Leipzig & Dresden
Last Updated : 26/06/05
or... Scooping in Saxonia, April 2005.
(dedicated to 40028 XB CD)
could tell I was getting desperate to scoop another beer style by my more than passing interest in special offers to Leipzig. Ever since I’d heard of the Saxonian speciality of Gose I’d been determined to add it’s consumption to my growing list of famous – and not so famous – European beer styles which I’d scooped; Gose sounded like it was a very interesting style with many descriptions alluding to a likeness to lambic, which isn’t a bad thing at all in my book! If you add to this a rareness value along the lines of Elvis shagging the Loch Ness monster then Gose suddenly sounds even more alluring; after all, scooping something as which is only really available in two cities in the world is the kind of thing which attracts all kinds of saddos and cranks – me included!
Leipzig was added to the list of “must visit” places, but Riotscare’s Altenburg route (Ryanair, with their usual creative geography, claim Altenburg is near Leipzig when, in fact, it’s quite a long way south of it) stubbornly refused to have a decent price when we could take advantage of it and other trips came and went in the meantime. I had almost given up hope of getting any Gose in my scooping book when, whilst doing my monthly scan of the budget airline websites, something caught my eye on Air Berlin – they were starting a new route to Leipzig from Stansted in early 2005! If I’d been a footy fan then I’d probably have pulled my shirt over my head and grunted some intelligible chants before picking a fight with someone but, hating football, I restricted myself to a small smirk of delight which soon turned into a cackle as, checking the fares, found a return to be in the region of £45. What a result!!! GET IN!! Sorry, it’s the football fan in me again.
During the next week I made exhaustive enquiries and web searches about Leipzig and Gose, and these turned up some pretty interesting results to put it mildly. It seems that Gose as a style died out in the 1960’s when the last brewery closed but was recreated in the late 1980’s by a visionary Leipziger named Lothar Goldhahn who, on restoring one of the most famous Gosenschanke, decided that as he’d restored the pub he’d better restore the beer too. Since then the beer has moved around a bit, but today there are two breweries making it – the new Bayerischer Bahnhof brewpub and the small local Ernst Bauer brewery who produce it under contract to a member of the family who ran the last Gose brewery in the 1960’s. There is also a new brewpub in Gose’s home town of Goslar which started in 2004, but it’s products aren’t available in Leipzig as far as I could tell.
It seems the lambic-like sourness of traditional Gose (for, IMO, only one is traditional!) isn’t caused by spontaneous fermentation any more (although it may have been in the past – reputedly, Gose “ferments without the addition of yeast” according to one old local report) but by the addition of lactic acid – with coriander and salt! The oft-quoted link between Gose and the Belgian Gueuze seems, to me at least, to be confusion between the names; I’m sure if Gose was called Leipziger then the link would never have been made. As far as I can work out from my web research the name Gose comes from Goslar, the town in the Harz region where the beer originated (and home to a new Gose brewpub too!). In it’s modern manifestation, at least, Gose bears no resemblance to Oude Gueuze apart from being made with a proportion of wheat. To me, Gose tastes nothing like Lambic although, admittedly, it is sour and, for the usually staid German brewing scene, remarkably interesting. In order to read more about this fascinating style, written by people with a far better understanding of it than me, you can do a lot worse than have a look at the following links – the German beer guide, Bayerischer Bahnhof’s own site, the Döllnitz site, Michael Jackson, and Ron Pattinson’s excellent website, which should give a good insight into how Gose is made and served today and how it differs from the Gose of yesteryear.
After a week searching the web I’d garnered enough information to book a long weekend in Leipzig with the added bonus of a visit to Dresden. I was a bit put out to discover that the flights had risen in price to the dizzying heights of £54 return, but even so this was still a relative bargain so, fearing more rises, I booked two seats and a room at the Holiday Inn hotel opposite Leipzig hauptbahnhof where, most amusingly, I was promised a “view over the main station”. That was it; we were all sorted, so I set about gathering more information about brewpubs and beer bars in Dresden and Leipzig to keep us busy when we weren’t out riding on trams as, fortuitously, both cities had huge tram systems which promised many hours of urban transport pleasure to go with the beer! Within a few weeks I had a large collection of gen to act upon and investigate when we arrived so I started to plan the next holiday – Estonia!
Friday 22nd April 2005.
An infestation of screeching Adas.
We had only flown with Air Berlin once before but had enjoyed the experience – maybe it was something to do with the free butty and drink you get onboard – and, I reasoned, with a fleet of aircraft as large as theirs could I really be so unlucky to have the same one twice? Before we could indulge in the luxury of free onboard comestibles, however, there was the usual matter of a 3-hour drive to Stansted in the middle of the night, which somehow always puts a damper on things. Fortunately we had none of the closed road syndrome of a few months previous and were shivering at the bus stop in Stansted’s sprawling longstay car park at 05:30 in the morning – a time of day when even the prospect of a flight to a long-awaited destination for a spot of beer scooping seems to play distinct second-fiddle to a couple of hours good solid doss.
As an aside here, when I drive into the “Pink Elephant” car park at Stansted I always have a little chuckle at their slogan – “The world’s favourite car park”. I mean, just how do they quantify that?
