Cologne – the unsung beer capital of Germany

Although most would identify Munich as Germany’s beer capital what with the Oktoberfest craze… for us, it would be Cologne.

Cologne is where we first explored the craft beer variety Germany has to offer. It is where we saw locals relish craft beer as much as they do the revered Kölsch.

We started our beer journey in Cologne with the Kölsch – it seemed like the right thing to do. And, we were not disappointed. If you’ve read some of the posts on this blog, you will know that we are not huge fans of the Pils. That said, we don’t mind drinking them on tap every once in a while. It is full of fresh flavors and the Pils generally have a nice hoppiness to it, admittedly not the pale ale hoppiness that we like but good enough to drink occasionally.

We had our first Kölsch at the Gaffel am Dom. The Kölsch to us was really just a German pils, just not as hoppy. However, the Kölsch by classification is an ale as it’s top fermented unlike a Pils. Notice how it is served in a small glass. Now, that’s typical for a Kölsch. Another typical and somewhat amusing custom is the server filling your glass the second it is empty without checking if you’d like more. This makes you completely lose track of how much you’ve drunk but at the same time, it’s pretty cool that you’ll never need to wait for a beer! After a quite a few Kölschs, we put our beer coasters on top of our glass which seemed to be the norm when you’d had enough.

DSC_0728

We were pleased to find that Gaffel brewed another style of beer – it was somewhat similar to the Kölsch yet different because of the hops and fruity flavors. Like the Kölsch, this beer didn’t look or taste like a typical lager or ale.. whatever it was, we liked it! The Sonnen Hopfen as the name itself indicates is full of summer flavors, bursting with citrusy freshness and juicy hops. Definitely, a must-try if you visit the Gaffel am Dom. It is the closest to a craft beer style in a traditional Brauhaus in Cologne.

DSC_0732

We had a delightful evening at the Gaffel am Dom – loved the food and the ambience. This is a place worth visiting for that authentic Kölner experience.

The night was still young and we headed over to the Metronom, a jazz bar. It’s a tiny place but a bar that plays some wonderful jazz music and serves an authentic Guinness on tap. It had been ages since we’d had a genuine pint of Guinness and were so happy to find one, of all the places in Germany.

DSC_0758.JPG

Metronom is a small place filled with locals and tourists. It gets crammed easily as it’s a small bar but just get there early and you can get a spot close to the bar. When we had visited, they had run into some trouble with the live music shows creating too much noise for the residents in the area and they had stopped the shows. But, we still listened to some great jazz music. They have the most amazing collection of vinyl records!

The next day we visited the Cologne Biermuseum. Although the place isn’t exactly a museum but more a bar with lots of great, old bier steins from all over Deutschland, Austria and other parts of the world. The place has a very cozy feeling to it and we kinda had the whole place to ourselves when we stopped by for some midday refreshments. Now, what’s notable about this place is that they have a huge variety of beers on tap, beers from all around the world and a bigger variety of bottled beers, mostly the traditional variety. The majority of the tap beers are Bocks and these are some pretty amazing bocks. We’ve had some of our best bocks in all of Germany at this little bar.

DSC_0831
We particularly enjoyed the Urbock, a brilliantly crafted bock, that leaves you wanting more.

If you are a beer fanatic and especially one that loves Bocks, this place should definitely be part of your Cologne beer adventures.

Later that evening, we made our way to the Braustelle microbrewery in Ehrenfeld. These guys have a great set of beers on tap. Of course, they have their own Kölsch – the Helios. It’s one of the best Kölschs we had in all of Cologne. Braustelle has a great set of craft beers to suit all sorts of palettes. We weren’t too fond of their fruity Pink Panther ale but loved some of their stouts. They are always brewing new stuff and you’ll find their menu changing ever so often. It’s a great place where the craft beer loving locals get together. A must-visit if you are a beer enthusiast.

