Craft Beer Day Norderstedt, Germany 22.3.14

Hamburg isn't exactly beer drinker's paradise, so I was excited to attend a Craft Beer Day in Norderstedt which is a small city just north of Hamburg that is part of the Hamburg Metropolitan Region. This was the second time the event was hosted at Kulturwerk am See. Coming from the centerish of Hamburg the trip up took over an hour on public transit and it was interesting to ride the U1 all the way to its end. A short bus ride from there and it was time to drink some beer.

Entrance was free and a 5 euro pfand was paid to use a glass for tasting. Upon entering I was greeted by a long fairly narrow room with beer vendors down the the one side and picnic tables and the one food vendor on the other. Further down there was a square room which contained the rest of the beer vendors and more picnic tables and another room with live music. I was initially surprised with this setup due to the general lack of flow and space for the drinkers to move. I had imagined there would a large open room or a few medium sized ones. There were about 3 high top tables set up at the far end of the long narrow hallway, and I think the event would be improved with more areas like this to take notes. The picnic tables took up way too much room and an event like this would be better served by flow and less by people parking in one spot for hours at a time. The narrow walkways create a difficult approach while trying to get beer from the vendors and it makes queueing next to impossible.

The brewers at the event were Black Isle, Propeller, Kreativebrauerei Kehrwieder, Schneider Weisse, Aarhus, Blockbräu, Klüver's, Dachs, Ricklinger, Bannas, Barther, Urstrom, elbPaul, Störtebeker, and Ratsherrn. This is basically a mix of craft and more traditional brewers as well as Störtebeker and Ratsherrn which are parts of larger corporate entities. I focused most of my drinking efforts to just a few of these brewers as I was for the most part not interested in trying traditional German lagers just made by smaller brewers. I first went to Black Isle which is an organic brewery from Scotland. I sampled their Yellow Hammer IPA and found it to be watery and lacking in hop flavor. I would guess this is a bitter and not an English IPA. I also tried the Red Kite (amber ale) and porter and found them to be better but not particularly interesting. This was not the start I was expecting to the event.

My favorite beer was probably the Aufwind which is an IPA from Propeller. It was very malty but still had enough hops for some great flavors. The most interesting beer I tried was Schneider Weisse Tap X Meine Porter Weisse. It had intense banana and yeast flavors and was quite bitter and powerful tasting. There were also roasted malt flavors but my small sample didn't give me a chance to fully investigate. I would really like to try this beer again. The most disappointing beers I had came from a new brewery I'd never heard of before the event called Bannas. I tried their Maibock and Spezial and both left much to be desired. Since the brewery is new there is still plenty of opportunity for them to improve upon these beers. I also tried the Feuchter Traum from Kreativebrauerei Kehrwieder. It left me with the same impression I had of it from the last time which was that its a slightly subpar watery pale ale lacking in flavor. I've liked all their other beers I've tried, but this one doesn't do it for me.

Westindien is a brewery I'm curious about. Their website doesn't have much information, and they don't list the beers they had available for sample as one of their products. I wanted to talk to one of the guys working at their booth after I tried a couple of pours, but at that point the line/crowd there was too large to allow for even a quick conversation. The pale ale they brew had pleasant floral and grass hops blending with biscuity malt and was easy to drink. The coffee porter was one of the better beers I tried there with its abundance of coffee and roast malt flavors. There were mixed twelve packs of their beer also containing an amber ale (I think) for takeaway, but I didn't buy one.

Towards 5 pm the event was really filling up, and I was getting weary of navigating the crowd for beer. I managed to get back and forth from the Aarhus' booth because it was close to the wall and tried samples of their Golden Monk IPA and Mosaic India Pale Lager. I was ready to drink a few larger beers as my palate was quickly becoming less discerning, so I decided to try full glasses of the previous samples. I figured typically bolder hop flavors combined with the lack of availability of beers from Aarhus in Hamburg made them a good choice. The Golden Monk is an English IPA dry hopped with Fuggles and East Kent Goldings. It was passable with some good malt and lighter hop flavors, but it was very buttery and slick, and I quickly began to wonder if it was diacetyl. I'd never had a beer where I really noticed it, but man was it buttery. The Mosaic IPL was better but not amazing. I've had limited access to the IPL style and was surprised at the lack of bitterness in this otherwise fruity beer. I will try it again if I come across it.

Craft Beer Day Norderstedt was definitely an interesting event, and I'm glad north Germany is becoming more interested in its evolving beer scene. There were pensioners, moms with baby prams, hipsters, children, clean cut business men, beer nerds, and every other imaginable citizen there. People were happy and overall patient and pleasant during the event despite the cramped confines. The worst aspect of the event didn't occur until we left. It was raining heavily as we saw the bus pull away from its stop. Normally in Hamburg that doesn't matter at 6 pm as another bus will come buy in 10 minutes during the day. Unfortunately that was the last trip for the 393 for the day and the 293 wouldn't be arriving for half an hour. The pouring rain and lack of umbrella made the prospect of walking to the train station seem implausible.

If I am in town with no plans the next time there is a craft beer day in Norderstedt I will attend, but I'll be more mindful of bus departure times. Hopefully the event will expand, find more suitable confines, and attract some new and higher profile craft brewers. If all that happens this could go from a good to a great event.

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About averageguysguidetobeer

Hi, I'm Colin, I love a good hoppy IPA, but I can find immense enjoyment in a solid session beer, imperial stout, quadrupel or a nostalgic beer from my past.


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