I’ve been through a bunch of brewery tour, more than most people have had hot lunches, as my wife loves to say. Yet even by such standards, today’s experience stands as one of the best.
It was not that the Kulturbrauerei Heidelberg is unique or emblematic of a specific style, as is Cantillon, for example, or that the beers were unique in some respect or other. But the combination of an enthusiastic young brewer named Bernd Paschke, a most atmospheric beer hall, the region’s soft and wonderfully flavourful water and the engaging history of the city of Heidelberg made for a remarkably memorable afternoon.
As for the beers, well, they are well worth a detour, especially when coupled with the high ceilings and semi-Teutonic ambiance of the beer hall – think a German hunting club crossed with the nicest urban beer hall you’ve ever experienced. The Weisse is a textbook case of how to have the front end speak of fruit and the finish be all about the spice, with nary a jarring note or overt shift between the two, while the unconventionally bottom-fermented and seasonal Porter is a mix of slightly sharp roasty and mocha notes leading to a softly spicy finish. (Paschke, as well as a number of my fellow beer travellers, felt this was a seasonal worth the late fall overnight stay in Heidelberg. I couldn’t disagree with them.)
Before I get to the beer that captured my palate, however, I must type a few words about the Kulturbraurei Heidelberg itself. Suffice to say, if you are ever in the area and have the opportunity to visit, plan for not a quick come-and-go sampling or a fast lunch, but an afternoon or evening. Paschke’s tour is as engaging as he is honestly enthusiastic, and the over an hour we spent in the brewery was more than worth the 7.50 euros charged. Then you get to the beer hall itself, as enticing and hospitable as you might ever hope to find in Germany. Taken together, it’s a very attractive mix.
Then there is the unfiltered helles, a beer they call Kräusen. Cloudy gold with the aroma of a fresh grain field touched with a light alfalfa-like hop scent, it offers a lovely balance of delicately sweet malt and ever-so-faintly metallic hop, ending in a quenching and just off-dry finish. In short, it’s the perfect session beer to sip and savour in a warm and welcoming beer hall while the rain pours down outside, which is exactly what I did, although not for nearly long enough.