DSC_0914 (3)
The Helios

The next day we did a short trip to Bonn. It’s a university town that’s possibly most famous for being the birthplace of Beethoven and home to the United Nations German HQ. Incidentally, it’s where Steve worked while he lived in Bonn several years ago. More about Bonn in a separate post. On to the beers in Bonn – like Cologne they have their own brand of beer called the Bönnsch of course. Interesting point to note: Kölsch and Bönnsch are also what the local dialects are referred to for the respective cities.

While the Kölsch is served in a small glass, the Bönnsch is served in a very unique looking pint glass.

DSC_0953 (2)

The lighter (helles in German) beer is their classic, all-time brew – the Bönnsch Natürlich. It’s similar to the Kölsch yet couldn’t be more different. The darker brew you see is their Winter Bock – we quite liked this one! This, of course, is available only during the winter months. The Bönnsch beers are a creation of the Brauhaus Bönnsch which is a fantastic place to grab some delicious local bites and beers.

Later that afternoon, we headed back to Cologne and were quite excited about our evening plans. Not only were we meeting an old friend/roommate of Steve’s after nearly a decade, but were also planning on visiting Cologne’s kick-ass craft beer bar.

We started off the evening at the Päffgen Brauhaus. It’s a traditional beer hall atmosphere and is a fairly large place. They also have a nice winter beer garden that is covered and not too cold. After several rounds of Kölschs and some very tasty local food, we decided to get to the spot we’d been saving for the last.

Craft Beer Corner Coeln is one of the best craft beer bars in Germany. It is mostly filled with local folk who love their craft beers. They have 15 taps on rotation – beers include German and international craft. And they have a whole bunch more by the bottle. It is important to note that when we had visited Cologne in Dec 2016, we were living in Ulm, a small town in South Germany. The craft beer culture at that time was pretty much non-existent and we were always on the hunt for craft beers. [The scene today though is hugely different. More on this in a separate post!] So, essentially, you can imagine the palpable excitement in the air when we walked into this bar to find this mind-blowing collection of beers.

3826224811154672562-account_id2
Today was a Good Day IPA from Pizza Port was just one of the many craft beer gems we discovered that night

It turned out to be a long night of fun conversations over some hoppilicious beers. Also, we got our Pils loving German friend to try out a whole bunch of hoppy ales. Although he didn’t really develop a liking for the ales, he did enjoy the stouts quite a bit.

craftbeercornerwall2 (3)
They have a cool wall displaying the different beer styles and sub-styles. What you’re seeing in this pic is barely half of that wall!

If you are a serious beer drinker and find yourself in and around Cologne, you should definitely visit the Craft Beer Corner. It is one of the very few places in Germany where you get such a varied and huge collection of craft beers. We promise you, you will feel like you’ve finally come home at Craft Beer Corner Coeln. And, if you’re an IPA lover, you will be in hop heaven with their horde of great IPAs!

And, that’s how we began our Christmas beercation. Next stop Belgium. Stay tuned for our beer adventures in the holy land of beers.

Barfüßer die Hausbrauerei

A cozy little beer hall where we began our beer journey in Ulm.

Barfüßer is one of the best places in Ulm to get great local food and beer. You’ll find one of their pubs diagonally opposite the Rathaus or town hall. This branch in Ulm is a sprightly new place and hardly the traditional beer hall we used to visit when we moved to Ulm. The old one is round the corner from the Ulm Münster. They must have shut it down when they opened the new one though. If it is still open, you should go in, at least to grab a beer and take a peek at their walls. They have some of the most wonderful paintings from a bygone era. Many an evening were spent in this old beer pub in the company of good beers and good friends.

Barfusser (3)

If you’re visiting Ulm during spring or summer, head over to Barfüßer’s beer gardens in Neu Ulm. They have two of them. The Barfüßer Biergarten Neu-Ulm is huge, kid-friendly and by the Danube river. The Barfüßer Biergarten im Glacis is a sprawling biergarten with great live music throughout the summer and early fall months. We, unfortunately, didn’t get to do this last summer and well, this summer, we moved out of Ulm.

