Friday, November 23, 2007

Germany trip recap part I: Leipzig

So, I would have blogged more in anticipation of our trip to Germany, but there's a little paranoid part of me who was afraid somebody would figure out where I live, know I was out of the country for the week, and rob me blind. So I didn't post any specifics of our trip. However, now that I'm back in the U.S. of A., I can announce that we were in Germany from Nov. 9th to the 18th for our first major vacation since our honeymoon four and a half years ago. It was also our first vacation with Dorrie, our 15-month-old daughter. Our itinerary was two days in Leipzig, three in Bamberg, and three in Köln (a.k.a. Cologne in English) and nearby Düsseldorf. Since this is a beer blog, I will only recap our trip from a beer perspective. And I'll break up the posts by region. So, without further ado, here's our recap of Leipzig, home of the elusive Leipziger Gose.

We arrived in Leipzig--quite jetlagged--late Saturday morning. As tired as we were, we basically got to the hotel and slept until around 4pm. The fact that it was around 40°F and raining didn't exactly motivate us to get out and explore either. When we finally woke up, we decided to grab an early dinner at Ohne Bedenken, one of the two Gosenschenken ("Gose distributors") in Leipzig. For those who aren't familiar with Gose, it's a soured German wheat beer brewed with coriander and salt. I've had the Gose brewed by Bayerisher Bahnhof in the U.S., which inspired us to brew our own Gose with great results (though some beer judge down in Lubbock described it as "drinking sweat"). The Gose from Bayerisher Bahnhof was actually quite similar to a German Hefeweizen or Belgian Wit, but I had heard the Gose from Ohne Bedenken is more assertive in terms of sourness and spice, so I was curious to try it.

After a brisk mile-long walk, we arrived at Ohne Bedenken. All I can say is, if you go to Leipzig, you HAVE to go to Ohne Bedenken. The place is rather small (I would estimate six tables), all aged wood with rustic aluminum Gose ads on the walls. It's a good thing we got there early, as every table was reserved for later in the evening. Our waiter was super nice, teaching us about Gose (in English, thankfully) and explaining that for a Gose you don't say "Prost!" (traditionally "cheers" in German) but "Goseana!" (like "Hosanna!"). The beer was amazing. Quite tart, almost as strong as a Berliner Weisse. The salt was indeed assertive, but not too much. It really balanced well with the sourness of the lactic acid, giving it an earthy, mineral-like quality moreso than a brothy or sweaty taste. The beer also had a very yeasty aroma, and I was surprised to find the coriander quite subdued. Overall, an incredible beer that I hope I have a chance to try again soon. Like Berliner Weisse, many people mix their Gose with various syrups to make cocktails. Leah decided to try a banana Gose and I must admit it was very good as well. The sourness of the lactic acid and mineral bite of the salt really meshed with the banana, and I generally don't like sweet drinks or banana-flavored food or drink. Pretty amazing overall.

As far as the food was concerned, it stood out nearly as much as the Gose. We both started out with a wonderful cream and potato soup. I had a small ham hock with roast potatoes and sauerkraut for my main entree, and Leah had Gose-stewed roast with red cabbage and what I guess I would describe as potato balls (sort of like dumplings but made from grated potato). Really good stuff. An awesome way to start our trip. That evening at the hotel I tried a bottle of local Schwarzbier, Ur-Krostitzer (not to be confused with Köstritzer, which is available in the U.S.). Good but nothing worth writing home about, so I won't.

After leaving Ohne Bedenken, we pretty much crashed at the hotel. The next morning we enjoyed our continental breakfast and headed out to see the town. It was freezing cold and raining, and being a Sunday pretty much everything was closed. Great. When I studied in Germany in 1999, I spent a day in Leipzig, and all I remember is visiting the Thomaskirche (where Bach played organ) and noticing everything was under construction. That pretty much sums up my take-aways from this trip as well. We walked around the city center, stopping by a few things here and there but the only thing that stood out was the Thomaskirche. Being cold, wet and hungry, we decided to head over to the other Gosenschenke, Bayerischer Bahnhof.

Bayerischer Bahnhof is built in an old train station (much like our local favorite, Flossmoor Station), and it was much larger than Ohne Bedenken. It had several large rooms and seemed to be winding down from a Sunday brunch special. I started off with a Gose, which tasted pretty much like I remember from when I had it at the Map Room in Chicago. The lactic acid and salt were definitely toned down compared to Ohne Bedenken. If you're not sure you'll like Gose, this is definitely the one to start with. I think you could make a beer spectrum with Berliner Weisse on one end and Hefeweizen on the other, and this would be near the Hefe end of the spectrum, while Ohne Bedenken is on the Berliner end. Still very good, just more subdued. I then had their Prellbock (which I believe is seasonal) and that was fabulous. A nice caramel color with flavor to match. Just enough bitterness in the finish to keep it from being cloying. A pleasant surprise.

The food at Bayerischer Bahnhof was good, though it didn't stand out like Ohne Bedenken. The service was also adequate but not exceptional (perhaps because the waitress didn't speak English). I don't mean to sound like Bayerischer Bahnhof was mediocre... it was still a great time. I think we just went in the wrong order. If you go to Bayerischer Bahnhof first you'll love it, and then you can proceed to Ohne Bedenken and step things up a notch.

Speaking of proceeding to Ohne Bedenken, we decided to stop there again on the way back to the hotel (with a little more unimpressive sightseeing on the way). Our waiter from the day before (I forget his name) was just leaving, but our new waitress, Julianna, was just as nice. She even humored me by letting me talk in my horrible German. After another Gose, I tried their Schwarzbier (which is actually brewed by a different local brewery Dr. Something-or-other). It had a slight caramel flavor but was good overall. There was also another couple there with a 13-month-old baby boy, and Dorrie ended up kissing him. Granted I don't think she knew it was any different than kissing our dogs, but I didn't think I'd have to watch out for the boys this early. Oh well. All the more reason to drink another beer.

Speaking of which, I tried one more bottled beer with our take-out pizza (everything else was closed on a Sunday evening) before going to bed. It was Reudnitzer Ur-Bock, and it was quite good. It was a Helles (light) Bock, and it was surprisingly bitter and somewhat dry for a Bockbier. I would almost say that I would categorize this as an "Imperial Pils" as it was relatively light with a noble hop bite, but almost 7% ABV. A great find for about $1.50 at the grocery store. And that would be the last beer in Leipzig, as we left the next morning for Bamberg. Lots more beer awaiting us!

Jump to Part II: Bamberg.


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4:05 AM, June 14, 2018  

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