Dresden-Pieschen, Sachsen (Saxony):
Watzke Ball- & Brauhaus
Thursday 10th April 2014
This suburban brew pub and restaurant has a considerable history dating right back to 1790, when a pub was established on the site overlooking a bend in the River Elbe. In 1804 it was increased in size and a brandy distillery was installed.
At the edge of Dresden on this side of town the vineyards begin and continue northwards on the steep banks of the river. Back then they probably surrounded the pub. The distillery was unlicensed and the pub got into debt so in 1814 it came into the hands of Gottlob Wilhelm Hüsner.
It must have traded successfully and legally after that because the next thing to record is that it was bought by Josef Watzke in 1838.
By the end of the 19th century Pieschen was an industrial district and the pub proved to be inadequate in handling the large number of customers. A quantum leap was made and the Watzke Ballroom opened its doors in 1898. The ballroom / theatre was on the first floor and below was the restaurant.
It was commissioned by Paul Watzke, presumably the son of Josef. It was designed by Benno Karpacz and is a very impressive building indeed.
It closed on the outbreak of the First World War during which it was used as accommodation for soldiers.
Paul Watzke died in 1937 and the business was continued by his widow Anna. It shut up shop at the start of the Second World War and miraculously survived the blanket bombing of the city.
Because it was still in existence it reopened in 1945. Being in the Soviet zone, trading proved to be difficult. The formation of the DDR (the German "un-"Democratic Republic) in 1949 worsened matters. The communist government went into partnership with or nationalised several pubs and restaurants. Food and drink were subsidised in these "HO" restaurants and bars. I remember it was 1.01 or 1.03 Reich Marks for a half litre of beer all over the country, a price unchanged for well over 20 years.
The restaurant could not compete as it remained in private hands and so it closed in 1950. It was then used as a warehouse for sports goods until re-unification.
It was after then that its true historical significance was acknowledged and it was registered as a historic building. Money was provided for its restoration and this lasted from 1993 to 1996.
When it was returned to its "as-built" condition it was leased by Rudi Vogel, a brew pub entrepreneur from Karlsruhe, where he has two outlets. He installed a brewery and reopened the pub in 1996 under its old name. It is a wonderful re-creation with the interior of the building looking as impressive as the outside.
Entering up the stone steps I turned right past a wooden French dresser and through double doors into the room with the main service area and the gleaming brewery. It is, not unsurprisingly, named Brauerei.
Turning left inside the double doors leads to two further rooms, the Watzkezimmer and the Elbezimmer, overlooking the river.
These, like the Brauerei are stunningly decorated with head height wooden panelling which is covered with photographs and paintings, as are the walls above. At the side of the brewery equipment is an exit to the beautiful cobbled biergarten with its river views. And, naturally there is the ballroom upstairs, available to hire, and holding a large number of guests.
There are two regular year round beers and these are Pils (5.0%) and Altpieschen Spezial (5.2%). The latter is a bit of a hybrid as it is too light in both colour and taste to be a dunkelbier. It is quite refreshing with a light brown colour, slight malt in the taste and a medium hoppy finish.
There are seasonal beers brewed for every month and you will find the details of these listed in the article on the Watzke am Goldenen Reiter pub in Dresden-Neustadt. This is one of the two other Watzke pubs in the city. The other is Watzke am Ring which is at the north end of Pragerstrasse, where I was staying. I didn't visit it as I didn't know it existed. A notable omission on my part as it opened in 2012.
Anyway, back the subject of this piece. There is a full menu and a visit here will easily repay the slight inconvenience of a 10 minute tram ride from the city. It is thoroughly recommended. However, most of Dresden wants to come out here on sunny summer evenings, so you may with to call in quieter times.
Watzke Ball- & Brauhaus, Kötschenbroder Strasse 1, 01139 Dresden-Pieschen Süd 01139
Tel: 0351 852920
Open: Monday-Sunday 11.00-24.00
The pub is well served by the tram network. The stop to alight at is Altpieschen. Routes 4 and 9 come through the Altstadt and the southern part of Neustadt. The number 13, which uses a slightly different stop up a side street, serves the northern part of Neustadt and is useful for getting to other pubs.