You’ll find an interesting range of beers at Barfüßer. They have their traditional beers – a light and dark lager, and a delicious weizen.

1215074206404827794-account_id=1 (2)

And, they now have a few craft beers – by the bottle and by tap. They don’t brew any of these themselves but make them available in collaboration with other craft brewers in the south of Germany.

When we moved to Ulm in Jan 2016, there were no craft beers being served or sold anywhere. There was just Schlössle in Neu Ulm. Anyhow, in about 6 months, we started to see Ulm’s only craft brewery launch their beers. I think we saw Urban Monk for the first time at the Lichterserenade (one of the most gorgeous light festivals we’ve seen) in July 2016. These guys brew in the Barfüßer premises in Neu Ulm and their beers are available in all Barfüßer branches.

7226264204237401391-account_id=1 (2)

Although they’ve got a long way to go with perfecting their craft beers, we are still impressed with them. It sure isn’t easy trying to establish yourself as a craft brewery in the fatherland of traditional lagers that have been brewed for centuries and is still stubbornly the only beer of choice with the locals. And, bet it’s even harder trying to do this from a small town. But they’re doing a great job marketing their beers and are at nearly every beer fest that takes place in the south of Germany. They have a decent collection of beers – we preferred their Sunshine Ale.

IMG_9057 (4)

Just as we were leaving Ulm a few weeks ago, the new Barfüßer pub near the Rathaus, started to serve a couple of Camba beers on tap. Camba, IOHO, is one of Germany’s best craft breweries and they have an amazing variety of beers promising to send you straight to hopheaven! So, you can imagine our insane delight at finding these on tap in Ulm. Maybe the beer gods decided to give us a parting gift!?

8307200425198587832-account_id=1 (2)

What was even more exciting was that this little town finally had a beer flight. You’ll rarely ever find that in a traditional German beer pub!

6211656898724426269-account_id=1 (2)

It was simply amazing for us to see the transformation in the beer culture of this little town. And to see locals, young and old enjoying a craft beer sampler set – just delightful!

Germany needs more traditional breweries like Barfüßer to open their doors to brewers experimenting with radical flavors.

6335684834172024372-account_id=1 (2)
Here’s to hoping that Germany continues to enjoy its great traditional beer styles but embraces the craft beer rage sooner than later!

Ramsau (Berchtesgaden)

An enchanting little village where we wish we’d spent more time…

We visited Ramsau bei Berchtesgaden on a rainy evening. We’d just spent the day at nearby Königssee and wanted to visit Ramsau before heading back to Salzburg, which was our base for our week-long German Austrian road trip.

It was early spring and the clouds were lurking around and we knew it was going to pour. Through the entire day at Königssee, we fortunately escaped the rain. But, as we parked our car at Ramsau, it started raining and didn’t stop for the entire hour we were there. It was just relentless!

That didn’t stop us from getting out and exploring though. We got out our umbrellas, put on our hoodies, huddled closer and walked to the bridge near the Ramsau church where thousands of photographers have tried to capture the famous postcard view of this idyllic little village.

IMG_8533 (3)

Ramsau is surrounded by incredible beauty. It is set amidst the Alps and on a clear day, you can see the massive Alps right behind the little church making the view even more remarkable. Despite the heavy downpour, you can still get a small peek at a snow-covered mountain in the pic above.

With the stream by its side, the Alps behind it, and green hills with flocks of sheep surrounding it, this is the most picturesque church we’ve ever seen!

IMG_8534 (2)

The church is also adorned by the prettiest cemetery we’d ever seen. It was a wonderful sight of love and peace.

IMG_8525 (3)

Cemeteries like these around the local church appeared to be customary in this region. Many of them have intricate and unique gravestones that are surrounded by figurines and photos. These evoke a feeling of comfort and peace rather than the usual melancholy associated with cemeteries.

The interior of the Ramsau church is quite simple but lovingly decorated.

IMG_8531 (2)

Although we spent less than an hour in this little German village and had barely seen all that it had to offer, we left Ramsau with lovely memories knowing we’ll be back soon.

