Frischgezapftes Pils, © Tourismus NRW e.V.

Spe­ci­al­ity beers of NRW

Pilsen­er, Alt­bi­er, Kölsch and oth­er re­gion­al spe­ci­al­ity beers

The beers of NRW are as di­verse as the re­gion it­self. Tra­di­tion­al re­cipes and in­ter­est­ing new cre­ations guar­an­tee the per­fect glass for every taste. Wheth­er they are fruity, lively, dry, sweet or full-fla­voured – every beer brewed in North Rhine-West­phalia is a true ori­gin­al!

North Rhine-West­phalia is not just Ger­many?s most pop­u­lous state, but also the state with the most vari­et­ies of beer. Every re­gion of NRW has brew­er­ies that let vis­it­ors taste their lov­ingly-made brews while also giv­ing them a com­pre­hens­ive in­sight in­to the world of beer. The clas­sic vari­et­ies are Kölsch, Düs­sel­dorf Alt­bi­er and good old Pilsen­er, but those who wish to ex­plore a little fur­ther will find plenty of easy-to-drink spe­ci­al­ity beers. 

The clas­sics


For the people of Co­logne, Kölsch is more than just a beer. This pale, top-fer­men­ted brew is firmly em­bed­ded in the city?s cul­ture and ranks along­side Co­logne Cathed­ral as a sym­bol of the city and its sur­round­ing re­gion. In­deed, the his­tory of Kölsch is al­most as old as that of the cathed­ral, with re­cords of Kölsch brew­er­ies dat­ing as far back as the 13th cen­tury. Today, 25 dif­fer­ent Kölsch brands are be­ing pro­duced. Some are made in large-scale brew­er­ies whilst oth­ers are pro­duced in tra­di­tion­al mi­cro­brew­er­ies and mostly served in the rus­tic at­mo­sphere of an ad­join­ing inn.

The at­mo­sphere in a true Kölsch brew­ery pub is unique. With a rich mix of people and a genu­ine spir­it of hos­pit­al­ity, the glasses are con­stantly re­plen­ished by the ?Köbes?, as the old-style waiters of Co­logne are called. The nu­mer­ous brew­er­ies are pop­u­lar with tour­ists and loc­als alike. Kölsch lov­ers are also well catered for in the area sur­round­ing Co­logne, with sev­er­al brew­ery pubs and beer gar­dens serving the top-fer­men­ted beer in the Ber­gisches Land re­gion. In Bonn, mean­while, vis­it­ors will need a little more loc­al know­ledge if they want to or­der a Kölsch: here the pale beer goes by the name of Bönnsch.


Alt­bi­er is mostly sa­voured by loc­als and vis­it­ors in and around Düs­sel­dorf. This very drink­able dark beer is in­ex­tric­ably linked to the state cap­it­al on the Rhine. Even though its name can be trans­lated as ?old beer?, this brew does not ac­tu­ally have a par­tic­u­larly long his­tory or brew­ing pro­cess. ?Altus? is Lat­in for ?high? and refers to the high-rising yeast used to make this top-fer­ment­ing beer.

Out­side of Düs­sel­dorf, the dark brew is also pop­u­lar in the sur­round­ing Mettmann dis­trict and in the Lower Rhine. Vis­it­ors look­ing to sa­vour a glass of Alt­bi­er in a tra­di­tion­ally rus­tic at­mo­sphere should check out the mi­cro­brew­er­ies in the his­tor­ic centre of Düs­sel­dorf. The names to look out for in­clude Füch­schen, Schu­mach­er, Schlüs­sel or Uerige. The malty fla­vour of this spe­ci­al­ity beer really comes in­to its own when it is en­joyed in an au­then­t­ic set­ting.


North Rhine-West­phalia is known through­out the world for the ex­cel­lent qual­ity and in­com­par­able fla­vour of its Pilsen­er beers. Krom­bach­er, Warstein­er, DAB, König Pilsen­er, Velt­ins, Fiege, Rolinck and many more all ori­gin­ated in Ger­many?s most pop­u­lous state. Vis­it­ors to NRW will be able to or­der an au­then­t­ic Pils brewed to Ger­man beer pur­ity reg­u­la­tions just about every­where. While in Co­logne and Düs­sel­dorf, it might ad­mit­tedly be bet­ter to stick with the tra­di­tion­al loc­al choices of Kölsch and Alt­bi­er, but it is fine to or­der a glass of Pilsen­er every­where else.

The bot­tom-fer­men­ted beer is char­ac­ter­ised by its pale to golden hue and ranks as one of the most pop­u­lar beers in North Rhine-West­phalia. Apart from the well-known brands of the in­dus­tri­al brew­er­ies, a large num­ber of mi­cro­brew­er­ies are also pro­du­cing their own re­gion­al spe­ci­al­it­ies. Vis­it­ors to NRW can sample these tasty beers, which are brewed with pas­sion fol­low­ing tra­di­tion­al re­cipes, at the ad­join­ing mi­cro­brew­ery inns.

