Knidkerbocker's Bier tour


Dear Bier Fans,
For many bier fans Germany often means The Oktoberfest in Munich or at most Bavaria. However, the entire country, north to south, east to west is filled with breweries. Some 1200 of them, brewing regional favorites just waiting to be discovered. What we are offering is not only the opportunity of tasting some interesting new biers, but also the chance to meet some real people from real life towns in friendly pub surroundings, where you can pick up a word or two of the language, and get to understand the culture a bit more.Believe me, it makes the bier taste better!

YOUR 4 BREWERY TOUR Price includes, All transportation in Germany, 2 nights with breakfast in a good hotel, 2 dinner feasts, 2 lunches, a jazz "frühschoppen", 2 brewing seminars, generous bier samples at all 4 breweries, and all fees connected with brewery tours. All this, and an English/ German speaking tour guide, who is a long time CAMRA, PINT, BierIG & FBM member, to make your stay "gemütlich"! Attention American & other visitors. Tours can be arranged from anywhere in the world!

"Tom can organize a piss up in a brewery!"
Alster Henderson, Tourer from Scotland.

A review of the first tour

I had never flown from Stansted before and was pleasantly surprised by what I found. After a rather bumpy 45 minute train ride from Liverpool Street we arrived at Stansted Station, we got one of two large passenger lifts from the platform which decanted us right in the terminal building. There was none of the frantic running around which seems to be most peoples activity at Heathrow or Gatwick. The atmosphere was calm and relaxed and there were lots of shops to browse if you like that sort of thing. We easily found the Buzz check-in desks, (Buzz is the ‘no frills’ subsidiary of KLM) and as there was no queue, we were checked in immediately. We wizzed along on a monorail to the departure lounge, a large comfortable place with windows giving good views of the runway. I was a little disconcerted to find most of the planes were very small and quite a few of them had propellers instead of proper engines! Reassurance came when we boarded our plane which was a substantial beast with no less than four jet engines. We lifted off and in less than an hour were landing in Düsseldorf.

One advantage of a weekend away is that you can travel light, and do not need to check-in any baggage, we sailed through immigration and in no time at all emerged from the arrivals lounge to find our guide Tom Perera waving a Knickerbocker’s Bier Tours T-shirt over his head.

I have known Tom for more than twenty years, he’s an American married to a German woman and has lived in Europe for quite awhile. "A Yank, what does he know about beer?" I hear you cry, and normally I would agree with you, but believe me, this one knows a lot about beer. Beer is his hobby, his passion and now his business, and we on the tour all agreed that we did not have one bad beer throughout the whole weekend.

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Most of us met each other here for the first time. We were from all over England and even one keen beer fan, Alex, that had travelled all the way from Scotland! Once assembled we boarded our coach and headed for Dinslaken, a short drive away. On arrival the hotel formalites were done in double quick time, we had a brief familiarisation of the "Altstadt",(Old Town) and were soon in the pub, sorry kneipe, which is literally across the road from the hotel. The famed Haus Holtbrügge is the nearest that I have come to an English pub whilst drinking in Germany, it’s difficult to put your finger on exactly what it is that makes it special, but it is special, and I felt right at home the first time I was there. We had a slap-up meal washed down by two different beers, Tom’s house favorite, Kronen Export and Hovels, a cross between a Belgian brown like Palm or De Koninck and a English Bitter, then a glass of schnapps for digestive reasons, all courtesy of Knickerbocker. After dinner, (It was about 10pm by then) we were on our own, some of us stayed at Haus Holtbrügge chatting with Tom, while the more adventurous sallied forth to try other establishments in the town.

The next morning we all assembled again and whilst Kevan, also known as The Great Kevino, was a little late on parade, the rest of us were bright eyed and eager to be off. A few of the local people from Dinslaken acompannied us, including Rainer Goronzy who I have heard mentioned in Tom’s "What’s Brewing" stories. They all spoke fair English and pointed out any interesting sites we passed. The first stop was the Walsumer Brauhaus, this despite being fairly new is a lovely place and I would like to visit again in the summer. It is a large brew-pub with various bars, a restaurant and beautiful gardens with a stream and pools. I could quite happily spend a summer’s day here drinking either the Blond or the Braun beer that they brew, both were very tasty with a low gas content. In fact a low gas content is one of the things that stands out about the beers we had, no gassy Lager for us, only first rate beer! I think everyone on the tour would concur that Knickerbocker’s are to be congratulated on the excellent selection of beers we had.

After an all to brief sojourn at the Walsumer Brauhaus we were back on our luxury coach heading for Duisburg. Our next stop was Webster (no relation to the Yorkshire company!) a house brewery and restaurant owned and run by three graduate brewmasters from the world famous Weihenstephan brewing institute in Bavaria. Here we took part in an hour long brewing seminar with Tom translating for us. Webster’s had three beers to try, again a Blond and Braun, plus a special seasonal beer, an Oktoberfest beer, which we sampled right out of the lager tank. All incredibly fresh tasting and as fragrant as living hops.

Once again the time came to bid good by, and after a few monents of strolling through Duisburg’s town centre we found the charming Schacht 4/8. This place was once a bank but believe me its nothing like any JD Wetherspoon you have been to! It’s named after a coal mine and we were seated in a private room off the main bar, that was fitted out with old mining gear. As we started on the first beer here, a mild top fermented Mulvany’s, Tom passed out the lunch menus which offered 10 different dishes, ranging from typical German sausages to more continental sort of things. It all looked good and I know mine was. We had three more beers here, Grubengold, as the name sugests a golden brew, Ruhrpott a Pils and another season beer, the Festbier. Incidentally, we also had a chance to watch England- Germany, on a tv at the bar, and although England lost we didn’t let it dampen our spirits!

