A Beer Drinker's Guide to Nuremberg
If you pick the right time of the year, you can fly to some really cheap places from Manchester. Plenty of these are good beer destinations: Prague, Berlin, Copenhagen – and Nuremberg. Much more than a setting for some of the key events of WWII, Nürnberg is a beautiful little medieval city in Franconia (today a part of the state of Bavaria) famous for gingerbread, its impressive Christmas markets and a venerable brewing heritage. Oh, not to forget this city is home to the world's oldest globe -The Erdapfel.
We quickly dumped our bags at the city’s only hostel and got stuck in by picking a bar at random. We ended up wandering into the medieval candlelit time warp that is Finyas Taverne. Here, we were served earthenware jugs overflowing with sudsy black beer by a giant of a man wearing a jerkin, all while sitting on a rough wooden table next to an assemblage of hanging weapons. Sitting and drinking to the sound of folk laments we did think – is all of Nuremberg like this?
The answer, obviously, was no. Next, we visited the somewhat more modern brewbar Altstadhof Hausbraueri. The name literally translates as ‘old town yard house brewery’. We tried the rotbier (red beer) schwarzbier (black beer) and their distinctive dark wheat beer. All were very good indeed. The rotbier was particularly special: a deeper red than British rubys, it’s a spritzy, refreshing brew with a bubblegum bite.
The bar itself is fairly modern with a touch of nostalgia, attracting a mixed crowd of revellers and regulars. The bartender was more than happy to correct our broken German and keep our glasses full and for that we are eternally grateful. If you only have time for one bar, make it this one.
We also checked out Barfüßer, a subterranean brewpub in the cavernous basement of a huge building on the southern fringes of the old town. Plenty of beer, but we didn't enjoy it as much as some of the other brewpubs or even the many excellent bars we stumbled in and out of throughout the weekend. An interesting touch was the old pub signs hanging from the vaulted ceiling. It almost made us shed a tear for blighty. Or maybe that was the schnapps taking effect.
One of our trip's must-see destinations was the Nürnberger Weizenglasmuseum. That's the 'Wheat Beer Glass Museum' to you and me. It was listed as an attraction on the official tourist map, so we assumed it was a pretty big deal. Yet whenever we chatted to the locals and they asked which of the sights we had seen in their city, our answer "the Wheat Beer Glass Museum" was met with blank stares and bemusement.
The museum isn't in a prime intramural location (say, next to the Erdapfel). It's out in the sticks a little, and we managed to get lost twice along the way. For some reason, we were expecting a big neo-classical building with fountains and stuff, but Google Maps instead took us to a quiet suburban street with nothing but detached houses.
It turns out the museum is actually in the basement of a local man's house. When we finally found the place, householder and museum director Walter Geissler was kind enough take some time out of his Sunday to guide us through his absolutely massive collection of glasses and other Breweriana.
As well as being a thoroughly nice chap, Walter is a serious collector, curator and connoisseur. He has over 5,000 wheat beer glasses crammed into his beery batcave. No exaggeration.
Most glasses are from Germany but there's even a small shelf of wheat beer glasses from the UK and further afield. And plenty of steins, beer boots, antique bottles, bar signs, lights and all kinds of other beer paraphernalia. Walter also has a 100l microbrewery set up down there.
Probably the nerdiest beer thing we've ever done, but good fun and genuinely impressive. If you're in town it's worth a detour.
Franconia has an incredibly rich and varied brewing heritage. With that in mind we couldn’t leave without signing up for a brewery tour. As we’d spent the previous night working our way through The Altdstadthof’s delicious loca l brews, we figured it made sense to find out how the stuff was made.
It is fair to say we are no stranger to the brewery tour. Normally, you wander through a room full of complicated brewing equipment while a zealous brewmeister takes you through a fantastic fermentation phantasmagoria. Maybe you get to chew on a few ingredients, and you almost always up with the finished product in your hand. In fact, if you didn’t I doubt many people would sign up for the experience.
This tour defied expectations. Although we met at the Altstadthof, our rag tag group of locals and tourists were taken on a wander through the atmospheric cobbled streets of Nuremberg old town, before descending deep into the honeycomb of tunnels burrowed beneath swathes of the city.
As we delved deep under the city, our friendly tour guide explained how the tunnels had originally been built to keep beer cellar-cool back when Nuremberg was a powerful city state with a particularly parched and partial population. With the onset of the Second World War, the tunnels were extended and used to shelter denizens of the city from allied bombing.
Although spooky at times (we felt it would have been very easy to wander off a side tunnel and never find your way back up), the tour was an informative and enjoyable way to wile away the early evening. A particular highlight was watching a video of old timey Nurembergers out cutting ice from a frozen lake, loading it onto a cart, and bringing it back to the city to keep all the delicious beer cold in the summer – which does seem like a bit of a faff. It will therefore come as no surprise that artificial refrigeration was perfected in Germany, for the purpose of keeping beer cool.
We eventually climbed our way back up to the surface – and surprise surprise – found ourselves slap bang in the Altstadhof. Here we were treated to the more familiar brewery experience, and finally got to sample some of that delicious rotbier fresh from the beery teat.
In conclusion: Nuremberg, great beer, very nice place, bloody old globe. Would recommend.