For a start let me state right from the off that although, as far as airport parking goes, it’s certainly not the worst one I’ve ever parked at it’s a bloody long way from being my favourite for several reasons, such as;
1. It’s not free, and in fact it’s over 7 quid a day (or part thereof) – a big downside surely!
2. It’s a good 15-minute bus ride from the terminal which, although the buses are frequent and we’ve never had a problem, is still a bit of a trek,
3. It’s labyrinthine complexity and disorienting road system is another negative blot on it’s copybook,
4. And, finally, surely being in Essex can’t really be spun as a good thing?
So, just whose favourite car park is it? Presumably the owners who are coining in £7 per car per day (or part of)! I’d love to know – I might even email them to ask! I reckon their customer services department must get a few similar questions each week…
Sorry, enough pointless gibbering, on with the report. With the help of the “world’s favourite car park” and their buses we were soon at the terminal and marvelling at the ease we had just checked in five minutes after shuffling through the painfully slow revolving door. The difference between the budget carriers’ checking in procedures is interesting to experience and deserves a few lines of explanation for those who are without the Stansted experience; see the end of this article to find my take on it. We quickly passed through customs and after my now standard drooling over some winning whiskies in the excellent shop we sat down for breakfast in the lounge – four hours after we’d left home!
We were a bit concerned when our flight wasn’t allocated a gate until much later than usual, but eventually gate 12 popped onto the screens and we hurried over to the transit stop. Being a total saddo I keep a list of which transits I have scooped in and I still needed three to complete my full set – but, as usual, a pair of dud ones lurched into view much to my disgust. It’s only a few minutes ride on the transit to gates 1-22 and we were soon walking up the escalators into the gate lounge. There, to my horror, I saw the Air Berlin gate was besieged by a horde of middle-aged women who were cackling and screeching most alarmingly, but a quick glance at the neighbouring screens soon dispelled my fears – they were easyJet passengers for the Barcelona flight. Phew! They soon cackled their way onto their plane and the lounge was quiet again. We boarded on time and we were soon climbing out of Stansted and tucking into our free butty and orange juice!
The Biggest and the Oldest.
The flight was uneventful (apart from flying over Amsterdam and getting a great view of the horseshoe road/canal layout and the amount of water surrounding it) and soon we had landed at Leipzig/Halle airport, once the most important in the former GDR but now only No.10 in Germany in order of passengers. The taxiway from the runway to the terminal passed over the railway and road, which was fairly unusual, but at least gave us an idea where the station was – down a very long walkway! Passport control was quick and efficient and it was only ten minutes before we were strolling along the walkway towards the station.
With the aid of the mobile walkways we were soon at the station where I studied the ticket machine. From my web research I had learned that Leipzig airport was 2 zones away from the town, so I looked how much a single would be as opposed to buying a 3-zone tageskart (dayticket). I was soon assailed by an over-helpful German who spoke much better English than I spoke German (not difficult, really) who tried to interrogate the DB Ada as to what the best ticket option would be. We eventually came to the conclusion that a single to Leipzig then a city tageskart would be the cheapest option so I duly purchased two three-zone singles from the machine for €3.30 each. Just as we were about to walk down the steps to the platform, the helpful German reappeared from the platform steps making good speed for the ticket machine – it turns out that I actually had more gen than he did, as he’d only bought a 2-zone single rather than the required 3-zone! Maybe he should have asked my advice…
A train arrived within a few minutes and we had a free choice of seat as there were very few passengers aboard. As it turned out, we needn’t have bought our tickets after all as the guards walked past us without bothering to check them, but I’d bet a tenner if we’d not had tickets they would have checked! To pass the 15-minute journey, we laid bets on what the first animal we’d see would be – this game comes from Belgium where you never know what you’ll see lurking in fields; camels, alpacas, ducks, llamas… they’re all there! I bet dog whilst Sue went for sheep, but we were both withered when I saw a huge fox idly trainspotting by the line! Well, I suppose technically I won as a fox is a dog, but I didn’t press the point.
We were soon slowing to enter Leipzig hauptbahnhof which, apparently, is the largest terminal station in Europe with 24 platforms and a huge array of yards, sidings and assorted depots which we passed for miles beforehand. This impressive collection of rail infrastructure included a very nice roundhouse that looked like it was still used and some strange old electric engines hard-wired into the overhead! As we pulled into the station proper I was struck by it’s sheer size; it looked like Manchester Piccadilly with its large latticed-metal roof but it was about twice as large – it’s one big shack! In the arrivals hall we were in for another surprise; the concourse had been remodelled so there were three floors of shops and someone seemed to have a sense of humour – near to the predictable McScum were some toilets called McClean and a shop selling office supplies was called – you guessed it – McPaper! What a treat. The food hall looked very impressive and we resolved to have a good look later in the day, but first there were some trams to get in the book!
We armed ourselves with a tageskart for the reasonable price of €4.60 each and wandered over to the tourist office which was remarkably efficient; we were provided with a streetmap and, even better, an up-to-date tram map for nothing. Sat outside the office was a superb lorry with comical cartoons of various foods having a riot on the side – I decided on a seminar which greatly amused the driver and his mate who chose that minute to return! D’oh! Tooled-up with our maps and daytickets, we set off to explore some of the extensive tram system (the second largest in Germany, allegedly) before checking into our hotel at 15:30. Sure enough, the promised “view to hauptbahnhof” part of the bargain was adhered to and our refurbished room overlooked the main station and lots of tramlines; we aim to be able to see trams from our hotel window whenever possible! From hotel door to station must have been about 30 seconds, and door to tram about ten!
