Food Porn from Cologne, Germany [Food/Vendor]

2007 Mar 10
Fresh Foodie's Swiss food porn reminded me of my years in Germany, and especially of the food/beer-focused trip I made back there a few years ago. Back before the high-tech meltdown I'd gotten a huge bonus at work and decided to use it to go back to Germany for 2 weeks. So I'll be adding posts to this thread as I dig out notes and pictures from my trip.

These will all be from Cologne, and all from various Brauhaeuser (plural, a Brauhaus or "brew house" is any building which can trace a history of having had a brewery on premises or has one there now). For more details on any of these places including directions on how to get there on public transit, see my website. I'll save the crosslink - just see my profile.

This first picture is a simple traditional pub snack from Cologne called "Koelsch Kaviar". "Koelsch" is of course the people's own name for themselves and their beer - "that which comes from Cologne". Right now we are in Peter's Brauhaus, downtown just off the Old Market.

It's a simple piece of blood sausage 6 inches or cut lengthwise down the middle. A whole wheat Brötchen on the side, large raw onion rings on top with parsley sprinkled over all of it. The Kavier was very soft and uniform much like a leberwurst, though it did have some small white soft chunks of fat in it, and judging by the taste-test some onions as well. No skin on it. Very tastey with lots of onion and a bit of garlic.

2007 Mar 10
Rindfleischbouillon mit Einlage

The English translation of “Clear Beef Broth” does not at all do this soup justice. The “Einlage” in German told me that there would be something in it more than just bouillon, and when it came to the table I ended up being very pleased with it. The broth itself was indeed very clear, but there were generous chunks of beef, carrot, celery root, and possibly some onion. And of course topped with parsley. Served with a whole wheat or rye Brötchen it could make a nice light meal on it’s own. And at circa 500ml it was a fairly generous serving, too.

We're still in Peter's Brauhaus.

2007 Mar 10

My last trip to Peter's was at suppertime, and I enjoyed the Brauhauspfanne or Brew House Pan. This extremely tasty dish comes served in a fry pan with the handle sticking straight up into the air. The Bratkartoffeln (fried potatoes) are done to absolute perfection – just starting to turn a golden brown with a superb carmelisation. The pork came in a generous 3 or 4 pieces, and although one of the smaller pieces was a bit tough, the rest was very tender and extremely yummy. The mushroom-beer sauce was similar to one I’d had elsewhere, and to be certain at least as tasty. The light-brown colour and salty-sweet flavour goes well with both the potatoes and the pork.

2007 Mar 10
We can't leave Peter's without first trying the beer! It is of course of the "Koelsch" style. This name is protected in the EU by the Koelsch Konvention, and only beers of the style brewed in and around Cologne can bear this name. The Konvention defines the style as simply "a light, top-fermented, clear, hop-accentuated all-malt beer". For a more detailed definition see the BJCP website (I was one of the 3 people who drafted the current BJCP definition) :

For a history of the style see my website on the left in the "Koelsch" box.

Peter's Koelsch has just a hint of sweet up front, then goes very clean and refreshing, followed by the little nip from the slight dryness. Extremely subtle fruity notes detectable on every 3rd or 4th drink. It is brewed in the village of Monheim, just outside the city. I had the pleasure of a private brewery tour with the brewmaster. He described his Koelsch as "A tasty top-fermented, spritzy beer with a light Ester aroma". Peters is indeed an extremely "lecker" example of the style.

2007 Mar 10
Just around the corner from Peter's not far from the Cathedral Square is Hans Sion's Brauhaus. Like several of the other Brauhäuser, the interior of this building hints at a long history and tradition. There are numerous old photos and memorabilia hanging on the walls and the various shelves which circumnavigate the rooms near the tops of the walls. And its size is quite impressive as well – with several larger and smaller rooms, most of which can be closed off from the others with doors. This gives the visitor quite a wide selection of seating arrangements from which to choose – whether you want to be part of a large crowd which could at any minute break into a round of a local song, or perhaps you prefer to be tucked away in a corner somewhere for some private conversation with that certain someone. Unfortunately the establishment was under renovation when I was there, so large parts were closed off completely as a result, and I was unable to see everything there was to offer.

The Kölsch Kaviar was served exactly like that from Peters with a hearty Brötchen on the side, except that the sausage itself still had the skin on it which I had to remove before eating. In tasting it seems that there was not quite as much onion in this one, as there was in the one from Peters. As with every Kölsch Kaviar I ate during my short 2 week visit, this one was extremely yummy.

2007 Mar 10
In a traditional Koeln Brauhaus, your waiter is not called "Herr Ober" like in the rest of Germany. Here his name is "Jakob", or in local dialekt "Köbes". He is typically dressed exactly as shown, complete with the big handlebar moustache. In his hand he carries a "Kranz" (wreath) full of "Stange" or "rods" of the local drink. Lee Valley actually carries Stangen - their buyers having been introduced to Koelsch at the world's largest annual international tool and hardware trade show in Cologne.,104,53217

Sion advertises itself as “the friendly Kölsch”, and the Brauhaus certainly works hard to live up to this reputation. From the moment I walked in the door I was literally waited on hand-and-foot by my friendly Köbes, who so-well fit the stereotype that I later asked if I could take some photos of him. Not only was he always there with a fresh glass of Kölsch just as I was about to empty the one I was working on (as per the stereotype), but he also bore one of the most impressive moustaches I think I’ve ever seen.

