Last Saturday I took a morning train out of Cologne northwards to the medieval university town of Münster which, for the last two years has been home to my former neighbour and fellow blogger Barry.
Yeah, Münster has, like, history and stuff, and Barry showed us some churches and a town hall famous for its signed peas or something, but then it was time for the main dish: Pinkus Müller. The last brewery making Münster's distinctive style of blonde altbier -- and indeed the last brewery in the city -- Pinkus Müller is conveniently situated near the centre of town on a large street-corner plot. The room we settled in was a very cosy and poky one, with wooden beams, delft tiles in the fireplace, lots of kitcheny nick-nacks and the watchful eye of our matronly hostess.
I started with the Jubilate, a light-bodied and only slightly sweet winter beer which manages to balance warmth and drinkability rather well. I followed this with the enigmatic Classic made, apparently, from "historical barley" -- what that means is anyone's guess. The beer is a very light and thin cloudy affair with a bit of orange flavour to it, but otherwise not terribly interesting. Last of the new ones was Müller's Lagerbier, which manages to break all the rules of what one might expect from such a label. It's cloudy, for one thing with a candy-apple nose and lots of fruity flavours, finishing with just a touch of honey. Very unusual and rather tasty. Naturally, I couldn't leave without a token Pinkus Original Münstersch Alt -- full of sour bitter spiky complexity yet super-quaffable. My full review is here, and I think half-litres are definitely the way to go with this, rather than messing about with 25cl glasses as we were.
Next stop was a couple of doors up to a fun little pub called Das Blaue Haus where there was Berliner Kindl Weisse on the menu. Having loved the green one, I went red this time. Berliner Kindl Weisse Rot is nowhere near as good: there's no space for the sourness to shine through and it just ends up tasting of raspberry syrup and nothing else. Lesson learned.
Dinner was out in the harbour area. Münster has taken an odd approach to its docklands redevelopment scheme, lining one side of the Dortmund-Ems canal with swish apartments and fancy bars, while presenting them with a view of unreconstructed industrialism on the other side, where a power station belches smoke and barges ply their trade. Strange. Anyway, we ate in Wolters where the food was good and hearty, and the beer was draught Duckstein. Plain old standard Duckstein is a lot more interesting than I'd expected, a dark beer with a delicate complex flavour including floral perfume, burnt caramel and a sweet rum-soaked raisin warmth.
And if that wasn't surprising enough, there's also a Duckstein Weizen: also on the browner end of the spectrum and with that caramel and rasins thing going on too. The banana flavours are relatively muted, and the finish is just a little too sudden. But it's definitely different and worth a go if you see it. To Barry's knowledge it's only sold at Wolter's.
Having found Münster's jolly English theme pub The James closed (sure who wants a drink on a Saturday night?) there was just time for a swift Frankenheim Alt before the train back south to Cologne. Thanks for a fun day out, Bar.
Westmalle Dubbel - *Origin: Belgium | Date: 2008 | ABV: 7% | On The Beer Nut: October 2007* It's a longtime favourite today. Westmalle Dubbel goes back to the very beginnings...
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