Before starting on the beer we did a few more tramlines to get the lie of the city – It’s always a good way to see the real life of a new place in my opinion. During one of these trips, the Czech-built tram (all the old ones are Czech built, the new ones are from an unknown source!) suddenly ground to a halt with the warning sirens blaring! The driver cussed and banged about in the cab for a few seconds before righting the situation and off we went again; this was the first time I’ve ever been in a tram that has failed!
The Waterloo of brewpubs to the Brew-station.
Our first call was to be the furthest brewpub from the centre, the strangely named Zum Kaiser Napoleon, which is a few miles out to the south-east of town handily placed next to the Russenstraße stop on route 15 direction Meusdorf (also tram 2 but not as frequently). We arrived early at 16:50 so elected to take the tram to the end of the line – this was done, and fortuitously we were able to get off one tram and get on another that almost immediately stormed off back in the direction of the brewpub! What a beast – always makes!
We walked through the door at 17:02 and my doubts about whether the place brewed or not (I’d been unable to find any records of any beer scoopers going there) were immediately dispelled by almost walking into the gleaming brewing kit that was installed in the middle of the floor! As we were the first customers the service was pretty sharp and within a few minutes we were tucking into some of the home-brewed Helles and Dunkel. They weren’t that exciting if I was to be brutally honest, although the dunkel had a pleasant liquoricey note to it’s flavour and both were quite refreshing – they certainly eased our thirsts caused by the warm weather outside and being sat on the sun-side of the tram! Soon it was time to leave; we didn’t bother with the wheat beer as we’d made an executive decision to flag all wheat beers unless it was necessary to make up a round (or if they were Gose!) – neither of us really like wheat beers and, in accordance with our ethical scooping guidelines, had decided not to drink them just for the sake of another line in the book. Hardcore, or what?
We took tram 2 straight through to Bayrischerplatz where the oldest passenger station still operative in the world is located, the Bayerischer Bahnhof, which is the old terminus for trains from Bavaria before the huge new hauptbahnhof was built in the 1890’s. After that opened the old terminus fell into decline and, like most of Leipzig, was severely damaged by bombing in 1944. That should have been the end of that but, maybe to keep the record for both the oldest and biggest stations in Europe in one city, the then DR (East German railways) authorities restored its façade and maintained a token service which it retains to this day – you have to be pretty keen to actually find the platforms! In 2000, the railway authorities sold the decrepit station buildings to a München company and they were totally refurbished as a brewpub – but not just any old brewpub - this one was to brew the recently revived Leipzig style of Gose! This was possible as the owning company had previously brewed Gose for the Ohne Bedenken and had obviously seen an opening in the marketplace for the beer – full credit to them.
As we got off the tram the Bayerischer Bahnhof was obvious – a rather pompous neo-classical façade rearing up in the middle of a shabby patch of wasteland. We braved the ludicrously busy road junction (dual carriageways coming from 4 directions and trams too) and were soon inside the brewpub where, after a good wander around, we bagged a large table by the entrance and settled down to await service. This materialised in the form of the campest bloke we’d ever seen – imagine the camp bloke off Airport distilled to ten times the campness quotient; he was like some comedy character! It was very difficult to keep a straight face as he spoke but somehow we managed not to explode into mirth and ordered a half-litre of Gose and a small Dunkel along with some food from the inviting menu, which the King of the camps minced off to fetch.
The beers soon arrived and I was filled with anticipation as I prepared to sample another of Europe’s classic beer styles. Unfortunately, I was in for a bit of a disappointment as the Gose wasn’t anywhere near as good as I’d hoped. After reading a lot about the style on the web I was expecting something akin to a draught one year old Lambic with more wheaty flavours, but this brewpub seemed to have other ideas. Bayerischer Bahnhof Gose may be fine for people who aren’t that adventurous and/or don’t like sour beers but to my taste it was a bit too reminiscent of a bottle of Hoegaarden which had been forgotten at the back of a cupboard for six months and then been involved in an unfortunate “oops there goes the lid off my salt jar, oh dear it’s all gone in that old bottle of Hoegaarden” type incident. It’s not that it was a bad beer - maybe my expectations were too high - but to my taste at least it was a very safe interpretation of the style; too much coriander and salt with nowhere near enough sourness to balance it out; I was a bit gutted to say the least!
We drank the Dunkel and the Pils which were, again, safe and taking no flavour risks although well brewed and perfectly drinkable. The food soon arrived and was much better than the beers; my game stew was rich, tasty and came with a bizarre poached pear and some strange type of dumpling. In a much more charitable mood after the food, we decided to give the Gose another try – but it still tasted too spicy/salty and the pitiful sourness level left me very underwhelmed. Before the trip I’d read another of Michael Jackson’s fawning articles where he namechecks the brewer at every opportunity and says how great the beers are, especially the Gose – next time I think it’s safer to expect the opposite of what he says and we might have a better expectation of the beer! We bought a bottle of Gose to take away hoping that it would improve if we kept it in the cellar for 6 months – I’ll update you with the results later in the year! For the silly price of €9.90 you get a 750ml bottle of Gose, but the bottle itself is almost worth the price, being a traditional Gose flask that is similar in shape to bottles used by Portuguese Rosé and Vinho Verde producers but with a longer neck.
Some proper gear, guv’nor.
