This weekend some friends and I decided to go out for a drink in one of Düsseldorf’s famous breweries. It comes as no surprise that people living in the Rhine area have many customs surrounding their beers. In Düsseldorf we drink Altbier—as have many generations before us. And along with the beer’s name are many other traditions.
Altbier has been around since the end of the Thirty Years War (in the mid 17th Century). Back then it was flavored not only with hops, but with various herbs and spices as well (for example rosemary!). And while the taste has changed a lot since then, the brewing method (which does not require any cooling) remains the same. Even today’s process of tapping the beer directly on the bar without any electronic help is based on historical methods.
The beer is then served by the smiling Koebes (waiters in the breweries- often a bit heavyset), who make their way through the breweries with trays full of beer, replacing all the empty pints (0.2 liters) along the way. Watch out: If you do not tell them to stop, they will go on with this procedure all night long! The beers are kept track of via marks on coasters that the Koebes tally when you are ready to close out.
As I sat enjoying a pint I couldn’t get over the idea that my great-great grandparents sat in similar breweries drinking the same beverage. This is the beautiful thing about traditions- they survive generations. Therefore, let us lift our glasses to the Altbier: Prost!