2007 Mar 10
Until Peters & Bambeck opened the Peters Brauhaus just around the corner in 1995, P.J. Früh reigned supreme as the premier eatery in the city. And eating the Gehacktes Rindersteak I certainly found out why that is. I chose this dish since it was listed as a “spezialitaet des Hauses. Pikant gewuerztes, leicht angebratenes Tatar, mit Sauerrahm, Dunstzwiebeln, leckerer Bratkartoffeln und gemischtes Salat. For the uninitiated that's literally "hacked (ground) Bovinesteak. Zippy spiced, light fried Tatar with sourcreme, "dunst" onions, yummy Fried Potatoes and tossed salad".

The dish came on two separate plates, and was absolutely one of the yummiest meals I’ve had in the city. The Bratkartoffeln were done with chives and onions and were perfectly caramelized to create an absolute delight for the tastebuds. The “Steak” – which is actually a formed piece of ground beef – is smothered in fried onions, and the two together create a taste sensation which is perfectly paired to the potatoes. A side-salad and a refreshing Kölsch to wash it all down, and you truly are in heaven.

2007 Mar 10
On the the beer at P.J. Früh! It is the best-selling of the circa 20 brands of Koelsch. As it was sat down onto the table it seemed obviously just a bit lighter in colour than most of the others I’ve had the pleasure to taste thus far. The fruity nose is more prominent than most, and noticeable as soon as you draw the glass close to your mouth to take a drink. Once there this refreshing elixir gives you subtle but clear apple and pear to confirm the fruity nose. Low to medium hopped for a Kölsch, it still leaves the characteristic dryness at the end which carries the slightest bitterness through for a wonderful finish.

Yes, that is yours truly!

2007 Mar 10
In walking through this Brauhaus – like with so many others in the city – you get the distinct feeling you are walking right back through history. Start with the large oak doors protected again by a solid steel “gitter”. The inside is a maze of different rooms of various sizes to fit your mood. The large main hall must have been an incredible atmosphere during the Fussball game which I witnessed the other day from the outside, while some of the smaller rooms would lend themselves perfectly to a small private gathering among friends, or perhaps a romantic evening with that special someone.

P.J. Früh is one of the few Brauhäuser which offers this variety over a number of different levels, from stone sub-basements with a very dungeonesque feeling to them, right on up to the 2nd floor with all the bright glasswork on the front of the building which allows you to look out over the front courtyard. Some of the more interesting rooms are only open after lunch time, and I would strongly encourage you to just go there and walk around a bit to explore the vastness of this establishment, and the impressiveness of some of the construction materials and techniques. This would have been an impressive place even before the big expansion a few years ago which increased the indoor seating from 600 to 900 persons.

As with most places in Germany, be prepared to take on some visitors if there are a couple of free chairs left at your table. Perhaps in a romantic setting in a smaller room folks would quickly see that company was not welcome, but contrary to common stereotypes Germans like good company along with their excellent beer and fablehaftes Essen, and it is therefore completely normal for them to ask if the empty chairs at your table are free so they can sit down and enjoy the experience with you.

Near the front entrance are maps of the various levels hanging on the wall, and here is a map of the main floor. I've got lots of photos on my website if you want to see some of the more impressive features of this Brauhaus

2007 Mar 10
Hausgemachter Bier-Kraeuterkaese mit marinierten Strauchtomaten dazu knusprige Bratkartoffeln, or home-made beer cheese with marinated tomatoes and crispy fried potatoes.

This "beer cheese" comes served on thin bed of lettuce surrounded by a ring of 15 or so marinated tomato slices. On top of that is a very generous serving of the semi-crumbled beer-cheese, a few wedges of boiled egg, and of course the Cologne trademark of raw onion rings. All topped with a delicate sprinkling of parsley and chives. All cold. On a side dish you get a smallish serving of the most tasty bratkartoffeln sprinkled with parsley.

The cheese is like nothing I’ve ever had before, and I’m a big cheese fan who likes to try new kinds. It is semi-hard with a colour not too dissimilar from their Kölsch, though in a cheesy sort of way. Though there generally isn’t much I won’t eat, raw tomatoes are definitely not something I enjoy too much. But the marinade on these gave them just enough extra “zing” that I was able to eagerly polish off the whole plate.

Upon closer inspection the bratkartoffeln had little-wee pieces of ham in it.

The cheese was a semi-mild, semi-hard number perhaps a bit like a goat cheese in texture and consistency. The spicing is extremely interesting, if unidentifiable. Mild flavouring really mixes well with the cheese and the marinade on the tomatoes.

2007 Mar 10
Ochsenschwanzsuppe mit Roeggelchen. (Oxtail soup with a little rye roll)

This tasty dish is served in a metal bowl-cup of about 500ml. It is a deep, rich dark brown colour with small but visible and copious pieces of meat. Upon closer examination there are also small pieces of mushroom in the soup as well. The broth is a thick, saucy number, very rich in flavour. Almost like a Gulaschsuppe with much less spice. It is absolutely marvelous tasting, and with the Brötchen makes a nice light little meal, or perhaps for bigger eaters something to tide you over a few hours til dinner. I can strongly recommend this soup, though it may be a bit too rich for some folks.