With my idea of drinking Bahnhof Gose all night dashed, we intrepidly crossed the melee of a road junction outside (fortified by the beers it didn’t seem half as scary as on the way there) and made for the tramstop. As we prepared to cross the lines in front of a tram, the driver suddenly decided to apply notch 8 and I sprang back to a clattering of bells – cheers then! Unscathed, we waited for a safer crossing opportunity and within a few minutes a tram had appeared to whisk us up to the other essential experience of Leipzig - Ohne Bedenken (the name means “without doubt” – the landlord’s alleged response to a palate-challenged customer asking if the Gose was actually drinkable), the place where Gose was brought back from it’s deathbed in the late 1980’s by an enlightened landlord. I had gambled on the Menckestraße tramstop (line 4) being nearest to the bar but, as usual, I had gambled wrong so we had a short trudge along Menckestraße until we found the bar. “Right” I thought, this is our last chance to find decent Gose – and in we went.
The door led to a wood-panelled corridor that reminded me of the bars of Bamberg and, in particular, Griefenklau (except you don’t have to climb a bloody big mountain to get to Ohne Bedenken) with various doors heading off from it. We walked through the outside area then found our way inside and I was immediately struck by the cosy and … well… beery feel to it; you know, that feeling you get when you walk into a pub that cares about beer and you know will serve you a glass of something to savour – that’s the best way I can think of putting it at the moment! The servery was to the left as we walked in and scrubbed pine tables (very Köln!) were arranged around the room which was lit by subdued lighting and had plenty of Gose memorabilia scattered around the walls. Even though the patio had been busy, the inside was quiet (common in Germany from my experience) and we had no bother finding a good table with a view of the room. Right, I thought again, now for some ticking – and it’d better be good this time!!!
I was soon in possession of a half-litre of Ernst Bauer Döllnitz Ritterguts Gose that is brewed by a small brewery in Leipzig for a member of the family who owned the last Gose brewery in the 1960’s. The beer certainly looked the part having the milky haze of a lambic that is usually caused by lactic bacteria and wheat particles in suspension. I took a cautious sniff of the glass and immediately I knew that I had found real Gose – the unmistakable whiff of farmyards, old sacks, musty cobwebs and all those aromas that lambic drinkers love were there, along with a hint of coriander seed (not half a ton as in the Bayerischer version!) and a dab of wheaty sweetness. I took a gulp and it tasted exactly as I’d imagined Gose would – a restrained bubblegummy wheat beer with heavy flavours of lactic, mustiness, spice and a fairly hefty sourness. The aftertaste was dry with a hint of drying salt but still with a long, lingering sharp musty lactic bite. To say I was impressed was an understatement – this was worth coming 700 miles to scoop, no question!
We had another round, Sue choosing the Ernst Bauer Dunkel, which was also excellent, being rich, heavy and quite sweet with a caramelly/liquorice flavour whilst I had another large Gose and bought some bottles to take home; €3 buys a 500ml unfiltered bottle which are displayed on the bar. By the time we finished our beers the bar was filling up with drinkers, many ordering Gose or Gose with syrup (a common occurrence; in a similar vein to Berliner Weiss, Gose is offered with raspberry, cumin or woodruff syrup which turns it various shades of primary colours) and, having been awake for over 18 hours we decided to call it a night. Reluctantly we left the bar and almost immediately found the correct tramstop – on line 12 stop Fr-Seger-straße, just around the corner! After a short tram ride, which conveniently terminated at the stop outside our hotel door rather than the main hauptbahnhof stop, we were back in the hotel for some much-needed doss.
Saturday 23rd April.
The Pearl of the Elbe.
We decided to visit Dresden for a number of reasons – to scoop some more trams and to see more of the city I’d visited in 1991 on my interrail being two. I’d described to Sue how different Dresden was when compared to UK cities that had been bombed, Coventry being a prime example, and she wanted to see what I was gibbering on about so that we’d decided to do a day trip on the train. First, however, we made a close inspection of the food hall at Leipzig hauptbahnhof and I was amazed by the choice and quality of food on offer – freshly squeezed fruit juices, salads, vegetables, butties, wurst, fried snacks, pasta … and McScum. Needless to say we ignored McScum and loaded up with food to take on the train and it all worked out cheaper than 2 breakfasts in the hotel would have been for a much better array of food! I’ve never seen a station food hall like that anywhere else and it shows stations haven’t all got to be somewhere to endure whilst waiting for a tardy train, but can be clean and inviting – and offer a great choice of eatables.
I was planning on buying a Saxonia Lander ticket which gives up to 5 people unlimited travel throughout the region on public transport for €24, but unfortunately these are only available on weekdays so we made do with a “Happy Weekend” ticket which gives unlimited travel on regional trains throughout Germany for only €30 – a real bargain, although it doesn’t include local transport. The train departed on time and we sat back for the hour and a half journey to Dresden which included free entertainment – the buffet trolley (or “rolling riot” as they are known) was able to climb the stairs of the train! (It was a double-deck train in case you were wondering where stairs came into it).
On arrival, we discovered the hauptbahnhof and surrounding areas had been turned into a large worksite with some major construction taking place. We walked through towards the riverside and passed through the street which, on my previous visit, I’d thought resembled Plymouth – if you’ve been to both then you’ll realise what I’m on about. It seemed to have been spruced up a bit since my last visit and most of the communist flats had been transformed into a massive Ibis hotel which, considering their original purpose, seems a touch amusing to me. We soon passed through to the restored area of the city where some parts are still being restored; the cathedral was only completed in 2005 and was a heap of stones in 1991 when I visited. The area around the riverside is, architecturally speaking, gorgeous and it’s almost impossible to believe the pictures of utter devastation in 1945 are the same place so lovingly has the restoration been carried out. Compare and contrast to the rebuilding of Coventry and you’ll see what I mean!
