I also travelled around seeking out new brewpubs. These places usually have great beer. And you can't get it anywhere but where it's brewed.
In Germany, many brewpubs that identify themselves as such follow a rigid formula: a pale lager (an Export, Helles, Spezial, Märzen, or Pils, depending on where they're located), a wheat beer (Weißbier or Weizenbier), and an unfiltered dark lager. They usually add a seasonal beer. It's uncanny; it seems every place there that has "Brewpub" in its name has virtually the same beer menu as every other such establishment.
Of course, the beers there are usually fresh. But they're almost always fresh no matter where you go in Germany.
The smaller places that brew on premises that don't
call themselves a Brewpub, however, are almost always something special.
In Düsseldorf, it's Schumacher and Füchschen ("little fox") and Uerige (meaning "cranky old b-----d") and Schlüssel ("key"). They have off-site accounts, and Schumacher, being outside the Altstadt ("old town"), has an Altstadt outlet. They all serve a fantastic top-fermented beer called Alt. I also homebrew, and have won several ribbons in regional competition for my Altbiers.
Just down (or is it up?) the Rhein a bit is Köln (the French name for the city is "Cologne"). There are several small brewers of Köln's top fermented Kölsch that have on-site pubs, the best of which (IMHO) is Pfaffgen (located rather inconveniently in a shopping district, rather than in Köln's Altstadt). Like Schumacher in Düsseldorf, Pfaffgen has an Außschank (outlet) in the Altstadt. (Unfortunately, a relative, apparently the brother, opened a competing house a block away, and doesn't serve Kölsch, but a beer brewed by contract near the airport.)
There are many, many, many such places in Franconia (and about a dozen in Bamberg alone), which thankfully preserves the small brewery. I do fear the Big Beer acquisitions in Franconia, believing Big Beer's interest in the smaller breweries does not include preserving them.
In Munich, the jewel is the Forschungsbraueri in Perlach. Just two types of beer, and one is a pale lager. But the other...that's a very different story. Sankt Jakobus Blonder Bock is Ambrosial Nectar! They almost went the way of the dodo this past year as the owner went looking for a buyer. Thankfully, they're once again up and running, and will remain so for many years to come.
Speaking of Big Beer and Munich, Spaten/Löwenbräu was acquired several years ago by Inbev (now AB-Inbev). The Spaten Helles had been a thing of beauty, aside from being the first Helles to be continuously available, but seems to be trending towards the watery mediocre Helles from Paulaner/Hacker-Pschorr. It seems to have lost so much of its character: its floral/spicy aroma and elegant bittering from noble-type hops, and what Greg Noonan refers to as a "malty allure," both in aroma and flavor. Their Oktoberfest had been a worthy successor to Anton Dreher's fabled Wiener (Vienna lager). After the acquisition, the EBC color rating (deepness of color) stayed about the same, but the Linner Hue Index seemed to drop a point or so, from a beautiful copper to a muddled light brown. By itself, not a cause for alarm, but when, as I suspect, a large portion of the flavorful Munich malt is replaced with (very slightly) cheaper Pils malt, supplanted with a tiny fraction of roast color malt to keep the EBC color rating about the same, the flavor and aroma suffer badly. As indeed they have suffered. (The first one of these I had after the f---ing bean counters f---ed with it had been a draft, and I swore that the lines had been switched and I was being served their Dunkles.) Thankfully, they seem to have dialed this madness back a bit, but the beer is still not nearly as good as it had been before the acquisition.
Fear Big Beer? You bet your dupah
I do. As I gather you, John, do as well.
<message edited by Biagartler on Fri, 10/28/11 11:27 PM>