And with this, we leave P.J. Frueh and head elsewhere.

EDIT : whoops, more photos here

2007 Mar 10
Now let's take a quick stopover to an average German's house for breakfast. The huge "Popkomm" music event was being held in Cologne during my 2 week stay there (it has since moved to Berlin, unfortunately) and it made it impossible for me to find a hotel for the weekend in the middle of my trip. Fortunately my ex girlfriend was still living there, and she and her boyfriend invited me to stay with them for 2 nights.

This is a fairly typical breakfast table, from the Nutella in the top right, an assortment of fine cheeses next to it, below that a container of cheese spread, and below that again various meats (wurst) and more cheese out on the serving plate.

To the far left we see a spectacular assortment of Broetchen or bread rolls. Then to the top right some marmelade and to the bottom right some margarine. I really miss the bakeries and butcher shops in Germany. In Cologne there was literally one of each on every corner, and very few of them were chains - pretty much all mom-and-pop operations. Or the few chains which you found were typically fairly small ones with maybe a dozen outlets around the city. So there was an enormous variety of meats and breads.

Most Germans have relatively small refrigerators since they prefer to shop often so they can have the freshest possible foods. Unless you have a large family you probably only have a 4 CF bar fridge. Most mornings begin with a trip to the bakery (at least every 2nd morning) for a fresh breakfast.

2007 Mar 10
Speaking of bakeries ... sigh

2007 Mar 10
Now let's go to Sünners Bier-Esel (Beer Donkey - an odd name), which is a Brauhaus just down the road from that bakery, and is tied to Sünners Koelsch. We're no longer in the center of downtown, but just to the south-west of the Neumarkt or New Market. Technically I guess on the "outskirts of downtown" since we're still (just) inside the ring-road. This is a cozy little pub which boasts a history of over 700 years! The original building was torn down in the mid 1800s when the Prussians took control of the city and "modernised" things, then it was destroyed again in WW2. But it was rebuilt on the same spot, and the tradition continues on to this day.

I originally found the place on my first day in Köln when I was just walking the streets trying to re-acquaint myself with my surroundings. They were the first place I saw serving Sünner’s Kölsch, so I went in for a quick glass of beer and ended up being very impressed with the place, and had to come back twice more. A rather small establishment when compared with most Brauhäuser (though there are smaller), the locals who were present at lunch time when I was there the first time were only a middle-aged lady of about 50 years of age, and a friend of hers perhaps 10 years older. They were both very friendly and jovial, and I chatted with them for the few minutes I was there enjoying what would become one of the most interesting Kölsch beers I would discover in the city. As I left after only one beer the younger lady was just sitting down to enjoy the Kölsch Kaviar she had ordered as I was coming in, and as I walked out I heard her calling to the waitress “mit vielen Zwiebeln, bitte!”, i.e. she wanted lots of onions on it, please. She is not alone among Kölners in her love for raw onions.

2007 Mar 10
On my last trip to the Bier Esel I ordered Himmel und Äd (Heaven and Earth, one of Cologne's traditional meals) for the first time, and finally found out just what it is. Another specialty of Cologne whose name translates to "Heaven and Earth", it is a piece of Blood Wurst this time fried instead of boiled as it is with Kölsch-Kaviar. It is served open-faced with loads of fried onions on top, and is swimming in a sea of a wonderful and very sweet applesauce on one side, and a lovely creamy potato puree on the other. In between was a small side-salad composed mostly of blue cabbage and a piece of tomato. All-in-all it was a very enjoyable meal, though probably a bit fatty to be eating every day.

It should also be mentioned that the Bier-Esel is Cologne’s self-proclaimed specialist in mussels. Unfortunately I’m not a huge fan of mussels so I didn’t try them, but the menu had at least 2 or 3 pages full of different mussel dishes, and that in itself certainly impressed me.

Sünners Koelsch

Almost no nose leads into this very interesting rendition of the local Getränk. Extremely refreshing on the palate with some apple and what seems like cherry notes. Washes down smoothly to a finish on the very lowest end of the “Kölsch-Bite” scale. The fruity notes are quite different from every other Kölsch I’ve had, and are most pleasing to these taste buds.

2007 Mar 10
Not far from the Bier Esel is another very famous Brauhaus : Päffgen am Friesenplatz

When you walk inside the entryway doubles as a small room with a handful of tables in it, just like a number of other Kölsch Brauhäuser. To the right you can enter the long, narrow main room, which is about 25 to 30 feet wide, and 75 to 100 feet long. Or you can walk straight through the entryway to either enter again to the right into the main room, or keep going back through to the sunroom and further back into the courtyard when it is open. The sunroom is a room about 30 by 30 feet which is covered with a glass roof, while the courtyard is about the same size but completely open to the elements and fresh air. On the far end of the courtyard is another building with a large glass wall several stories high which allows you a plain view of the several floors of the building in which the brewery operates. I chose to sit inside the main room situated where I could look out the back windows across the courtyard and see the brewery in operation through the glass wall.

The Köbes here is one of the best I’ve had, and reads your mind like a book just as a good Köbes should. He repeatedly proves his talent by bringing me a fresh glass of Kölsch just exactly as I’ve emptied the current glass. Almost without me even knowing he glides into the room, scoops away my empty glass, and firmly places the full glass in its place. This guy is good!