We spent a good few hours wandering around the old town, taking in the sights which included a safari with a difference – old Trabant cars from the former DDR were being advertised as a “Trabbi safari”! (Trabbis, as they’re affectionately known now, are the hideous old cardboard cars made famous when, on the opening of the borders, many East Germans either abandoned them or sold them for the price of the petrol in the tank; on our Interrail we were offered a Trabbi by some sociable Germans for the grand total of 1 mark; I now wish we’d accepted!). We then went for a spin around on the extensive tram system, but unfortunately for us all the trams we saw were plastic new ones apart from a couple of old examples we didn’t have the opportunity to get on. We decided to have a look at the mountain railways indicated on my public transport map, so did tram 42 to the end of it’s line at Schillerplatz then a bus over the huge iron bridge which spans the Elbe.
Up and down the Drachenfels.
A brief walk brought us to the Drachenfels suspended railway (Schwebebahn) which looked a right beast – a clanking monstrosity which hauled itself up the mountain beneath huge steel gantries. The ticket gen was soon revealed; we had to buy an extra ticket to go with our family day rover (superb value at around €4!) but it was worth it to scoop in a new method of transport! We admired the view from the summit, but just missed the return trip and had a 20-minute wait for the same car we’d had up back down again – D’oh! We were wondering where the other railway on the map was when, exactly opposite where we’d got off the bus, we saw it! A narrow passage leads to the small station of the Standseilbahn funicular which we just had to do; funiculars are unmissable for us when visiting a new city! This time we managed to get one car up the mountain for the other one back down again, whereupon we decided it was time to squeeze a few brewpubs into our busy schedule. Unfortunately, we’d overrun a bit on time by scratching in both the mountain railways, but we still had time for a couple of the examples we’d been directed to by Paul Harrop.
First, however, we needed to get over the other side of the mountain! The same bus we’d taken over the bridge was required and we only had a 10-minute wait for one to arrive; bus timetables on stops are something operators in the UK could learn! I knew the mountain was big as we’d just been up and down it on two mountain railways, but the bus really pressed home how big it was – and to make it even more fun Michael Schumacher seemed to be driving! We stormed up a hellfire road which was one big s-bend on a fearsome gradient with the driver’s foot flat on the floor; I nearly fell out of my seat at one particularly alarming corner! After what seemed ages we finally crested the summit and were surprised to see the tramlines right in front of us – I had assumed they’d be further down the other side. We hit the stop button and Mr Schumacher brought the bus to a grinding halt, glaring at us for daring to stop his record attempt at the Drachenfels hillclimb. Once the bus had screamed away we crossed the road to the tramstop on route 11 (Grundtstraße) which was conveniently situated about ten metres away, but discovered we had 15 minutes to wait for the next tram – cheers then!
Beer at last!
Eventually a tram hove into view and we took it down the hill towards Dresden. The run was very pleasant as a great view of the city and it’s environs was to be had as we coasted down the gradient though the leafy suburbs. We were soon at Waldschloßen where the first of our scoops would be – the Waldschloßen brewpub no less, which is situated in the offices of a former brewery which closed in the 1980’s and is now owned by Paulaner of München and brews beers to identical recipes as the Paulaner Bräuhaus in München. We alighted from the tram and to say you couldn’t miss the place would be an understatement – it’s massive! The huge building glowers over the road and getting up to it isn’t easy either; there is a big flight of steps to climb to get to the patio which has great views out over Dresden and the Elbe valley.
Once you get up there, there’s a choice of buying beer from the outside bar (which looks a bit like a greasy breakfast van!) or from inside where the usual gleaming copper brewing kit lurks behind the substantial wooden bar. We sat inside and ordered a dunkel and zwickel which were thirst-quenching without being very exciting, although this was to be expected with the beers being brewed to Paulaner recipes! We were now getting very pushed for time so we flagged the weiss and helles and, after collecting our complementary pack of mints (!), bounded back down the steps to the tram stop where the same tram would take us to Zum Bautzner Tor, the brewery tap of the small Neustädter Hausbrauerei located out in the suburbs of the city.
The tram arrived on time and we piled on for the short run down the increasingly steep gradient into the centre proper. Alighting at Bautznerstraße we saw that the bar was metres down Hoyerswerderstraße on the right and very handily placed for trams on routes 11, 6 and 13. Paul Harrop had described it as a real local’s bar and he was right (as usual) – we’d never had guessed that such huge beer was sold here! The sociable barmaid told us that Helles was on draught, and in bottle they had the Altbier and Stalin’s Hanf, a seasonal hemp beer so named as the brewer was the only person in his class at university to still believe in Communism! We sampled all three beers and found them to be very acceptable with the Hanf being the best of the three with, surprisingly, both bottles being unfiltered. Two other beers were not available, a red ale being one, although I asked about the possibility of takeouts and this, I was assured, would be no problem.
