Vignette #12: Michael Schnitzler (Uerige)
Two unrelated quotes today from Michael Schnitzler, the Weihenstephan-trained owner of Hausbrauerei Uerige. To go with them, I'll show you two photos, one of Michael, and one of the brewery. It contains, as you will see, one of the more unusual anachronisms still in use in Germany.
On Altbier's Health
“In general, the altbier is in bad condition. The smaller breweries are successful, that is not a problem, but if you remove the big breweries that were far more original Düsseldorfer breweries—now Frankenheim for example is with Warsteiner, Diebels is with Anheuser-Busch, Schlösser is somewhere, nobody knows really, then altbier is [not doing well].”
“The former biggest Düsseldorf breweries, they started twenty or thirty years ago to quit brewing in the town. [Real estate] prices are so high that everyone says, come on, it’s not [worth it] to sell beer. Let’s put it out to rent. The same with Munich—it’s even worse than Düsseldorf. So the breweries were sold to Warsteiner—Frankenheim—to Anheuser Busch; so where is the echte Düsseldorfer brauerei, the real Düsseldorf brewery? That’s the problem everywhere.”
(It is typical to find altbier served from wooden casks perched on the bar; I asked about this.)
“It is just the traditional style of presenting the beers in a nice way. We tap it manually and then we put the barrel on the bar; this is the special way we do it, but there is no fermentation; there is nothing for the taste.” (They're lined.) He went on to tell the story of why all the casks only have red-painted metal bands when once they came in all different colors. “Now every barrel has a red ring [metal band]. A couple of years ago we had a green one, a yellow one, something like that. Nobody knows why. The regular customers they saw the barrels with the green ring on it and said, “oh no, we cannot drink this one; the red [ones] have the best beer.”