I had a very reasonably priced Terrine Graupensuppe mit Rauchfleisch Einlage und Röggelchen. That's a bowl of barley soup with smoked meat and a rye roll. This would almost be more of a stew back home, though it was indeed called a “Suppe” and not “Eintopf”. It is a thick and extremely hearty mixture with lots of barley (mmmm, beer ingredients), potato, carrots, some spices and generous pieces of smoked ham. Very similar in consistency and appearance to a French-Canadian Pea Soup, though it was not a Pea Soup at all. Being a huge fan of this sort of soup, especially when smoked ham is involved, I had no trouble at all finishing off the very generous portion which comes to your table in a circa 1.5 litre pot, and a ladle with which to serve yourself into the provided bowl. The soup along with the Rye Brötchen it is served with could easily feed two people.

The Beer

Päffgen is without question one of the more unique Kölsches as it is one of the few with aroma and flavour hops - almost as though it is dry-hopped. But that is a guess, and even then none of these flavour are overpowering, but rather subtle as a Kölsch should be. It is worth mention as well that Päffgen is the only beer served at the cult pub Lommerzheim (which closed recently due to Mr Lommerzheim's death).

As you bring the glass to your mouth you are greeted with a marvelous aroma both of malt, as well as some fruitiness from the yeast, and possibly just a bit of aroma hop. The bittering hops come in about halfway through and carry you to a nice clean finish, where both the malt and some hop flavour are still quite perceptible.

2007 Mar 10
Now let's go back into the center of downtown to the Gaffel Brauhaus, right on the Old Market.

"Ein Kinderteller fuer Sie” (a kiddie plate for you) was how my Schweinehaxen was introduced as it was placed in front of me. The “Ham Hocks” I ordered were huge, and the waitress kept up her humour when she delivered the meal to the table, calling it a “kiddy plate”. For anyone who has never eaten a ham hock (I have many times at a local German restaurant here in Ottawa), it can be somewhat daunting at first. The size of the average Hock is quite impressive, and it generally has what I call a very medieval appearance to it – like something you’d see in movies with Kings and Knights and such. The trick to enjoying a Ham Hock is knowing that the thick outer skin – composed primarily of fat – can easily be separated from the leg itself, exposing a generous portion of one of the tastiest pieces of pork you will ever eat. In Germany most tables are set with a waste bowl, which is a container used specifically for depositing table scraps into, rather than have them clutter up your plate. The thick layer of fat should come completely free with only the slightest amount of encouragement, and can be deposited into the bowl. This leaves the leg meat exposed, and there is virtually no fat left whatsoever – just tender meat, and lots of it to enjoy! This one was served with potatoes on one side and a delicious mushroom cream sauce on the other side.

2007 Mar 10
Gaffel Koelsch

Gaffle tasted quite different on tap at the Brauhaus than it did for the beer tasting I hosted upon my return from Cologne. The bottles I brought back were fairly lifeless, but fresh from the tap this was truly one of the most assertive and exciting examples of the style I have tasted! As the waitress set the glass on my table, she said "so ... ein Hopfentee ... zum Wohl". "so, a hop-tea ... to your health". A bit of the famous Cologne lighthearted humour. A pungent nose leads you into rich ale flavours, and the finish is exactly as I’ve come to expect from Kölsch - a nice dry pucker. This golden-coloured elixir is hopped on the higher end of the Kölsch scale. I’m not sure if you could properly call any Kölsch “hearty”, but in relative terms to it’s brethren, Gaffel on tap is certainly a sight more assertive than most.

The photo here makes it look a lot darker than it really is. It's just a poor photo - like all Koelsch (except one) this one is pale golden in colour.

2007 Mar 10
Not far from the Altmarkt is the Heumarkt or "Hay Market". And on the small part of the Heumarkt that is separated from the main part by the tram tracks is the only Brauhaus that still brews downtown : Malzmühle (Malt Mill), brewers of Mühlenkoelsch

The Beer

The picture here does not do it justice, but the colour is golden straw, as most are with the only exception so far being Küppers. Bringing the glass to your mouth, you are immediately treated with a very fruity and quite malty nose. Still somewhat subdued since this is afterall a Kölsch, it is nonetheless quite pleasant and inviting. Upon tasting you are treated with the most pleasant pear flavours, and behind it just a hint of apple. The subtle sweetness up-front hangs nicely though subtly on the palate, just until that trademark dryness sneaks in and gently puckers you up just right. Indeed an extremely enjoyable beer!

2007 Mar 10
On my first visit to Malzmühle I started with the Rindfleischsuppe. For the price I found the serving to be noticeably smaller than what I’ve become accustomed to, and quite oddly for Germany it was not served with a Brötchen. It was however a very yummy soup which would make an excellent beginning to any meal. Just do not expect to be able to make a meal out of it as you would be able to at most other Brauhäuser.

True to my Canadian roots (as I explained to the Köbes) I then ordered the Holzfällersteak with “jebrode Öllich (Zwiebeln), jebrode Ädäppel un Kappesschloot (Krautsalat)”. (In very heavy Cologne dialekt that is "Lumberjack steak with onions, fried potatoes and cabbage salad") The crispy-fried onions on top of the steak were a very welcomed addition, while potatoes rated about “average”. Of course, since we are basically comparing degrees of perfection here, “average” German potatoes are still a sight more enjoyable than mostly anything you’ll find in North America.

