After dumping our bags in our Altona Hotel, we needed a beer to wash away the travel dust. So out we went, round the corner and saw in the near distance a Holsten sign. Well when in Rome. We entered the little pub to find a fug of smoke. Like old times we thought, but not the good old days. It is simply amazing how smoking in pubs has now gone from our norm. It just felt wrong. Now I had looked this up before I went and Hamburg had banned smoking. All became clear when in rapid German which I scarcely followed, the charming young lady behind the bar signed us up. We were fully fledged members of the smoking club and thus exempt from the "raucherverbot" Jever Pils was the choice here and this bitter beer was a perfect start, though the smoke drove us away after one drink. We left them playing Schock (a dice game) and puffing away happily.
We then went to two recommendations of Ron Pattinson's by the main railway station. I'll send Ron a site update. These are round the back and it is a big station. Baumann's Bier Bar has a changed range from Ron's site. We drank Lübzer Pils, a decent if not exciting beer. This too had a lot of smoke as smoking was allowed in half of it. Almost next door is the Paulaner outlet in Hamburg where the full range (except pils) is on offer in a typical Bavarian style bar and a mercifully smoke free environment. Paulaner Hefe Weiss for me and dunkel for Graham hit the spot. Then to the Gansemarkt but we couldn't find the Prinz and Koenig, but did, unfortunately find the Kölsch und Altbierhaus which is a cramped, narrow bar - a dark, strange place which feels underground though it isn't. Sion Koelsch on keg here which was good. We didn't try the Schlosser Alt. Neither are now available on gravity. We did also try and get a drink in the Restaurant Franziskaner, but there was no room at the bar and tables were full of diners. In any event it is clearly more restaurant than pub.
One good tip is the Bier Bar in the gallery of the main rail station. Great for people watching, decent enough beer - think Holsten, Astra, Koenig and Duckstein - and a lot more atmosphere than the pubs! Then back to our hotel for the excellent choice of Kostritzer or Radeburger Pils.
I won't bore you with much more of this. Later I'll tell you how we got on in the brewpubs, but Hamburg isn't a great place to drink. Pubs are difficult to find and lack atmosphere and beer choice is distinctly pedestrian. It requires more charm and vibrancy. There are far better German cities to visit, unless of course your requirements are carnal.
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