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The Dortmund Days

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Andrew

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My apologies if this is bandwidth wasting, but it is sort of brewing related and somebody out there might be interestedits a bit of a ramble.
The couple who own the property next to us here in Middleton are really nice people. He is a former V8 Supercar driver who met his wife when he was racing open-wheelers in Europe. She comes from a family who ran a brewery in a town somewhere half way between Dortmund and Dusseldorf (spelling?) for generations. Her parents are over here on holidays, and her father, spent some time with me a few evenings ago talking beer and sampling my Kolsche. As he doesnt speak English well, his wife had to do lots of interpretation. Although we have met a few times before, this is the fist time he had seen my pilot rig and tried my beer.

For me it was an interesting hearing his experiences.

40 years ago there were 8 good-sized breweries in his region, now there is only one, which is owned by a megaswill group.

He generally blames the demise on modern transport. Back then most workers didnt have a car and rode to work on the tram system. Some of their biggest customers were the steel works and the car manufacturers. They used to deliver kegs to the factories for the hot thirsty workers to drink in their breaks and the blast furnace workers to drink on the job. Due to Occ-health and safety these days, Porsche and Mercedes dont allow booze on the line, (but apparently BMW and Audi still do maybe?).
Anyhow the workers, all paid with cash in yellow pay-packets (remember those) would put the house keeping money to one side and spend the rest on beer, followed by the tram ride home. The brewery also owned a chain of pubs. Workers would pack 20 metre long bars three-deep on the way home from work. Nowdays everyone drives to work, and with electronic wages, DUI etc, beer sales are down. It used to be around 150 litres per person/year in Germany, now its around 100. Wine sales are up.

It got so bad that his brewery was down to selling only 120,000 litres a month.
Interbrew etc were buying out all the small local breweries but he didnt want to sell to them so he sold to another slightly larger brewery close by who said they would keep it running. And guess what, whey promptly sold it on to a land developer and sold themselves to Interbrew or Heinekein or some such monster. The land-developer was not in the least bit interested in the brewery or its equipment. The brewery had enormous underground lagering cellars, and the developer simply flattened the lot. Everything, tuns, copper kettles, fermenters, even a huge chiller/refrigeration system that was less than 10 yearsold were simply bulldozed with the buildings and crushed into the cellars as fill, instead of being sold on or recycled. The site is now completely covered in houses, the owners with no idea what lies mangled in the cellar ruins below their foundations. Its enough to break your heart.

He also talked a bit about Kolsche. As this tag can only be used by breweries in and around Cologne and Dortmund at a stretch, brewers in the Dussledorf region would thumb their noses at them by producing an identical beer which they called Molsche.
(Ill have his recipe in September when they are back here on Holidays.oh to be retired and rich!). Kolsche/Molsche was very popular with the factory workers. And there should be no need to add any wheat, though there was a dark Molsche-Bock they produced that had up to 20% wheat in it. Sounds odd.

I have a Roger Protz encyclopaedia of beer book. It was published in 1995 but in the Germany chapter he was able to point out all the breweries gobbled up by the megaswillers, and by-geez there arent many left. Like elsewhere though, small breweries are once again popping up across the country, using cheap equipment constructed mostly in eastern European countries. There seems to be huge breweries and micros, and nothing in between.

He looked over my plans and was very positive. He claimed that the first time he visited the South Coast over 12 years ago he thought it was a great spot for a brewery for tourist and some local trade. So that was a nice boost for me. And he kept helping himself to my Kolsche.even better!

Wayermann seemed to be the malt of choice in his region, and he couldnt emphasise enough the importance of yeast selection and obtaining huge amounts of the very freshest yeast you can get your hands on. I suppose lager does use more doesnt it?

Thats about it for now, but Im sure there will be lots to tell the next time he visits Ill organise some decent questions in advance!

Cheers
 

Kai

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Geez... it's enough to make ya cry.
 

Andrew

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Hi Kai,
Yup, he didn't actually say it, but it was obvious that even though lots of years had passed, it broke his heart too.
He took photos of it happening, but described it like he wasn't really there, a sort of distant thing not really assessed by the brain until much later. After all, it was 5 generations of brewing history being bulldozed.
He still goes to some big brewing equipment expo in Germany every year. Once its in your blood...
 

jgriffin

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What a cool story, did he offer any tips to improve the Kolche?
 

Andrew

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Hi John,
Yes, he generally didn't think much of the yeast I use for it, the Wyeast Kolsche strain 2565.
What source to replace it with he'll give me more info on when he visits again in September.
Cheers
 

Dunkel_Boy

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Wow, that was beautiful. It almost sums up the passion and precision they put into their beers, but also the incredible industrialisation that is Germany is fueled by. Thanks for sharing.
 

facter

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That was a great story - thanks for sharing it :)
 

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