Being a big fan of just about anything made with cabbage I found the side-salad (not shown) of just that topped with caraway seeds and just a touch of vinegar to be a real treat. The steak itself was pork, and for my taste buds was done to absolute perfection. On the outside a carefully caramelized layer of slightly crispy goodness, and inside one of the most delectable pieces of pork one could ever hope to enjoy!

2007 Mar 10
On my second visit I started with the Chicken Soup (not shown). Though the soup itself was absolutely marvelous, the serving size of 300-350ml was disappointing, as was the absence of a Brötchen.

Listed as a "Specialty of Cologne", I then enjoyed the "Hackbrode Badisch" - or "Würziger Hackbraten 'Badische Art' mit Pilzen, Butterspätzle und grünem Salat. (Zippy Hackbraten of the "Badish Type" with mushrooms, buttered spätzle and green salad) Though I am a huge fan of Spätzle - a German noodle-sized type of dumpling - these ones weren't really all that great. Certainly not even as good as the ones from a local German restaurant here in Ottawa. Teamed with the Hackbraten and smothered in the mushroom sauce, however, it was an absolutely delightful meal which I would eagerly devour again!

2007 Mar 10
Now let's go over to Alt Koeln, which is our last Brauhaus that is right downtown. It is located directly across from the main train station.

The Beer

Kölsch (not shown)

A higher carbonation and hopping are detectable in the start of this beer, and they bring you into some slightly more pronounced esters than some of the others I’ve tried. Slight fruit nose. Some apple in flavour. Dryness doesn’t seem as prominent as some, and not as refreshing as the Sion I had an hour ago. Very good beer nonetheless. Mildest of malt noses, seems a bit lighter colour than most - much like a Früh. Probably on the low end of hopping for a Kölsch. Very little of the “afterbite”. One of the most delicate of Kölsches

Kölner Wiess (shown)

This style of beer is only available in Cologne, as it is a Kölsch that is served very young and unfiltered, and is generally very cloudy and sometimes still fermenting.

The first thing you notice about this beer as it comes to your table is that it’s obviously quite different from a Kölsch. The glass is sort of a cross between a Hefeweizen and a Pilsener glass. Tall, but skinny much like a Stange, and slightly fluted from bottom to top. In tasting it is extremely delicate. A much lower hopping is apparent than with a Kölsch. Doesn’t seem at all dry, and doesn’t give the characteristic bitter lingering of a Kölsch, though there is an ever-so-slightly bitter aftertaste which comes in after 4 or 5 seconds. Though quite cloudy, there is no taste of yeast.

This really is “Hefetrueb auf Kölsche Art”. One could drink a quantity of this beer.

2007 Mar 10
The menu here isn’t as extensive as it is at some of the other prestigious Brauhäuser like Früh and Peters, but it does still offer all the Kölsch regulars (of course) along with a reasonably good selection which will probably have something for just about everyone. For lighter eaters not into German food (just what did you say you were doing in Germany in the first place?) there are things like a light tuna salad (not at all like what we generally call Tuna Salad that often goes on a sandwich) or perhaps a nice Gulaschsoop or a Kölsche Kaviar.

I ordered the “Ofenfrischer Schweinebraten in Biersauce mit Bratkartoffeln” or "Oven-fresh Swinebraten in Beer Sauce with Fried Potatoes". It arrived only a couple of minutes after I finished my first beer - a sign that the service had picked up since we had gotten there. The presentation was very attractive – a good bed of Bratkartoffeln and onions, with two generous pieces of leanish pork on top, topped with chives and then the beer sauce over the whole thing.

The pork was as tender as could be, and a regular kitchen knife (not a steak knife) easily glided through in 2 or 3 light strokes. The thicker of the two pieces was over half an inch thick, and there was definitely a lot of eating here for the price. The potatoes were not quite as tasty as others I’ve had, but since we are dealing with degrees of perfection here, I am not going to quibble! i.e. They were very good. The beer sauce was extremely tasty, and quite unique in flavour from anything else I’ve had here. It went well with both the pork and the potatoes. And there was some sauce left on my plate when I was done eating, so they didn’t skimp on that, either. The entire meal was quite enjoyable, and something I would look forward to eating again and again.

2007 Mar 10
Now we are headed more to the outskirts again, right out to the ring-road but this time in the south-east end of the city on Barbarossaplatz. The Weissbräu calls itself "a little piece of Bavaria in Cologne", so it is decidedly different from the rest of the Brauhaeuser in that it does not serve the regular Cologne fare, but rather Bavarian food (and beer).

As the name suggests, the Weiss Bräu is actually a little piece of Bavaria within the city of Cologne. So not only can you enjoy Kölsch, but you can also enjoy some of the delicacies of the Southerners! We strongly recommend the Weisswurst and Semmelknoedel. The latter (shown) is an enormous softball-sized dumpling that is swimming in the yummiest gravy you have probably ever tasted. It alone makes a meal for all but those with the largest appetites. And the Weisswurst served with a zippy German mustard will almost guarantee you will be planning to come back again the next day.

