My thoughts on the German pub scene are still in the formulative stages, so you'll have to wait for that one. Instead I'll share a few observations of the German Rauchsverbot or smoking ban, as applied in North Rhine-Westphalia. Unlike the Bavarian version, this state allows smoking in separate enclosed rooms and one roomed pubs are exempt, thus making this drinker avoid a number of promising boozers. The smoke also chased us out of the Pilsner Urquell Ausschank after one hastily consumed half litre of U Fleku dark.
Of course my drinking in Dusseldorf was largely confined to the classic brew pubs and it was here the hurt was deepest. It started off promisingly though in F Schumacher's Altstadt pub. Here in the schwemme or public bar, (my favourite spot so I can watch the barrels being tapped and the beers poured,) there was no smoking - in fact it was no smoking throughout. I always think the delicately balanced, hop infused alt here is the finest to be had and many glasses were consumed over the two days we were there. This lulled us into a false sense of security, as across the road, Zum Schlussel's schwemme was a smoking zone. Damn. Fortunately this is my least favourite alt, though by no means bad, so we had a couple in a separate no smoking area and left. Later that day we were due to meet some American friends in Zum Uerige, in my opinion, one of the best pubs in the world. Here, my favourite room was given over entirely to smokers. Curses. I love that room. We fled to the comfort of the side room where at least, we could watch the beer being poured, as uniquely among the four home brew pubs, the schwemme is not the setting for beer dispense. I like Uerige's Alt, more distinctly bitter than the others and very, very drinkable.
The next day in a sleetstorm, we headed for Im Fuchsen - The Fox. Here the schwemme was firmly no smoking with the alcove at the right , previously part of the main schwemme, now with doors on it and a new sign saying "Raucherschwemme". We settled in at one of the typical high tables here, having quite a few glasses of another well balanced alt.
It seems that North Rhine-Westphalia has reached a reasonable compromise as far as big pubs go. The smokers are confined to small enclosed areas. Regrettably the apparent exemption for one roomed pubs makes quite a few places unpleasant to visit. There was no sign of diminished business in any of these pubs, in fact all were going like a fair, but the quality of the beer and the general "offering" is outstanding, so why should it?
The figures in the photo are in the schwemme in Zum Uerige.
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