. A few years later, in 1905, a large biergarten was added too.

Gosenschenke Ohne Bedenken stayed in business, under several different owners, until the dark days of World War Two. In 1943, the biergarten and the houses surrounding it was completely destroyed by Allied bombs, and after the war the place struggled to stay afloat until it closed without a notice in 1958. Eight years later, the last Gosebrauerei in Leipzig and the world closed down. The Gose tradition of Leipzig was gone.

Gosenschenke Ohne Bedenken in Leipzig
- where Gose was revived.
For twenty years nobody drank Gose or hardly talked about it, until one Lothar Goldhahn bought the old property of Ohne Bedenken and decided to renovate the Gosenschenke. Naturally, he wanted to make it as authentic as possible, which meant serving Gose. But where could he get that?

Goldhahn talked to several old timers, who still remembered how the beer had looked and tasted, to piece together an idea of what the Gose had been like. He then asked several local breweries if they would like to brew this beer for Ohne Bedenken, but none of them dared to brew the strange beer. In the end Goldhahn managed to convince Schultheiss Berliner-Weisse Brauerei in Berlin to brew Gose for him. In 1986, Gosenschenke Ohne Bedenken re-opened and could proudly serve Gose to its guests.

In 1990, the current owner Dr. Hartmut Hennebach bought the Gosenschenke and has faithfully maintained it ever since, helping to spread the gospel of Gose and revive an almost lost beer style. Today, Ohne Bedenken has a thriving biergarten where locals as well as beer turists can sit down under shady trees and enjoy a fresh Gose from draft.

During my visit, the Gose on draft was the Original Leipziger made by Gosebrauerei Bayerischer Bahnhof, which I had already tasted at the brewpub, so that was a bit disappointing. The only other Gose available was a bottled version called Original Ritterguts Gose, which was actually very good - more salty and sour than the one from Bayerischer Bahnhof.

In addition to Ohne Bedenken and the Bayerischer Bahnhof I also tried out Brauhaus an der Thomaskirche, mainly because of its central location in old town Leipzig. Located on the square by the St Thomas Church, this brewpub offers regular German lager beers but no Gose.

Even though the pub seemed a bit touristy I thought the beer menu looked decent, as they offered both an unfiltered (naturtrüb) pilsner and a bockbier on draft, so I sat down for lunch.

The Thomaskirche Pils poured a hazy, golden color with a large white head. It smelled of fresh grass and had a light mouthfeel with a very lively carbonation. It had a nice malt character with a mild floral hop flavor, but the strong carbonation probably hid some of the taste. Still a pretty tasty pilsner.

The Bockbier also turned out to be highly carbonated, with an almost acidic bite to it, but I still got some ripe fruit notes and sweet caramel in the flavor, so it seems to be a good bockbier.

Overall, I found the Thomaskirche beers good, but a little less carbonation would have brought out more of the subtle malt and hop flavors and caused a better review from me.

The Brauhaus an der Thomaskirche in Leipzig makes no Gose.

More photos from my visit to Leipzig can be found in this Flickr set.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

One night in Rostock

In September 2012 I went on a 2-week long road trip across much of Germany and Austria, in search of good beer, or should I say bier, cozy bierstübls and lively biergartens. This adventurous trip will probably spawn a series of future blog posts, in this first post I will focus on the first stop in Germany - the old Hanseatic League city of Rostock.

Rostock harbor is not as busy as it once was.

The city of Rostock has a long and illustrious history, going back to the 11th century when Polabian Slavs established a settlement named Roztoc - meaning broadening of river - on the lower Warnow river. After being burned to the ground by the troops of Danish king Valdemar I, in 1161, the place was resettled by German traders who Germanized the name to Rostock. 

In the 14th century Rostock joined the Hanseatic league and quickly became one of the most important trade ports on the Baltic sea, sending out ships as far north as Bergen on the west coast of Norway. By the end of the 15th century the dukes of Mecklenburg had managed to enforce their rule on Rostock, and the city lost its independent status.

Because of its strategic location at the mouth of the Baltic sea, across the strait between Denmark and Sweden, Rostock was repeatedly taken during the Thirty Years War (1618-48), both by Danes and Swedes, and later also by the troops of Napoleon.

In the early 20th century Rostock became an important centre for airplane manufacturing, with large factories located in Warnemünde. The first jet plane was actually tested in Rostock. Towards the end of World War Two, Rostock was badly damaged by allied bombing. When the war ended Rostock found itself in the newly formed East Germany, where it got a prominent position as the main port on the Baltic sea. Most of old town was faithfully rebuilt to its pre-war look.

The German reunification in 1990 was the start of a slow decline for Rostock, it lost its importance as a port and trade city to the larger ports in the former West Germany and many people moved west to find jobs. The population in Rostock has fallen from 260,000 in 1986 to about 200,000 today.

Where to go in Rostock
Because I only spent one night in Rostock I didn't get that much time to explore the city or its pubs, but I did visit two lovely places.

View inside Zum Alten Fritz in Rostock.

Down by the old harbor, at Warnowufer 65, one is greeted by a sign pointing the way to "Störtebeker's kneipe", which turns out to be the pub section of Braugasthaus Zum Alten Fritz.

The "Old Fritz" is a charming public house from around the turn of the last millennium, with its own biergarten - seating 200 persons, a large outdoor terrace, the aforementioned pub and a restaurant section seating 173 persons. As I felt for eating something, I sat down in the restaurant. Shiny copper ventilation pipes passes under the vaulted ceiling and low walls, made of red brick stone, section the room into smaller enclaves. A central bar looks like part of a brewery, with shiny copper "kettles" used for decoration in the back.