On the coach once more and off to the mighty Diebels Alt brewery. The three other places we’d seen so far were cosy spots about the size of a large pub. Diebles is huge. The largest Alt brewery in the world, it dominates the village of Issum which lies between the Rhine River and the Dutch border. We had a room reserved for us in a corner of the massive complex of bars with windows showing off the huge storage silos. Here we all had the chance to play barman as we tapped our own 10 and 15 litre barrels of Alt. One of the lads, Len, was keen on pouring beer but we had to give the job to Alan, as Len got as much beer in the tray as in the glasses.

Fitting with the size of everything at Diebels, we had what the Germans call "brotzeit"(like a big ploughmen’s lunch served at dinner) baskets of fresh baked breads, with cheese, ham, salami, cold sausages, pickles, tomatos, on plates the size of pizzas. It was great and went perfect with beer but I don’t think any of us managed the whole thing, and everything we had drunk and eaten was on Knockerbocker, none of us had spent a pfenning! Being Saturday night, people started filling the place, many of them good looking young ladies, which sent The Great Kevino into action. It’s a wonder how he managed to get to know people, not only did he speak no German but his broad Leicestershire dialect was hard enough for most English people to understand. At about 10pm all the bars were packed solid, with people waiting outside the door. Time for us to go. "What leave a pub at ten o’clock!" I hear you cry. Why not, in half an hour we were back in Dinslaken’s Altstadt, and Haus Holtbrügge. Don’t forget here the pubs shut at two or three in the morning.

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Kevin and Neal and Neal's jumper at Haus Holtbrügge.
In Holtbrügge’s The Great Kevino had a surprise for us, he presented Tom and Hannes Holtbrügge with some mementos from England, such as Henry Walker Leicestershire pork pies and Steamin’ Billy Bitter hats.

The people of Dinslaken, through Tom, knew who we were and what we were doing there, and what we all appreciated was the way the locals made us feel welcome, we all mixed together and with the help of a couple of us who could speak some German, like Malcolm and his dad John and our Scotsman Alex, we had remarkable little trouble understanding each other. As Tom had said we would, we really did get to know something of real life in Germany.

Sunday Morning found us all standing by the coach waiting for, yes you guessed it, The Great Kevino. Hotel check out was as simple as handing in the key and saying good by. The hotel, by the way, was very clean and comfortable, all newly done up in a Scandinavian wood style, and the continental breakfast was fine, especially the fresh baked "brötchen."( bread rolls)

Riding on the coach that morning I had a chance to ask Tom some questions about Knickerbocker. "Where did you get the idea for beer tours?" I asked. His answer was short and simple, "While using my broyeur de vegetaux one day, I thought : I like beer and I like people, so I figured out a way to bring them together." The name Knickerbocker, he explained, came from a story by Washington Irving, and though in the story it has nothing to do with beer, he decided it sounded like a good beer name, so he took it on.

The coach came to a halt, the doors opened and there stood the Essen Borbeck Dampf-Bier Brauerei. This brewery differed from the rest due to it’s age, built in the end of the 1800’s, it still maintained it’s old fashioned industrial image. The brewer met us at the door and led us to the brew house where once again with Tom’s translation we were taken step by step through the brew process. One of our lot, John, who’s a home brewer filled a note book, whilst keeping the brewer busy with questions. Our first drink here was a Dampf Bier,(steam) a mild low hopped Pils looking brew that was very refreshing. After the tour of the brewery’s working part, it was time to take our places at the tables reserved for us and listen to some world class jazz music. Every Sunday morning the place fills for a jazz "frühschoppen".(early drink session) The music was very good and not so loud that it hindered conversation. Along with lunch which was a choice of a dozen items, we drank three more beers, a Salonbier, a top fermented brownish brew, a Zwickelbier, the unfiltered version of Salonbier and a Stern Pils. All went down well. Somewhere during this period The Great Kevino, got on stage, commandeered a microphone and made a speech, thanking the world for existing, so he could have so much fun in it. The room politely applauded when he finished, God knows what they thought he said. I would have gladly spent the rest of the afternoon there, but a quick look at the clock, and it was time to head back to the airport.

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The Great Kevino, Himself
. Off we went, arriving with moments to spare,our baggage having grown a bit with collector glasses and what not, and Pat must of had a bag full of beer pins alone, as he bought them by the handful. It was then a hearty hand shake, a wave and we bier tourers were in the air winging our way home. When Tom invited me along on the tour he had asked me if I’d like to write it up, I do the occasional pub review, and I said I would if he’d allow me to make critique when I thought it called for. He agreed. However, I must say, that after my experience and the feelings I got from my fellow tourers, the only negative comment that could be made is that the time went by too fast! The flight was fine with a minimun of airport stress. The coach was modern and comfortable. The hotel was first rate. The food was good and interesting. The tour was well organized. The people we met were all friendly. The beer of course, was wonderful.

Value for money? Everything we ate and almost everything we drank was included in the price. Try to find a better weekend for the money!

What more can I say, do yourself a favor and take a Knickerbocker Bier Tour!