2007 Mar 10
And here is the Weisswurst, along with a Bretzel. In the top-right you can catch a bit of the jar of home-made mustard they served with it.

As with many places in Germany, the Weiss Bräu specialises in home-made Schnapps! It is an absolute must-try simply to find out the secret of how it is served. There are usually several different flavours of Schnapps to choose from, usually in the form of fruits like pear and cherry. When you order you will have a full bottle delivered to your table along with a stick with markings on it telling you how much you've drunk. When you are done and ready to pay your bill, the waiter will hold the stick up to the bottle to determine how much you owe for the Schnapps. Be careful, because it goes down so easy after a nice big meal that you can put back quite a bit without realising it.

2007 Mar 10
And on to the beer!

Back in the days when this neighbourhood was my stomping grounds (1992 to 1994) it was the Dunkles Hefeweizen (dark Bavarian Wheat Beer, shown) that kept me coming back to the Weiss Bräu. At the time I ironically did not know much about Kölsch. And coincidentally, as I was to find out from the current brewmaster Peter, back in those days the brewmaster here was actually a Canadian.

Nowadays though I definitely enjoy a Hefeweizen or two while here, it is actually their very unique Kölsch which has drawn my attention. Peter is not shy to tell you that he uses 10% Munich Malt in his Kölsch, something which makes it considerably darker than any other Kölsch in the city. Perhaps it is the brewmaster's roots in Duesseldorf and the fact that he prefers the elixir from that nearby rival city which inspired this practice, or perhaps not. In any case a trip to Cologne is without question not complete until you try this one Kölsch simply because it is so different from the rest.

Peter also brews a Schwarzbier, and i got to try some private stock Bock. He serves several different seasonal beers so your selection will vary depending upon when you go there. The Kölsch and the Hefeweizen are the mainstays, however, and will almost always be on tap. The Kölsch is called "Lecker Kölsch", which translates to "Yummy Kölsch". They had a competition among customers when they first introduced it a decade or so ago to choose the best name, and this is what won.

Peter gave me a private tour of this small microbrewery, and you can see lots of photos of it here.

2007 Mar 10
Not far from the Weiss Braue is Hellers, over on Roonstrasse. These two Brauhaeuser are the smallest in Cologne.

In this neighbourhood are lots of good bars and restaurants perhaps due to the nearby university campus, and i counted about 10 or 12 different types of Kölsch being served in and out of the little side streets. Roonstr, Kyffhaeuser, Engelbart, etc. There are also lots of great little Turkish and Greek 'imbiss' to get a quick bite if you like that kind of food. Actually, I strongly recommend taking advantage of the fact that Cologne houses Germany's largest populations of both Greeks and Turks - the food from both these cultures is extremely tastey, and can be found all over the city.

The Kölsch at Hellers is very good, but it is more likely the Wiess (pronounced "Veece" like "fleece", shown) which will be the most compelling reason to come here, as it is one of the last places in the city which still serves the young and unfiltered elixir.

The brewery here is in the sub-basement, and the staff and owner alike seem to be extremely secretive about the whole operation, so do not expect to find out too much about how the beers are brewed. Or even get to see the brewery.

If you've ever been here, I think it's fair to say that it is not the food which will be drawing you back. There is generally an all-you-can-eat buffet of some kind for pretty reasonable prices. The pasta-bar provided ample amounts of quality food, and in fact this may be preferable to the minority of folks who do not like the "deftig" German dishes. Perhaps this is by choice since Hellers tends to be frequented by the younger and health-conscious university crowd, among whom this type of food is likely preferred. So it's not bad food by any stretch, it's just not exactly what I expect in a Kölsch Brauhaus.

2007 Mar 10
OK, onto the 18 or 19 tram now for a trip out into the suburbs a bit to the Unkelbach, which is not far from the student dorm where I used to live.

Peering in the front window you would never guess this place seats nearly as many people as it actually does. At a first glance all you can see is the bar / pub area, and behind it the taps and kitchen keep you from seeing that the building actually stretches a good 150 feet or so back off the street, and must easily seat a good 200 to 300 people. In the summer a generous-sized courtyard (Biergarten) out back provides seating for a good 100 more people.

Haus Unkelbach doesn’t have the impressive history that some of the many other Brauhaeuser can boast, but the interior would never give that away. It’s done over in a similar fashion to most, with generous use of stained woods and intricate German craftsmanship. And though its location may seem out-of-the-way to someone not familiar with the city, its location in Sülz – home to a number of well-known German TV personalities including Harold Schmidt, and a much sought-after area of town for apartment-hunters in general – ensures a steady stream of customers to keep the taps flowing. And the two lanes of bowling in the basement give you some entertainment, as well.

2007 Mar 10
I had the Sauerbraten (above) which is a specialty of this area of the Rheinland. It was served with a couple of Knödel (dumplings) on the side, and smothered in an extremely yummy sauce. Sauerbraten is a steak or chop which is marinated in a brine solution to give it a sort-of sauerkraut flavour throughout, and this one was extremely yummy! The dumplings were bland as one would expect, but with a bit of the sauce on top this meal was extremely enjoyable.

