Monday 20th January 2014
Before I get to the details of this brew pub and its beers, can I please mention my journey from the city centre to the suburb of Oberkassel, as it was fairly unusual? I arrived on the U-Bahn line U76 which runs from Düsseldorf to the town of Krefeld, a journey of just under one hour.
The U-Bahn in this area is light rail and, as well as the underground section in the city centre, it also runs on the streets, then on a separate formation with high platforms, although it is more tram than train.
Yet it has one notable difference to nearly every other light rail or tram route in the world and that is the Bistro car. This remarkable survivor is an institution on this route. It first operated in 1924 and lasted to 1963. With the building of new vehicles in the late 1980s four vehicles were adapted to revive the Bistro car concept.
Three of them operate from 06.00 to about 20.00 on Mondays to Fridays. I made sure that I caught one from the city, as they only run every 40 minutes, although the U76 route is much more frequent than that.
I alighted at the Belsenplatz stop, please see the photograph of the Bistro Car as it disappeared towards Krefeld. Other cities have old restaurant and pub trams but these are very different, being part of a scheduled service.
It was only a six minute journey and was in the middle of the evening peak period so there were no seats so I stood in the vestibule observing the operation. You are served at your seat, all of which had large tables. The waitress seemed to know most of the customers. She served them with teas, coffees, soft drinks, wine and bottles of beer. The choice was König Pils or Diebels Alt. You could have coffee with whisky or hot chocolate with amaretto. There were also various soups and sausages.
Now to the Alter Bahnhof which means Old Station. Although I cannot substantiate this, I think there is a further connection with the U76 route as I believe this was once the terminus of the route from Krefeld. I suppose that passengers would continue their journeys into the centre on the normal city trams. However both outside and inside you would think it was a brew pub from the beginning. The building is well suited to its current use.
I can remember visiting this brew pub in the late 1990s and back then it brewed a number of different beer styles under the Alte Bahnhof name. There have several changes since then as firstly it became the Gatzweiler's Bräu Gastatte.
If I have got this right, this came about because the large industrial Gatzweiler brewery was purchased by Carlsberg and the brewery was quickly closed and the production moved to the Hannen Alt brewery in Mönchengladbach, which they also owned.
It would appear that the owning family of Gatzweiler retained the name and bought this brew pub to continue brewing their Altbier. I think this right to the name is why the Alt beer brewed by Carlsberg is now named Gatz Alt.
The situation with the brew pub was not to last and it closed some time in the mid 2000s. Eventually it reopened in 2009 yet I don't think it was brewing as the date on their beer mats sites 2011 as the founding year. The beer is now called Gulasch Alt, a rather odd name.
Entering from Belsenplatz I noticed two rooms on the left of the door with the gleaming brewery more or less in front. I walked to the left of it and found the bar with two ersatzholz (imitation wooden) barrels perched on it. Beyond the bar was another room, larger than the others.
There is a full menu and I thought the Gulasch Alt (4.5%) was extremely good indeed, being completely true to the style. They also offer Krombacher Pils and Weizen on draught.
It's well worth travelling out the short distance from the city centre to visit this pub.
Alter Bahnhof, Belsenplatz 2, Düsseldorf 40545. Tel: 0211 5578 9941
Open: Sunday-Thursday 10.00-01.00; Friday-Saturday 10.00-02.00
Breakfast is available from 10.00 to 12.30
The normal menu with daily specials is served after 12.00
As mentioned before, there is an extremely frequent service on the U-Bahn from the Altstadt (Heinrich-Heine-Allee) and also Hauptbahnhof (main station) to here on the following routes: U70, U74, U75, U76 and U77.
U76 is the route with the occasional bar cars.
Buses to Belsenplatz operate on the following routes: 828, 833, 834, 835 and 836.