Berchtesgaden and its surrounding area is extraordinarily beautiful. It should top your list of places to see in Germany. It is our most loved place in all of Germany and we cannot wait to head back there someday soon.

Regensburg – a medieval marvel

Sometimes the most unplanned trips turn out to be the best trips. 

We’d had Regensburg on our bucket list of German cities to visit but hadn’t gotten around to it. As fate would have it, we had to plan a trip to the city for a work-related visit. So we set off on a lovely sunny evening with blue skies. It’s a short drive to Regensburg from Ulm and we made it there while the sun was still shining bright.

IMG_9224 (2)

First order of business was food. There’s a TON of options for delicious food in Regensburg. Our restaurant selections are generally driven by the beer variety. And, we were so pleased to discover that Regensburg has a ton of spots for good beer as well, including some very cool craft beer bars.

While you are in Regensburg, you should definitely visit the Wurstkuchl, the oldest sausage kitchen in the world.

IMG_9110 (2)
The smell of grilled sausages wafting through the air will have you drooling instantly
7164657219026257219-account_id=2
Add a pint of the delicious Jacob’s Weissbier and you’ll be transported to heaven

If you prefer a quick bite, they have a takeaway corner outside. There’s usually a long line but don’t be deterred as it moves quickly and we promise you the sausages are worth the wait! Wurstkuchl was established in the 12th century as a small canteen of sorts primarily for dockers and masons working on the city’s renowned Stone Bridge.

IMG_9158 (2)
This is just a view of half of the Stone bridge, the other half is currently under rennovation

This old Stone Bridge over the Danube river was built in the 12th century and is one of the oldest bridges in Germany. Although the Steinerne Brücke goes thru regular renovation and restoration, much of the old stones are still holding up the bridge. The bridge is always packed with locals just trying to get to the other side of the city and tourists flocking to admire the old bridge and to get the best views of the city.

IMG_9095 (2).JPG
A view of the old town area from the Stone Bridge
IMG_9247 (3)
Colorful buildings at the Stadtamhof, on the other side of the Stone Bridge

IMG_9221 (4)

The river banks are usually crowded with people picnicking with friends and family. Some get their hookahs and beers and enjoy the views of the beautiful Danube flowing thru the city. It was such a pleasant sight to watch children running around, people basking in the sunshine and enjoying a little siesta.

Regensburg is situated at the confluence of three rivers – Danube, Regen (possibly what the city was named after, joins the Danube from the north) and Naab (joins the Danube from the northwest). It’s amazing to see this confluence and the Danube splitting into little streams through the city and then merging back to flow as one mighty river. The best way to experience the beauty of Regensburg is to take a boat ride.

You have a whole range of options to tour the gorgeous waters of the Danube. We took the Strudelrundfahrt, a one-hour boat ride along the Danube where you can enjoy the sights of the old town and the pristine scenery of Regensburg.

IMG_9138 (3)
The towering spires of the Regensburg Cathedral in the distance
IMG_9189 (2)
A little castle in the old town area
IMG_9168 (3)
The Danube keeps splitting like this and rejoining
IMG_9191 (3)
You also have the option to hop on one of these cruise boats that take you on a longer tour over the Danube lasting a few days

The Danube cruises are world-renowned and is a very popular activity with tourists looking to explore Germany and its neighboring countries. It definitely seems like a fun, relaxing mode of travel if you’re not someone who gets sick on the water. Most rooms have a lovely little sit-out and the rooms and the inside of the boat itself seem quite cozy and comfortable. One of our family members did the Danube cruise which started from Passau (which by the way is a lot like Regensburg with a confluence of three rivers as well) and traveled through Austria and Eastern Europe.

The old town area of Regensburg is filled with a whole bunch of historical sights, and pretty little cafes and biergartens tucked into cobblestoned alleys. There are a number of churches as well. Of course, the most visited one is the Regensburger Dom.