The beers drunk, we made our excuses and headed outside to catch the tram to Neustadt station and then the train back to Leipzig. We spent five minutes loitering around the street corner waiting to see which tram arrived first before the No.11 arrived about 50 metres ahead of the No.6! We were soon at Neustadt and had a few minutes to stock up on some foodstuffs for the journey before presenting ourselves for the train – which was 10 minutes late! The 100-minute journey soon rolled by and we were back in Leipzig at 19:00 with plenty of time in hand to scoop the last brewpub in town, the Thomaskirche.
One out of three is bad.
Our first move was to dump the bags at the hotel before taking a walk through the quiet streets towards the landmark church of Thomaskirche beneath which it’s namesake brewpub is nestled. However, we soon found out that the church we’d found was the wrong one, so after a quick map consultation we headed off to the correct church – or tried to. Impeding our progress was a large barrier emblazoned with “Leipzig suburban railway tunnel” which, on closer inspection, turned out to be an ambitious project which would allow suburban trains to pass under the city and appear at the other side by the Bayerischer Bahnhof and, on further reading, it seemed we had missed out on a bit of a treat – that morning we could have gone on a guided tour of the tunnel which ended at the Bayerischer Bahnhof and included a drink! Ah well, I suppose we’d have missed Dresden and you can’t be in two places at once… although it would be good sometimes…
We eventually found a path through the construction site and were soon outside the correct church where Johann Bach wrote a lot of his music. The Thomaskirche bräuhaus is, as it’s name would suggest, very close to the church – it’s in the hideous 1960’s square which surrounds it. We entered through the large glass patio doors and decamped at a table that was reserved in an hour’s time; with only two beers to scoop we wouldn’t be there that long! We quickly ordered the two beers available, weiss and helles, whilst persuading the waiter that we’d only be there for 15 minutes. As we waited for the winners to arrive I studied the brewery under which we were seated but it was just the usual shiny copper plant seen in most European brewpubs and, although it looked used, you can never really be sure in my opinion although evidence in it’s favour included the bags of malt piled up underneath the coppers…
When the beer arrived, however, I was sure it was brewed there – surely no “proper” brewer would sell such crap? The weiss was thin, bland and soapy but it only got worse from there with the Helles being metallic, astringent, watery and generally quite unpleasant, easily the worst beer we had all weekend. We were now sure that we’d not be there when the reservers of the table appeared due to the excessive rancidity of the beer, so once we’d forced the revolting fluid down our throats it was time to go and find some more Gose – but first, we had to get out of the place! The waiter had been busily locking the patio doors behind us as we grimaced and sipped the beer and now, when I tried to open it, it simply swung on the top rail and refused to open! Cheers then, we’re locked into the bar with the worst beer in Leipzig! Fortunately this wasn’t the case and we soon located the proper door and made a break for it for, hopefully, some Gose – or at least some beer that would be semi-drinkable!
Our next stop was the Café Sinfonie, and I was worried. We’d passed the Sinfonie on the tram and it had looked like it was under refurbishment - and it was the pick of the bars in the centre, serving both Gose and, amazingly, Berliner Weiss. We walked the short distance to the bar and my fears were realised – the door was firmly closed and the windows were blanked out. A sign in one of them described what was going on, but my limited German thwarted any attempt at deciphering it much beyond something about “8 years”.
Great, now what? Suddenly, I remembered the list of Gose outlets on the Ernst Bauer website and the bar next door to the Sinfonie rang a bell – the Vodkaria! This didn’t sound very promising, so we nonchalantly sidled past and peeked in through the windows. Instead of a den of iniquity and legless normals swilling moonshine the bar looked very civilised with candles on the tables and crowds of young people sat around drinking politely. We looked at each other and shrugged; if they sold Gose we were in! I approached the bar and asked “Haben sie Gose?” in my very best Deutsch, to which the charming waitresses responded with a chorous of Ja’s. Sorted! We stormed in and bagged a good table where we could have a look at the place and settled down to read the menu, which came as a bit of a surprise as it contained over 200 vodkas that were available to scoop from the freezer or fridge but, tempted as I was to score some of these winners, predictably I went for a large Döllnitz Gose and Sue for a Kostritzer Schwarzbier; well, it would be my last chance to drink Gose on draught in Leipzig!
The Gose was interestingly different from the example I’d had in Ohne Bedenken the night before but still very good. It was more lemony, astringent and not as musty but I’m assuming this is either due to batch variation or simply the barrel being on sale for a different amount of time and thus maturing. I’m not sure which version I liked best but I didn’t care at the time – I was drinking Gose in Leipzig on draught, something I’d wanted to do for a few years, and all was well! Sue’s schwarzbier was also good; a lot better than I thought it would be, with a roasty, dry aniseedy flavour and a malty, dry finish. As I drank my Gose I looked around and decided I liked the bar after all; no rowdy normals were there to ruin the pleasure of this civilised drinking establishment with a scooping mentality in the vodka list and enough sense to sell Gose. The food looked very good too but we restrained ourselves and, finishing our beers, we decided to call it a night and head back to the hotel for a bit of doss. Not having a tram rover was a bit unusual for us and meant we had to walk all the way back, but at least this gave us a look at the Leipzig nightclub scene as we passed!
Sunday 24th April.
For our last day we’d decided to scoop loads more tram lines in, as long as proper trams and not plastic ones worked them, and have a walk round the centre. First, though, we visited the food court at the hauptbahnhof and returned to the room with 2 bags absolutely full of excellent food; salads, yoghurt, fresh juice, fruit and some little fried vegetable things with a tangy apricot sauce. After this mammoth feast we checked out and, having learnt the lessons of Seville when we walked around all day with heavy packs, deposited the bags in left luggage at the station for the very sociable fee of €1.50. Freed from our heavy rucksacks we bought a tram rover each then headed off to explore Leipzig on foot – but first we took a real tram 15 one stop up the hill to outside the town hall to save our legs; we reasoned we may as well make use of the tickets!
