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AUG/SEP 2006 | REGIONAL | INTERNATIONAL

Beer Touring : Off The Beaten Path In Northwestern Germany
By Chuck Cook

While the altbier pubs of Düsseldorf and the kölshbier pubs of Cologne draw much attention and reverence in the world of great beer (and rightfully so!), there are many other brewpubs and breweries in the region of North Rhine–Westphalia and Lower Saxony that rarely see non-German beer tourists. This is unfortunate, as the quality and variety of beers in the region are very good to excellent, and many of these places offer delicious food. I recently visited the area with a couple of German friends as my guides.

After having a few tasty beers at the Hövels Hausbrauerei in Dortmund, a visit to Brauerei Stiefel-Jürgens in Beckum was in order. The "Jürgens Boot" house brewery/restaurant offers a pleasing pilsner and a fine altbier served in a classic boot-shaped glass. There has been brewing on the site since 1500, and a Jürgens family member has brewed here since 1680. Perhaps this place is the origin of boot-shaped beer mugs! The atmosphere was very warm and welcoming, and we were served by members of the Jürgens family.

Located in Essen is the Dampfe Hausbrauerei, where the beers are branded Borbeck. The pils, helles, dunkles and unfiltered zwickelbier were all very enjoyable. The food was memorable as well, including mussels that were every bit as good as any I have had in Belgium, and for 10 euros! The Web site is dampfe.de.

We visited the Gütersloher Brauhaus in Gütersloh on a Sunday for a round of beers. There was a stand set up in the center of a street market that also sold these brews, including the dunkles, pilsner and Oktoberfest. Strangely, the Oktoberfest was darker than the dunkles. But all were very good!

After sampling Gütersloher's beery libations, we headed out by car for another day of beer touring. The first stop was Brauerei-Gasthof Felsenkeller in Lauenau. This is another hausbrauerei that, like Dampfe, is similar to American brewpubs in style and layout. The very tasty beers here are called Rupp-Bräu and include a dunkel, light, pilsner and two doppelbocks. A helles doppelbock is brewed from May to October and a dark doppelbock in the winter (7.5% abv). I had the dark doppelbock, which was excellent.

The beers in this region are very good to excellent, and many of these places offer delicious food.

Owner/Brewmaster Thomas Rupp showed me around his brewpub/restaurant, which is a first-class operation. The brewhouse is gorgeous, with highly polished copper brew-kettles. While we did not eat here, other people clearly were enjoying their meals. The Web site is ruppbraeu.de.

Brauhaus Ernst August, located in Hannover, is often called Germany’s "most successful house brewery." This brewpub is open 365 days a year! Only one beer is brewed here: an unfiltered pilsner called Typisch Hanöversch Pilsner Naturtrub. This brew did not disappoint. It is a classic session beer of 4.8% abv, very drinkable yet quite flavorful. The brauhaus obviously does very well with this brew, as it is offered on tap, in growlers, in three different keg sizes and in liter bottles!
Brauhaus Ernst August sells more beer than any other hausbrauerei in Germany and offers live music and other types of entertainment on a regular basis. The menu has some very appealing dishes, and my friends have enjoyed meals here. The Web site is hanoeversch.de.

The last stop of the beer tour was a place I was told serves some of the best food of any brewpub in Germany: Der Waldkater in Rinteln. I savored turkey with mushrooms in a brown beer sauce here. Yum! Der Waldkater ("The Forest Tom-Cat") is located, appropriately, in a wooded area near a small mountain range, 50 km from Hannover. The whole complex consists of a brewery, restaurant and four-star hotel. The beers are branded Hartinger, as that is the name of the property owner. Hartinger Meisterbräu is brewed both in helles and dunkles form and is unfiltered. Both brews were delicious and worthy of the excellent meal. The Web site is waldkater.com.

A trip to this area of Germany is well worth it for the great beer and tasty food!

Chuck Cook is a freelance writer living in Richmond, Va. His passions are beer and travel, and he has written for various beer publications. He can be reached via e-mail at chuck@beerandtravel.com.

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