Friday 30th May 2014
This hostelry is but a short walk from the other Heidelberg Old Town brew pub, the Kulturbrauerei; and a pleasant walk it was too. We were down on the esplanade of the River Neckar when we saw this guy standing on the wall facing away from the water. It was possible to walk up quite close to him. Yet, I didn’t want to go closer than about six feet as I was sure he was standing there for a reason.
Walking on a little further I then looked over the wall and there was the answer for his stance, he was protecting his family. There was a female and no less then eleven medium-sized chicks preening themselves on the grassy embankment. Yet what species was he? I’d not seen a bird like this before and I take an interest. I went away thinking he was a duck, but no, I was wrong, I should have realised from the beak shape.
When I got home I did some research and discovered he was an Egyptian Goose. I read that they had been introduced to the stately homes of Europe in the 18th Century, so he hadn’t got lost and ended up in Germany by accident. However he and his new family were no longer in captivity as they were here in the middle of the city of Heidelberg!
We continued our stroll towards the Alte Brücke (Old Bridge), a famous Heidelberg landmark. It can be seen in the background of the goose portrait. Here we turned left in Steingasse which leads up from the bridge in to the Old Town. We soon found the pub on the left with some tables outside.
Entering through the main door we noticed that this is not an especially large pub. There was a little table space on the right and we saw that the room is dominated by the serving bar and it continued further to encompass the compact brewery.
There were huge garlands of hops hanging from the ceiling in several places. The tables are of varnished light wood with the chairs being made of a dark wood, probably stained and then glossed. The colour of the chairs matched the wood panelling on the walls which reached shoulder height. We passed the brewing equipment and turned right in to another part of the main room. There were several large tables and we struck some luck as there was a small party leaving, so were able to claim seats in what was a very busy pub.
Before ordering I had a further look around and noticed the painting on the wall opposite our table that was executed in a strange primitive-abstract-medieval style. In the front room near the brewery there were some nice lanterns on the wall. Where we were seated there were more old paintings on the walls and above us was a circular chandelier with electric lighting, all contributing to a traditional drinking atmosphere.
The brewery was constructed by the well-known Kaspar Schultz Company of Bamberg. I was lucky enough to have toured their factory a year earlier. It is interesting to reflect that our party were not allowed to take photographs there during the visit because of confidentiality reasons. They were sure that a manufacturer in a very large far eastern country was attempting to copy their designs!
The brewery was installed just prior to the pub’s opening in October 1987; one of the first of the new-wave brew pubs in Germany. So what about the beers; well there are just three regulars and these are Helles (4.5%), a light beer brewed in the Pilsner style; Dunklesweizen, a dark wheat beer and finally the formidable Vetter 33. The 33 bit refers to the original gravity in the Plato system. The abv is a lot lower but still immense. I have seen it as anything between 10.5% up to 13.2%. I’m sure it has varied over the years.
Back in 1995 Vetter 33 was recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as being the strongest beer in world. Well, we know a lot has changed since then and there must be many contenders these days from the ranks of the “Nouveau-Keg” type of breweries. However it is still on sale in the pub, yet I suspect only in bottled form.
There are some seasonal beers to be had and these are: Märzen (5.5%) (An Autumn beer); Maibock (May Bock); Weinachtsbock (5.5%) (Christmas beer); Pils (4.5%) and finally one named Frisch (4.5%) (Fresh). I have no idea what style this last beer is but I suspect it is quite light.
On this visit I was with Carol, Steve and Russell. We decided to dine in the pub and from the menu we were recommended Tiroler Gröstl which is pan-fried black pudding and liver sausage with potatoes. Well, I like all of the separate parts of it but was a little disappointed with the sum of them. My fellow diners were well satisfied and really my only criticism was that it was a little too dry. Anyway this is not a food web-site, so I apologise for that digression, but I thought you might need to know!
This is a very nice pub indeed and should be visited if you are in the city, but be warned it can be busy.
Vetter’s Alt Heidelberger Brauhaus, Steingasse 9, 69117 Heidelberg. Tel: 06221 165850
Open: Sunday-Thursday 11.30-24.00; Friday-Saturday 11.30-02.00
Food served: 11.30-23.00
The pub can be reached by any city bus that runs along Neckar embankment. These are 31, 32 and 35. Alte Brücke is the stop. The 32 comes from the Hauptbahnhof (Central Station). There is also the route 33 that runs through the old town and stops at Rathaus / Bergbahn. It also comes from the station.