If Germany is known as a beer-drinker’s heaven, then North Rhine-Westphalia must be the Garden of Eden. No other part of the country has such a diverse and extensive culture of beer and brewing as NRW. Every corner of the state offers its own special styles, tastes and traditions for visitors to discover – from tiny microbreweries to international best-sellers.
A taste of diversity
Beer is a central part of North Rhine-Westphalia’s culture and tradition. Indeed, the importance attached to its beers and breweries is reflected in the heartfelt local patriotism shown for each region’s brew. There are over 5,000 different beers, making the state the champion of beers and brewing in Germany. The three most famous types are Kölsch, Alt and Pilsener.
The legacy of the Kölsch brewhouses
Kölsch is the local style of beer in Cologne - and the city is very proud of it. This light, top-fermented beer, only brewed in Cologne and its surroundings, is usually enjoyed in typical, narrow 200ml (around 7 fl oz) glasses, poured fresh from the barrel.
A wooden counter, cozy interiors, traditional music and a newly tapped keg… NRW’s brewhouses are the best place to try out all the different beers on offer. And there’s no reason for a glass to ever run dry. In most traditional bars, the waiters constantly walk among their guests, carrying a tray of fresh beers, ready to immediately – and sometimes automatically – serve a new one, wherever a glass is empty. A beermat placed on top of the glass signals “no more, thanks!”. This piece of cardboard will also serve as the bill, with the waiter keeping a tally of how many glasses each guest has ordered.
“The special Kölsch Tour” provides visitors with further insights into brewhouse etiquette and connects some of the city’s best brewhouses with a walk through the old town district. The tour also includes plenty of Kölsch, of course.
Microbreweries and lots of Alt
Alt beer could almost be described as Kölsch’s friendly rival. While both beers are brewed in similar ways, Alt comes from the Lower Rhine and is particularly well-loved in Düsseldorf. It can even be found as an ice-cream flavour!
The city’s old quarter is home to five small breweries, all of whom brew and serve Alt; a top-fermented, amber-coloured beer. Alongside the freshly poured Alt, visitors can also try out traditional, local cuisine. On the “Altbeer-Safari”, tourists enjoy a beer at each brewery, getting to know the different tastes and the process of making Alt. A tour of one of the breweries is also part of the “Altbeer-Safari”.
Those are small, craft-style breweries which are common all over NRW. All kinds of beers are brewed and served fresh to guests on the brewery’s own property. Craft beers, in particular, have become more popular over the past decade.
From fantastic surroundings
The most common beer in NRW, however, is Pilsener. In fact, some brands of Pilsener from the state have become some of Germany’s and Europe’s best-selling beers, including well-known names such as Krombacher, Warsteiner or Veltins.
But what gives the beers of NRW their tantalizing aromas and flavours? It all starts with awesome natural ingredients, grown in the province’s pristine natural areas. Tourists can explore the scenic region of the Sauerland to see for themselves. Wide lakes, peaceful forests and meadows filled with wildflowers surround the breweries of this area, providing endless opportunities for hiking and exploration. And what could be better after a long walk than a cool, well-earned beer?
For visitors who prefer more comfortable modes of transport than their own two feet, the “Warsteiner World” could be ideal. Here, a state-of-the-art visitor train offers beer-fans a multi-media immersion into the world of brewing; an experience that is unique in Europe.
Detmold, in the heart of the Teutoburg Forest, should also be on the bucket list of every beer-lover. At the family-owned brewery, Strate Detmold, Renate Strate and her two daughters not only brew fantastic ales, lagers and wheat beers, but also run one of Germany’s most picturesque breweries. But isn’t a female-run brewery a little unusual? Absolutely not! In fact, until not so long ago, the craft of brewing beer was generally carried out by women. In North Rhine-Westphalia, tradition and innovation are never far apart.