Oth­er re­gion­al spe­ci­al­it­ies


In Bonn and the Rhine-Sieg dis­trict, the prox­im­ity to Co­logne means that it is very easy to or­der a re­fresh­ing Kölsch in any of the brew­ery pubs, res­taur­ants and bars. Just bear in mind that the pale, top-fer­men­ted beer goes by the name of Bönnsch in these parts. Tra­di­tion­al Pilsen­er vari­et­ies and oth­er spe­ci­al­ity beers are also pro­duced in this re­gion.

Eifel­er Land­bi­er

Un­like the Rhinelanders, the beer-lov­ers of the Eifel prefer a bot­tom-fer­men­ted brew. The pale ?Eifel­er Land­bi­er? is brewed ac­cord­ing to age-old tra­di­tion. It gets its typ­ic­al char­ac­ter from the malt­ing bar­ley of the North­ern Eifel and the soft, pure wa­ter from the Eifel Na­tion­al Park. The well-known Velt­ins and Warstein­er vari­et­ies from Sauer­land as well as Krom­bach­er from Sieger­land-Wit­tgen­stein are also brewed us­ing beau­ti­fully pure spring wa­ter from their re­spect­ive re­gions. 

Small brew­er­ies, great-tast­ing beers

Many cit­ies and re­gions have their own ex­cel­lent-qual­ity beers and brew­er­ies even though their names may not be par­tic­u­larly well known out­side their re­gion. Mün­ster­land, for in­stance, has its ma­jor brew­er­ies like Pott?s but also small and in­form­al brew­ery inns like Stephanus. Since this is ex­cel­lent cyc­ling coun­try, vis­it­ors should con­sider cov­er­ing the dis­tance from one brew­ery to the next by bike.

In the Lower Rhine, vis­it­ors are truly spoilt for choice when it comes to beer. Alt­bi­er and weiss beer have been brewed here for cen­tur­ies, but many vari­et­ies of Pilsen­er as well as loc­al spe­ci­al­it­ies like ?Land­bi­er? (coun­try beer) have also be­come pop­u­lar. Here, too, stop­ping off at beer gar­dens as part of a cyc­ling tour is highly re­com­men­ded.

The Teuto­burg Forest is con­sidered more of a hik­ing re­gion. Of course, here too there are great op­por­tun­it­ies to com­bine a hik­ing tour with an ex­cur­sion to dis­cov­er brew­er­ies large and small.  

Beer-lov­ers will also feel right at home in the Ruhr Area. While the lar­ger brew­er­ies used to dom­in­ate, many smal­ler, more re­gion­ally-fo­cused pro­du­cers have be­gun to spring up around the re­gion. Some of them have achieved cult status, like Fiege in Bo­chum or Mölmsch in Mül­heim (the lat­ter had dis­ap­peared from the mar­ket for many years be­fore its re­dis­cov­ery by some young en­tre­pren­eurs).

In Ber­gisches Land, beer-lov­ers be­ne­fit from the prox­im­ity to Co­logne, the Ruhr Area and Sauer­land. Both Pils­ner and Kölsch can be ordered in the re­gion?s brew­ery inns, beer gar­dens and bars. These two beer vari­et­ies are still brewed the tra­di­tion­al way in the low moun­tain re­gion between the Rhine, Ruhr and Sieg rivers.

Ex­plor­ing the world of beer

There are many places in NRW where vis­it­ors can not only taste their beer in a con­vivi­al set­ting, but also hear fas­cin­at­ing stor­ies about the tasty bever­age or even try their hand at the brew­er?s art them­selves. In Düs­sel­dorf, for ex­ample, there are guided Alt­bi­er-themed tours of the old-town brew­er­ies with plenty of op­por­tun­it­ies to try dif­fer­ent ver­sions of this loc­al brew. Sev­er­al brew­er­ies, in­clud­ing the ma­jor pro­du­cers in Sauer­land and Sieger­land, also of­fer dis­cov­ery tours where vis­it­ors can fol­low the en­tire brew­ing pro­cess right up to the bot­tling stage.

In the former Ger­man beer cap­it­al of Dortmund, the Brauereimu­seum tells the in­ter­est­ing story of the re­gion?s brew­ing tra­di­tion. The Dortmund Uni­on Brauerei played an im­port­ant role in this story. Nowadays, all that re­mains of the brew­ery is the gi­gant­ic U crown­ing the former fer­ment­a­tion and stor­age build­ing. Now known as Dortmund?s U-Tower, it has been trans­formed in­to a centre for art and cre­ativ­ity with ex­hib­i­tions, a cinema and oth­er amen­it­ies.
For those who fancy the job of brew­er them­selves, places like the Wup­per­taler Brauhaus of­fer rel­ev­ant sem­inars and courses.

Culin­ary ex­per­i­ences in NRW

Goldene Töpfe, © Dominik Ketz, Tourismus NRW e.V.

Culin­ary am­bas­sad­ors