My friend enjoyed the Reibkuchen (right), which literally translates into 'rubbed-cake' or 'grated-cake', and is a type of potato pancake which is popular throughout Germany. Unkelbach is reportedly known for their rendition of this German classic, which is often served with Apfelmuss or applesauce on the side, as it was this day.

2007 Mar 10
And no trip to Cologne in this era at least can be complete without visiting the cult-pub Lommerzheim, so we'll wrap-up with that. It closed about a year ago due to the death of Mr Lommerzheim.

As you can see it is a run-down old place and if you were to happy by you'd probably be afraid to go in. But looks can be deceiving as this is (was) truly one of the friendliest pubs you would ever want to visit. On my first visit there with my university friends Klaus and Takahashi, there was a fellow celebrating his birthday. He bought us several rounds of beer, and we spent the evening at his table chatting.

Lommerzheim was known for his "no reservations" rule, and so there were often long lineups out front before opening time. When US President Bill Clinton visited Cologne he had heard of Lommerzheim and wanted to visit, but Herr Lommerzheim would of course not make reservations. He told Mr Clinton's people "I don't care if he's the emperor of China, we don't make reservations and so he'll have to wait in line like everyone else". So they went to the Malzmuehle instead.

The insides don't look any better than the outsides, and if you browse the photos on my site you'll see how dirty and run-down it all was. Reportedly about 20 years ago Mr Lommerzheim started to paint the inside, and the customers set up such an uproar that he only got one small corner done and then stopped. You could still see where he painted. You see, one of the great things about Lommerzheim is that no matter when you go back, it will be exactly as it had always been.

2007 Mar 10
The food at Lommerzheim was simple, but good. He was famous for the Kotlett (shown), which you can see here. It's about 2 inches thick and served with French Fries or "Pommes Frites" or simply "Pommes" as the Germans say. Simple but satisfying.

You didn't order beer at Lommerzheim, and you didn't ever flag down the waiter (Herr Lommerzheim himself). He made a circuit of the tables about every 10 minutes, and when he came to your table he'd have a Kranz of beer if you needed more. And if you were hungry you'd better tell him right then and there because he wouldn't be back for another 10 minutes.

Every half hour or so Herr Lommerzheim would make his way out to the back courtyard (photos on my site) where he'd drop off an empty keg. He'd then roll the new wooden cask of Paeffgen Koelsch back out into the bar where he'd heave it up onto the bar and tap it. He was reportedly one of the only people who Paeffgen gave wooden casks to, due to some long-standing agreement he'd had with Mrs Paeffgen.

Rest in peace Herr Lommerzheim.

2007 Mar 10
That's it!

Hope you enjoyed your trip to Köln's best eateries and pubs.


2007 Mar 10
That was beautiful! Thanks much. :-)

2007 Mar 10
p.s. glad you enjoyed it. For a bit of a flavour for Lommerzheim, check out Erwin Timmerbeil's extensive collection of photos. This truly was a cult pub like no other in existence, and it is very sad to see it come to an end

I used to maintain the (now-defunct) unofficial english-language Lommerzheim site which is how I came to know Erwin. He captures the atmosphere very well : the long lineups, the downright nasty dirty interior, the stoic Herr Lommerzheim who rumour holds never actualy spoke to anyone - customers at least. And yet every single person is friends with the person next to them whether they be local, regular, foreigner or whatever, and all enjoying a great time together living in the moment. There was no race, religion, nationality or sexual orientation at Lommi's, and as soon as you walked through the door you were the same as everyone else there, period. It really was a special kind of magic.

There is a book about Lommerzheim which I have. He was located right near the tradeshow grounds in Cologne and there is a story in the book about one time when there was a restaurant trade show on, and an "industry expert" ended up stumbling upon the place. He ended up at the table with the guy who later wrote the book, and is quoted as something like "It's remarkable. By all rules this place should have been closed down long ago. Terrible service (editor: it was actually good service as long as you understood it), absolutely filthy, horrible menu - and yet people line up at the door and Herr Lommerzheim is pulling in 3 times your average pub"

Rumour had it as well that he was in violation of numerous fire codes, but nobody in the city government would even think of trying to force him to do anything about it.

A search on "lommerzheim koeln" brings up tonnes of cult sites and newspaper and magazine articles.

2007 Mar 10
wow that's cool, but did it really need to be 15 pages long? (exaggeration) but still a little much maybe?

2007 Mar 10
Hey, thanks for sharing that! Most of my ancestry is German and so of course I've been hoping to visit Germany some day.

And for what it's worth, I appreciated the length of the post. :)

2007 Mar 11
Very nice. You should write a book man! :) I didn't read all your text but I skimmed through and really enjoyed what you had to say. The photos are fantastic!

Thanks for that.

2007 Mar 11
I actually started writing a book but in the end decided to put it all on my website instead. Mainly because I realised I needed to go back at least once more to do a proper job of the book, and can't afford to :-(

2007 Mar 11
After all that I just had to change my icon to a picture of me eating the Himmel und Aed at the Bier-Esel :-) It used to be my standard icon on web boards until a few months ago when I changed to the one of Steven Seagal with the Panda Bear :-)

My old one seems more appropriate for this site ... in fact when I first saw Fresh Foodie's icon I immediately though of this photo of me.

You may have to do a full-browser-refresh to see it. Hold down the shift key when you hit the "page reload" button with your mouse.