After a good walk around the city, which turned out to be a lot more interesting than it looked from the ring road, it was time for a coffee in the old town hall’s basement restaurant, the amusingly named ratskeller. Whilst we drank the expensive espresso we noticed that most of the people around us were wearing beige and the average age must have been over 60! Feeling a little out of place in the midst of this sea of beigeness, we beat a retreat to the nearest tramstop and began another exploration of some more of the city’s lines.
We were on a real tram, aiming to scoop in line 7, when Sue noticed a slight whiff of burning electrics. Within a few minutes the tram had juddered to a halt with the warning sirens blaring; this was the second one in three days which doesn’t say much for LVB’s maintenance record! This time, the driver was unable to revive the tram and, after a few false starts and juddering halts, he admitted defeat and turfed everyone off before standing by the door puffing moodily on a fag. We waited to see what would happen – after all, scooping in a rescue engine would be hellfire – but soon a rescue team arrived in a van to fix the delinquent vehicle and we decided to cut our losses and take the tram back into the city and try another route!
Nothing further happened during our exploration, and all too soon it was time to return to the airport for the flight home. For sustenance on the train journey we bought a tray of fried pork goulash and a spicy beef concoction which were both excellent and set us up nicely for the trip home. We managed to get into the check-in queue first but by a twist of fate managed to get the YTS check-in operator who took a good ten minutes to book us in, eventually we were numbers 5 and 6 on the priority list! After raiding the good drink shop we boarded on schedule (another scoop in the plane list!) and were on stand at Stansted right on-time at 19:40. As we arrived at the transit station I saw there was a single vehicle there – and it was one of my last three, No.5! We leapt aboard for the short trip to the terminal where my smugness at scooping it was quashed when we passed my last two, Nos 7 and 9, in a pair leaving for the stands… ah well, maybe next time, we were due back in a month for our Estonian trip and then I’d have them…
Leipzig and Dresden may not be the first places you think of whilst planning a German scooping trip, but if you’re into scratching the rare and unusual beer styles of Europe then Leipzig is a must for Gose – and you may as well have a day out to Dresden if you’re in Leipzig! With the new flights from Stansted to Leipzig, Air Berlin is the easiest way to reach the area with returns from £38 (but book in advance). Leipzig/Halle airport is modern and small enough to be relaxing with a decent drink shop and direct train to Leipzig from the new station at the end of the long walkway; a single to Leipzig requires a 3-zone ticket which in May 2005 was €3.30. A tageskart for the Leipzig zone can be bought from the machines on the hauptbahnhof platforms for €4.60 a day which allows travel on all trams and buses throughout the city. Ryanair fly to the southern town of Altenburg from where a dedicated bus runs to Leipzig. To reach Dresden from Leipzig, a Sachsen Länder ticket can be bought on weekdays which allows up to five people unlimited travel on public transport and IR trains in Saxonia for €24. At weekends this ticket is not available (although it may be soon, in line with other regional tickets) so use the Happy Weekend Ticket - €30 for up to five people, valid on RE trains throughout the whole of Germany. In Dresden, a “family” tageskart can be bought from the machines at tram stations for the eminently reasonable price of €4.50 or so.
Gose is one of the world’s more unusual beer styles which died out in the 1960’s but was revived by an enterprising publican in the 1980’s when he refurbished the Ohne Bedenken and, naturally enough, decided that a refurbished Gosenschanke should sell Gose. In essence, Gose is a mid-strength (4-5%) wheat beer brewed with the addition of lactic acid, salt and coriander seed that gives a very unusual brew – in my opinion the Bayerischer Bahnhof brew is a more modern interpretation whilst the Ernst Bauer version is a lot more traditional in flavour (and sourness!). Read more about it here - German beer guide, Bayerischer Bahnhof’s own site, the Döllnitz site, Michael Jackson, and Ron Pattinson. A brewery in the home of Gose, Goslar in the Harz region, is producing both normal (if it can be described thus) and dark goses, but I’ve not yet visited and didn’t see the beer in Leipzig - although we are booked to be there in November 2006! mmmmmmmmm, Gose......
Overall, it's not the best area in Europe - or even Germany - to go scooping as there aren't as many brewpubs or breweries as, say, Franconia or München but it's still worth a look if you've already "done" these beer hotspots and are looking for somewhere a bit more out of the ordinary. The highlight is, obviously, the Gose but there's plenty more beer to keep most scoopers happy for a couple of days with both cities having three brewpubs and numerous other local beers to get in the book. For me, however, the discovery of the Döllnitz Gose was the highlight of the trip and definitely makes my top twenty of European beers on the strength of my tastings so far!
Transport and Hotels in the two cities.
Public transport in Leipzig and Dresden is, as you’d expect in Germany, excellent. Both cities have extensive tram networks, with Leipzig having the second biggest in Germany. The websites of the companies have maps and fares documented (both have English sections) so you can easily work out how much it’s going to cost for a day ticket - €4.60 in Leipzig and much less for Dresden. All the brewpubs can easily be reached by trams (see individual descriptions of the bars for details) so there’s no issue with getting to any of the bars.