IMG_9303 (2)

The Regensburger Dom or St. Peter’s Cathedral is possibly one of the most visited sights in the city. Built in the 13th century, its imposing twin towers and gothic style is simply remarkable.

IMG_9270 (2)
The front view is similar to that of the Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral)
IMG_9227 (2)
And this side view where the two towers merge to look like one makes the cathedral look a lot like the Ulm cathedral, the tallest church in the world

With the Danube flowing through the city and its medieval cathedral, Regensburg reminded us of Ulm in so many ways. It is just a bigger Bavarian Ulm with a lot more restaurants, cool bars, and a stronger craft beer presence.

The craft beer culture in Regensburg is simply impressive! They have an annual craft beer festival that happens sometime around May. We were just lucky that the dates of the beer fest coincided with the dates of our visit. It was just an amazing stroke of beerluck!  If you are a beer enthusiast visiting Regensburg around spring/early summer, plan your visit around the craft beer fest dates – you won’t be disappointed! Click here to read about our adventures in the craft beer festival and our recommendations for great beer haunts in Regensburg.

There’s a ton of things to do in Regensburg but we were there for a short couple of days and spent a lot of our time at the craft beer festival. When we were not at the beer fest, we were walking through the little lanes of the Altstdadt or old town area. It’s such a gorgeous little city with plenty of beautiful old buildings. You will find remnants of its rich history all around the old town.

IMG_9260 (2).JPG
Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) – popular for its torture chamber
IMG_9252 (2)
Cosy little lanes with colorful old buildings adorn the Altstadt
IMG_9096 (2)
The Goliathhaus has stood strong since the 13 century!
IMG_9311 (2)
What you see here is remains of the Roman fortress, Portra Praetoria / Castra Regina dating back to 179 AD !

One of the other impressive churches in the old town area is the Alte Kapelle or Old Chapel. The exterior of this church is quite simple and unimpressive compared to its rich, stunning interiors.

IMG_9309 (2)

IMG_9308 (2)

This ancient little town with its 2000 year old history has much to offer. It wasn’t so surprising when we found out that it was the first capital of Bavaria.

Regensburg is one of Bavaria’s most beautiful cities and is well worth a visit if you are traveling through south Germany. We’re absolutely thrilled to have visited this city and will fondly cherish our memories of this place and the amazing people we met here.

Lake Chiemsee – a dreamy retreat

On a cloudy yet beautiful spring day, we began our six-day road trip across the German Austrian alpine towns.

The drive was simply wonderful. The fields were blanketed with lush green and there were little wild flowers everywhere. Not so far away from the fields were thick forests with trees slowly coming to life. Absolutely love this time of the year; when everything is springing back to life with this intoxicating newness.

7956168904201470521-account_id=2 (2)
A quick phone capture as we sped past these gorgeous fields

Our first stop was Lake Chiemsee – one of Germany’s largest lakes, also known as the Bavarian Sea. Surrounded by the Chiemgau Alps, the Chiemsee lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in Germany. The alps tantalize us with its majestic beauty miles before we approach Chiemsee.

There are many lakeside towns in Chiemsee but the most notable one is Prien. The Bavarian town of Prien am Chiemsee while packed with tourists, is still a cozy little town and you can find a heavenly little spot for yourself by the lake to get lost in.

IMG_7903 (4)
A magical evening by Lake Chiemsee

Lake Chiemsee has three islands – Herreninsel, Fraueninsel, and Krautinsel. Herreninsel meaning gentlemen’s island, is the largest and possibly the most visited. Fraueninsel aka ladies’ island is the prettier one of the lot (but of course!) and Krautinsel is said to be uninhabited. We took the Chiemsee Schifffahrt from Prien to tour the islands.

The boat ride was just wonderful. We sat on the upper deck enjoying the slightly cold breeze and the scenic views of the German alps.

IMG_7890.JPG
Of course nothing like a beer to make the experience just perfect

We got off at the Herreninsel and began our short trek to the Herrenchiemsee Castle, one of the three Ludwig castles.

