Written by Franz Hofer for A Tempest in a Tankard


Düsseldorf is only about forty-five minutes from Cologne by train — so close, yet in beer miles so far away. Düsseldorf and Cologne are unique: ale strongholds amid a sea of German lager. Yet these two “keepers of the ale faith” are rivals in all things beer. Order a beer in Cologne and you’ll get a golden-hued Kölsch. Do the same in Düsseldorf and you’ll get a copper-coloured Altbier. And woe to those who order the wrong beer in the wrong town.

Düsseldorf is the informal capital of German fashion and home to some of Germany’s most cutting-edge contemporary architecture. But forward-looking as the Düsseldorfers are, the very name of their beloved beer points in the direction of times past: Altbier, a beer made the way the Rhinelanders made beer before the tidal wave of lager swept the country.

And the city does love to drink. Locals call Düsseldorf’s Altstadt “the longest bar in the world.” You’ll find a bar in just about every building and on every street corner, mainly non-descript boozers catering to hordes of imbibers careening from one bar to the next. Fortunately, though, you’ll still find oases of Altbier amid this ocean of cheap suds and shots.

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