2007 Mar 11
I need to update my profile pic too. That one is a couple years old and it's barely can see there's a menu there, and of course, beer. hehe

2007 Mar 11
I also just updated my text profile with the story of me and food :-)

2007 Mar 12
Holy Bratwurst, batman! Thanks for sharing all this bushi, this will likely be the forum thread I return to again and again when I need an emergency food porn injection. I'm a huge fan of German cuisine, and you've got some good stuff here. The beers most of all instill serious craving. Thanks again!

2007 Mar 12
Glad to be of service Umamiman. If you don't already have it, here is a must-have for your cookbook collection - Dr Oetker's "German Cooking Today". My only complaint about the English version that I have is that it does not have all of the German names in the index. So I bought the German version too (

2007 Mar 14
Incidentally, another place famous for it's Reibkuchen (Potato Pancakes above) is the little shack on the main square out the front doors of the Hauptbahnhof (main train station). My ex GF used to go there whenever she was in the area.

2007 Mar 15
Above in one of my descriptions of one of the Brauhaeuser I had mentioned that you got the feeling that people may break out into a round of local Gesang at any moment. In this photo just behind me shortly after it was taken (Biergarten of the Paeffgen downtown / Altmarkt location, before the Paeffgen brothers had the big falling out and split up their company half to each and now there are 2 breweries) a group of people stood up and did exactly that. It is very common in Germany, even if the people at the table didn't know each other before they had sat down.

Even local groups of immigrants in Ottawa keep up the singing traditions. Google "Concordia Ottawa German Folk Music" (without the quotes) and go see them whenever you can, either just men's, just women's or combined. I used to hang out with several of the 70+ crowd in the men's choir and have heard them belt out their tunes and play the guitar around the camp fire. Unbelievable! Inspirational!

In this case in the photo the singers stood (about 5 of them) and just started singing loudly across the patio. Within 2 minutes about 15-20 more people had joined in and half the Biergarten was fully engaged in song. It was quite spectacular and not in the least uncommon even here in Ottawa amongst immigrants.

2007 Mar 15
BTW, here is the German version of the cookbook above now that I think of it :

It's the "School Cook Book" and it's actually the book my ex GF's mom used when she got her chef's license. It was the book they used at her cooking school. It's a German classic - as you see on the cover of this one it appears to be in it's 111'th year. Not bad.

2007 Mar 15
I just came across this picture of a Gulaschsuppe that I had at Paeffgen downtown in the Heumarkt. It was taken at the same time as the picture of me above in the Biergarten. Unfortunately I do not have notes for it so all I can say is tha I can assure you that it was yummy! Gulaschsuppe is a hungarian-inspired treat that is very popular in Germany.

2008 May 30
I'm going to shamelessly toot my own horn! I just got email from a guy in Cologne who is a city and Brauhaus tour guide. He stumbled upon this thread and sends along the following email - hope he does not mind me reprinting it here :-)


Hallo Alan,

I am Rolf from cologne, a city -and brauhaus guide (and Domschweizer again commencing in July) and found your article about Food Porn from Cologne by pure accident on the internet. This article is very interesting, very precise and written with great knowledge and experience. Well done! Some useful information too for me as a guide! You probably have heard the good news from your cologne friends that Lommerzheim has reopened in march this year and that the 4 köbes working in the unaltered main pub are not in the position to serve as precise and fast as Lommi himself did. They have a great bricked cellar underneath renovated and are planning to have a little beergarden in the backyard and left to the main building. Do not hesitate to contact me (or your friends who come here) because the least we can do is to have some Koelsch and ne Halve Hahn.

From cologne into the wilderness of Canada



2008 May 30
BTW, speaking in the other thread about my 2 week trip to Cologne - this article thread is the result of that trip.

2008 May 30
I just LOVE IT here in the wilderness of Canada! heh heh
A nice note/connection...and a German tour guide using an Ottawa Foodie as a source for tips. Phantastisch!!

2008 May 30
"PROST!" to our German friend Rolf.
And the Power of the Internet (and a feather in the cap to Mark for creating this INTERNATIONALLY Acclaimed site).

Zym - When I first started to read the note, I thought he was going to offer you a job as a tour guide. LOL.

I too got a giggle out of the "wilderness of Canada" remark. I mean essentially it's true in comparison to other Western countries, but sometimes I'd just wish the Cougars, the Rams, and those wild Mustangs would stop racing up and down my street!

2010 Aug 21

Just tripping down memory lane - move along, move along


2010 Aug 21
thanks for the trip - i missed this post the first time around! :)

2010 Aug 23
Oh man. After seeing this, I want German Town Deli for lunch.

2010 Aug 23
I'm sooo hungry! Amazing thread :)
I now must try "Ham Hocks"

2010 Aug 23
Zym do you still have that O'reilly shirt? You can alway find the tech geek in the crowd. I think my wife has now thrown out any old freebee tech shirts over a certain vintage ... sigh. Thing that pop out - tech geek stuff and beer. mmmmm

2010 Aug 24
I think it has made its way into our rag bag sourdough :-) I do still have a beer T Shirt that I got from one of the breweries on this tour though. It is getting somewhat threadbare but not quite enough to part with it :-)

Nov 3
Wow this one wasn't in the wayback machine yet - so I just saved it.