Monday 20th January 2014
This is one of the four traditional breweries left in or near the Altstadt (Old Town) in Düsseldorf. It is in Bolkerstrasse which is at the heart of the Old Town. It's to be found at No 47 and the building that first stood on the site became a pub with the installation of a brewery in 1850. It was known back then as Zum Roten Ochsen (The Red Ox).
It must have been successful as it absorbed the properties on either side, which were also both breweries. No 45 was the Drei Königinnen (The Three Queens) and on the other flank it was Schwarzen Pferd (The Black Horse).
It wasn't until the latter part of the 19th Century that there was a change of name to Zum Schlüssel (The Key). It is said that this title comes from the old practice of storing the keys of the gates through the city walls nearby. In 1936 the Schlüssel was taken over by Karl Gatzweiler who already owned a brewery in Neuss on the other side of the Rheine.
The Bolkerstrasse premises had to be rebuilt after the Second World War. In 1963 the Gatzweiler family opened a new brewery in the district of Düsseldorf-Heert to brew their own beer and also that of Schlüssel.
That was a situation that continued until 1990 when, back at Bolkerstrasse, the restaurant and brewery were both renovated. I believe that production of the draught beer was moved back there then, while the bottled output remained at Heert.
The Gatzweiler side of the company was taken over by Carlsberg and inevitably they closed the Heert brewery. The Gatzweiler name was retained by the family and Carlsberg brew the beer as Gatz Alt at the brewery of Hannen Alt in Mönchengladbach, another of their acquisitions. This is more or less the situation that remained in 2014 when I visited.
The pub has a handsome frontage with tables outside and at this time of the year this was just occupied by a few smokers; Nordrhein-Westfalen is thankfully one of the Länder (Provinces / States) that has banned inside smoking.
Inside the first thing that I noticed was the central beer service area with its old oak barrel of Schlösser Alt (5.0%).
The area around here is the best place to settle if you are only having a beer.
There are some full tables and also plenty of tall versions with stools along with ledges along the walls that are ideal for resting a glass. Once I had settled I had a good look around. The pub is very long and narrow with rooms located on either side, some separated by some lovely stained glass.
At the far end of the furthest room the brewery can be observed through a glass screen. It is illuminated with strange coloured light, please see the photograph. The decor of all the rooms is very traditional with scrubbed wooden tables and varnished wood seats.
Naturally, there is a full menu with many local dishes. Although it is at the centre of the Altstadt and its myriad array of great pubs, a visitor should definitely make time to visit this excellent brewery restaurant, even if only for its superb Altbier served directly from the oak cask.
Brauerei Schlüssel, Bolkerstrasse 43-47, Düsseldorf 40213. Tel: 0211 426155
Open: Sunday-Thursday 10.00-24.00;
Friday-Saturday 10.00-01.00 (Also the day before a public holiday).
This pub is very central being only a few minutes walk from the Heirich-Heine-Allee station and tram stop. This is served by trams 703, 706, 712, 713 and 715. U-Bahn lines are U70, U74, U75, U76, U77, U78 and U79.