We stayed in the Holiday Inn garden court next to the Hauptbahnhof in Leipzig, basically because it was cheap (€51 a double room only per night booked via the website) although there are many other budget options in Leipzig and Dresden has a massive Ibis close to the hauptbahnhof. The food court at Leipzig hauptbahnhof is amazing; you can choose from a massive range of food from unhealthy Wurst to freshly squeezed fruit juices and everything inbetween. Dresden’s hauptbahnhof is currently undergoing restoration so I can’t really comment on facilities there.
Bars and Brewpubs visited.
For more information and up-to-date gen, be sure to visit Paul Harrop’s superb website first!
Gasthausbrauerei Zum Kaiser Napoleon, Prager Straße 233, 04289 Leipzig +49 0341 / 86911-0 THIS MAY HAVE CLOSED !!! (or it may not...)
Brewpub Opened: 1996. Open from 17:00. Situated near the Sudfriedhof at the junction of Russenstraße and PragerStraße. Line 15, or the less frequent 2, stop Russenstraße. Helles, Dunkel and Weiss.
Gasthaus & Gosebrauerei Bayerischer Bahnhof, Bayrischer Platz 1, 04103 Leipzig
Brewpub opened: 2000. Open all day every day from 10:00. Tram 2, 9 or 16 to Bayrischer Platz, brewpub is part of the large arched structure. Tram 2 goes straight from the Kaiser Napoleon! They serve Gose plus Weiss, Helles and Dunkel and the occasional seasonal brew.
Brauerei an der Thomaskirche (Brewpub), Thomaskirchhof 3-5, 04109 Leipzig +49 0341 / 2126110, opposite the church in the centre of the Altstadt. Tram 9 to Thomaskirche. Usually two beers on.
Ohne Bedenken, Menckestraße. 5 Leipzig. An essential visit - Gose bar 2km N of the centre in Gohlis. Tram 12 to Fr-Seger-straße from the Hbf, direction Gohlis-Nord. Follow tramlines and Menckestraße is first left with the bar a few metres on the left. M-F 17:00-01:00, Sat 12:00-01:00, Sun 12:00-24:00.
Sinfonie - Leipziger Gose-Ausschank, Gottschedstraße 15 Leipzig. Apparently has Berliner Weiss too but was closed for refurbishment when we visited in April 2005.
Vodkaria, Gottschedstraße 17 Leipzig. Has a list of over 200 vodkas and also sells draught Döllnitz Gose.
The two breweries (not brewpubs) in Leipzig are –
Leipziger Brauhaus zu Reudnitz (Brau & Brunnen Brauereien GmbH) Mühlstraße 13 D-04317 Leipzig +49 0341 / 26 71-0 Opened: 1888. Not bad for a national!
Leipziger Familienbrauerei Ernst Bauer, Täubchenweg 5-7 Postfach 607 D-04103 Leipzig +49 0341 / 6 88 46 76 opened: 1881. Brews Döllnitz Gose for the ex-owners of the last Gose brewery as well as other beers, their Schwarzbier is excellent.
Brauhaus am Waldschlösschen, Am Brauhaus 8b, Dresden. Huge Paulaner-owned brewpub next to the Waldschlösschen tramstop on line 11. Looks like it would be open all day although not confirmed.
Zum Bautzner Tor, Hoyerswerderstraße (junction of Bautznerstraße and Rothenburgerstrße; tram lines 11, 6 and 13 stop Bautznerstraße), Dresden. Brewery tap for the small and pretty good Neustädter microbrewery. All their bottled beers are unfiltered and have strange neck-labels giving the ABV – a rarity in Germany.
There is also another brewpub we didn’t have time to scoop in, the Watzke, at Kötzschenbroderstraße 1. Take tram 4 or 9 to Rehefelderstraße or Altpieschen. It's Northwest of the centre just before Mickten stop. Keep walking away from the centre, and you find it on the corner of Leipzigerstraße. Based in a historic ball room complex, it brews a pils, a dark lager and a monthly seasonal. The “scooping bar” we also missed out on, the Planwirtshaft, sounds quite decent too. To quote Paul Harrop, “This is at Louisenstr. 20, in the heart of the alternative Neustadt scene. Tram 7 or 8 stop at the end of Louisenstr. Don't go into the trendy bar on the street at Louisenstr. 20. Rather go into the courtyard behind to find Planwirtshaft. During the day the bar sells the fairly rare beers from the Bergschlösschen micro based about 20km away. However things get really interesting after 8pm when the cellar bar opens. This has a separate "Landbierkarte". This means that it sells all sorts of rare beers from the small countryside breweries in the region around Dresden. It's the closest you will get in Dresden to a scoopers bar. The Specht beers are particularly recommended”
|Gazza in Bayerischer Bahnhof scooping Gose.||A glass of Gose and Dunkel, Bayerischer Bahnhof||Bayerischer Bahnhof brewpub, Leipzig||Plant in Bayerischer Bahnhof brewpub, Leipzig||Zum Kaiser Napoleon brewpub, Leipzig|
|The Plant in Zum Kaiser Napoleon brewpub, Leipzig||Waldschlossen brewpub, Dresden||Zum Bautzner Tor bar, Dresden - Neustadter brewery tap.||Brewplant in Thomaskirche Leipzig||Hellfire truck, Leipzig|
v1.0 © Gazza 05/06/2005