IMG_7708 (2)
It is a beautiful 15 min walk up to the castle
IMG_7771 (3)
If you don’t feel like the walk, you could hop on one of these carriage rides instead

Large luxurious gardens welcome you to the palace.

IMG_7715 (2)

The Royal Palace of Herrenchiemsee is modeled on the Palace of Versailles and was built by Ludwig as a ‘Temple of Fame’ for King Louis XIV of France who the Bavarian king ardently worshiped. The castle rooms are filled with paintings of the French king.

IMG_7725 (3)
Somewhat ordinary looking from the outside but extravagantly decorated on the inside

It is said to be one of the most expensive castles that King Ludwig has built and it’s quite evident once you walk inside the castle. The decorations are rich and exquisite with large chandeliers with the most intricate designs, magnificent furniture, and elaborately handcrafted items & showpieces. Possibly the most stunning room in the palace is the Great Hall of Mirrors with numerous chandeliers and mirrors lining the hall on either side and brilliant paintings embellishing the ceiling.

The Herrenchiemsee castle is definitely much more beautiful on the inside compared to the Neuschwanstein castle which is one of the prettier castles from the outside with its fairy-tale look and gorgeous alpine views.

We quite enjoyed the guided tour to the Herrenchiemsee; the guide was funny and cheerful and gave us great insights on the castle and the fascinating life of King Ludwig.

After your castle visit, do take a break at the little cafe with a nice pint of German beer and enjoy the soothing view of the gardens and the fountains.

IMG_7731 (2).JPG

IMG_7737 (2)
The fountains are decorated with wonderfully sculpted art
IMG_7762 (3)
and some strange but interesting art..

It was time to hop back on the boat and head over to Fraueninsel. You do want to plan your visit to Lake Chiemsee in such a way that you have time for both these islands. Most tourists just visit Herrenchiemsee for the palace and turn back. You will be missing out on the true Lake Chiemsee experience if you do that. While the boat ride to Herrenchiemsee is beautiful, it is nothing like the breath-taking, scenic views you’ll get if you head on over to the Fraueninsel. And the little island itself is just astonishingly beautiful.

IMG_7809 (2)
A lone sailboat out on chilly cloudy evening
IMG_7795 (2)
A view of the Benedictine monastery as we approach Fraueninsel
IMG_7814 (3)
A closer look at the monastery

The monastery was founded in 782 and was rebuilt multiple times over the last few centuries. We couldn’t enter the monastery but could take a walk through the pretty little cemetery at the back of the monastery. The graves were so lovingly decorated with flowers, pictures, and little lanterns.

IMG_7823 (2)

IMG_7825 (2)

IMG_7819

While the monastery is considered the key attraction of this small island, we highly recommend you taking a walk around the island. It’s such a small place that in less than 20 minutes, you can go around the entire island. It’s the prettiest little car-free island, with every house having its own private pier and cosy little sit-out by the lake. The houses are also adorned by lovely gardens.

IMG_7855
See the little eggs on the flower bush? We were visiting during Easter..

If you’re looking to do nothing much but just sit by the lake, relax, and take in the beauty surrounding you – this island is just the perfect spot. It’s quiet and cosy.

IMG_7862 (5)

Do keep an eye on your watch though as you can get lost in the alpine charm of this little island and miss your boat. We baaarely made it to the last boat out! We ran with all our might and just about made it to the pier as the boat was coughing up its engine to sail away.

In any case, not a bad place to be stranded at eh? The little island does have a few hotels and B&Bs. If you are looking to stay overnight in Chiemsee and prefer a less crowded place, you should opt to stay here rather than the packed Prien am Chiemsee.

IMG_7850 (2)

Lake Chiemsee was such a great start to our alpine road trip. Its quaint towns and islands with their unspoiled beauty and indescribable charm left a lasting impression on us and we are so glad to have made Chiemsee a part of our German adventures.

(We visited a whole bunch of gorgeous little towns across Germany and Austria during this road-trip. Stay tuned for more posts!)