To my great relief, an inside smoking ban has been in effect at Zum Alten Fritz since January 2012, so it was a joy to smell the food and beer inside, with no distracting smoke. During my visit, they offered five lager beers on draft and six types on bottle - all of them brewed by Störtebeker Braumanufaktur (formerly known as Stralsunder Brauerei) in nearby Stralsund.

The five draft beers:
  1. Pilsener-Bier: This is a 4.9% German pilsener, with a nice hop aroma and a dry, refreshing taste. Quite good actually.
  2. Stralsunder Pils: Another 4.9% pilsener, this one less aromatic and more ordinary.
  3. Schwarz-Bier: This is a 5% schwarzbier, with an elegant malt character. Fairly typical of the style.
  4. Zwickelfritz Hell Naturtrüb: This is a 4.9% unfiltered helles, with fresh, floral hops, a smooth mouthfeel and nice fruit and grass notes in the taste. Very good. 
  5. Zwickelfritz Dunkel Naturtrüb: This is a 5% unfiltered dunkel, with nice sweet and roasted malt notes.
The Zwickelfritz Hell was the most impressive of the draft beers.

Störtebeker Keller-Bier 1402, delicious!

On bottle they had a larger variation in styles, offering both ales and lagers. This is what they had on the menu when I was there:

  1. Bernstein-Weizen: This is a 5.3% German hefeweizen. Fairly ordinary, with banana and spicy yeast flavors.
  2. Roggen-Weizen: This is a 5.4% dunkel hefeweizen brewed with rye, which resulted in a very interesting aroma of fruits and rye bread, but there was a weird phenolic note in the taste.
  3. Stark-Bier: This is a 7.5% baltic porter, smooth, rich and tasty with notes of dark fruits, fresh coffee and chocolate. Yummy.
  4. Keller-Bier 1402: This is a 4.8% kellerbier with a nice floral aroma and flavor of hay, grass and farmyard. Absolutely lovely.
  5. Atlantik-Bier: This is a 5.1% top fermented pale ale, with a lovely American hop character (citra, amarillo). It was just a couple of weeks old, really fresh and tasty.
  6. Hanse-Porter: Supposedly a Baltic porter, but at only 4% it was way too sweet.

Thus, I found much of interest at Zum Alten Fritz and some really enjoyable beers, in particular the Atlantik-Bier and the prize winning Keller-Bier which won Gold at the World Beer Cup 2010 (see pdf). The service was quick and excellent and the food tasty and filling, so I had a great time at the braugasthaus.

Only after returning to Norway did I learn that Zum Alten Fritz is actually a chain of pubs, associated with the Störtebeker brewery, which started up in 1998 and now can be found at four locations across the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Still, the pub in Rostock is worth seeking out if you're spending a night in old town.

This place was actually recommended to us by the friendly bartender at Zum Alten Fritz, when I asked for other places to try good local brews. Brauhaus Trotzenburg is located a bit south west of old town, near the old city zoo, so I ended up taking a taxi - about 10 minutes drive - to Tiergartenalle 6, to check out this place.

The bar area at Brauhaus Trotzenburg in Rostock.

The name "Trotzenburg" is a bit misleading since there never was a burg, German for castle, here. What we know is that an older homestead was turned into a simple tavern in 1839 which slowly turned into a popular restaurant, made even more popular with the opening of a biergarten in 1899. In 1913 the restaurant took the name Trotzenburg, which it kept for the rest of the century. By the end of the 1980s it had fell into disrepair and was in danger of getting demolished, but in 1998 it was purchased by a local investor working together with the Ostsee Brauhaus and in 2001 the place reopened as the Brauhaus Trotzenburg - a modern brewpub.

The interior of the brewpub feels very spacy, with large open rooms under a high ceiling. The furniture and decoration is simple, rustic and solid - with wooden tables, chairs and benches. Old German sayings have been painted in Gothic type on the bare walls, and a few beer posters and banners have been put up for decoration.

The inhouse brewery has a capacity of 1200 L and is in the capable hands of brewmaster Alexander Schreiber, who brews two regular beers for the pub and several seasonals - including Maibock in the spring, Hefeweizen in the summer, a märzen Festbier in the fall and a Weinachtsbier for Christmas.

During my visit, they had the following beers on draft:

  1. Original Helles: This is a 4.9% helles, with aroma of fresh cereal, a smooth mouthfeel and a good cereal and malt flavor.
  2. Spezial: This is a 4.9% Vienna style lager, with a red tinged golden brown color. Elegant malt character but a bit mild.
  3. Festbier: This is a 5.2% bock, brewed for oktoberfest. Malty aroma, smooth mouthfeel and a sweet caramel malt flavor with some ripe fruit notes. A nice festbier but a tad too sweet for me.
Like the place itself, the food was also rustic and local. I received my meal in a metal pan, steaming hot, it was hearty and good - with pork chops in a brown mushroom sauce and potatoes in the form of croquettes.

Rustic eating at Brauhaus Trotzenburg.

Though I had a more interesting beer experience at the "Old Fritz" I really enjoyed my visit to the "Trotzenburg", the main downside is that you really need a ride to get here, as it's some ways off if you're in old town Rostock.

Photos from my visit to Rostock can be found in this Flickr set.