Frankfurt isn't exactly known as a beer paradise. It has a few brew-pubs of no distinction and actually, in the centre at least, not that many pubs at all, though there are one or two gems. Having said that, it isn't all about beer in Germany and with E's brother in tow, we enjoyed a few days there a couple of weeks ago.
The plan was basically to visit at least two Christmas markets, a couple of churches and for me at least, to drink a bit of cider, known locally as apfelwein and a regional speciality which I've written about before. There is almost always beer at German Christmas markets, but it is usually cheap and generic and as Frankfurt is home to Binding brewery, that was the beer of availability, though we did come across the odd Henninger tap, brewed also these days, by, well, Binding. You can tell how much an area cares about its beer in various ways and one sure give-away is that where the name of the brewery isn't displayed on the tap, the "care about beer quotient" is low. That's Frankfurt. Or maybe the whole state of Hessen. If you asked what beer they had, they answered "Ordinary beer and weissbier."
Now Binding Pils isn't bad. Technically perfect and all that, but boringly forgettable. We did stumble across a couple of decent boozers though. In one, just off the main market a fairly tipsy Santa was supping beer and gluewein and conversing loudly with a group of boisterous, black and yellow bedecked Borussia Dortmund fans, there for the game against Eintracht. He was still there, around three hours later when we came back to the market outside, but very much the worse for wear and still in his red and white suit. Whatever his duties were, they had clearly fallen by the wayside. It was at this point I got a beer worth drinking. At a nearby market stall, I was offered a dark beer which was absolutely delicious. In third of a litre measures, this was lushly malty, aromatic and fruity with a good alcoholic kick which gave a warming glow as the evening chilled. A bit of an enquiry later I found out that I was drinking Carolus, Binding's Doppelbock. It was so good I had three which certainly sent me on my way rejoicing! If you are in the neck of the woods at Christmastime, seek it out.
But what of the apfelwein I hear you ask? The mecca is Apfelhaus Wagner in Sachsenhausen. I wrote about it here in 2010 and it hasn't changed a bit. We enjoyed - or rather I did - a jug of the house cider which was pretty good, though I recommend Apfelwein Dax for a sheer no nonsense cider house which also sells beer in the shape of BrauereiHoelzlein from Franconia. The food is tremendous there too, but the boisterous, friendly atmosphere is pretty much unrivalled in the area. The cider is bloody good too. Go there.
One word of warning about the state of Hessen. It isn't very pubby at all. Wiesbaden with its lovely Dom (cathedral) is rescued by its Andechs owned Ratskeller but nothing else if the market was not in operation. We called into Mainz too to visit the thousand year old and utterly entrancing Dom. A couple decent pubs there, but mainstream beer was the order of the day. Still, at least we found pubs.
Mind you, Mainz isn't in Hessen, but is the capital of the Rhineland Palatinate. Maybe that tells you something.
I chalked up three cathedrals in this visit. I recommend them all, but Frankfurt's is scarcely original due to the attentions of the RAF in 1944. the same can be said though of the entire city centre. Go to Sachsenhausen. Wiesbaden was spared the bombing and is recommended for its architecture. Mainz seemed ordinary enough but gets marks for its decent pubs and the outstanding red sandstone Dom.
One other thing. The strength of cider is not stated in the pubs. It seemed strong enough to me, but is mostly around 4.5% - 6% alcohol.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
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