Before our EU Austerity Drinking Tour leaves Berlin, we take the Metro to the end of a line. The 1936 Olympic Stadium provides our destination.
Although 76 years old, it looks strangely clean and modern: normalized into a tourist site and sporting venue. Swastikas have been stripped and chiseled away. Yet fascist elements remain, including master race discus throwers and their…well… master race testicles.
Over-compensation aside, a shadow hangs over the stadium. It feels sad, empty, like a vast graveyard. I think because no great Nazi victory came here. Even Jesse Owens’ winnings were begrudgingly ensconced in bronze.
Meanwhile, Hitler’s name is nowhere to be found. It reminds me of the EUR outside of Rome built under Mussolini.
But enough of this happy go lucky, feel-good, Nazi nostalgia.
As tourists start to pile in, we leave and connect trains for Cologne (aka Köln).
Now Cologne (aka Köln) sounds awfully like “Colony” because, well, it was. The Romans made it their outpost on the edge of the Black Forest. It later swapped hands between various French and German-speaking empires and retains its dual names (Cologne and Köln) as well as one of beer’s most dualistic styles: Kölsch.
Brewers in Cologne make other beers. But Kölsch is protected, delineated to the city, and its ingredients controlled by the Kölsch convention of 1986. Unlike most German beers with their lager yeast, it ferments via ale yeast: that estery, top-fermenting strain of England, Belgium, and France.
Aside from its unique ale yeast, everything sounds similar: light malts, mild noble hops, cool fermentations, and long, cold conditioning. It’s like meeting a Neanderthal, it looks eerily familiar but is not the same.
We unpack, head out, and get overwhelmed in town. WWII decimated 40 breweries into 2. Today, most are back. Flustered, we pick the most garish: Brauerei Pfaffen.
Inside, it looks less orange. I promise. We saddle up to high stools, ask for Kölsch, blink, and two slim Stange glasses glow gold before us.
Clear, med intense gold, slow med fizz, cm white head. Clean, med intense hoppy grapefruit, grass, wheat, honey. Dry med plus acid, med plus hoppy tannin, med alc, med body, pitch perfect balance, refreshing, med intense flavors of fresh gold and green apple, light rye, hops. Med plus length. Very very good.
APPEARANCE: A crystalline honey gold, with super small, slow fizz, slow, and a cm white head. AROMAS: smell a medium intense honey wheat bread and light grapefruit. PALATE: feels dry, snappy and upright with medium plus acidity, medium bitterness, medium alcohol, a medium body. FLAVORS: taste forward with white wheat, malt, golden apple, and a lighty peppery, hoppy finish that lasts a medium plus length.
For 1.60 EU Pfaffen’s Kölsch is supremely refreshing, session-able, yet complex and very good (4 of 5).
We wave for another. The placemat gets marked. Curious, I order Pfaffen’s Bock. It arrives brusquely in a half liter mug.
APPEARANCE: a clear but deeper amber, with medium speed fizz, and a cm white head. AROMAS: smell moderately of caramel apple. PALATE: off dry, less acidic, medium bitterness, notably warmer alcohol (7%), creating a medium plus body. FLAVORS: push and pull with toffee, caramel, red pear, and dry oats that last long while.
I am a sucker for bigger beer, but Pfaffen’s Bock, at €4.90 for .5l, is outstanding quality (5 of 5) and value.
We spend that day and the next touring Cologne with moderate sobriety. Check back next Monday for more drinks and sights and sounds of this fabulous city.
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