It was a miserable wet afternoon in Düsseldorf and for some bizarre reason we went for a long walk along the grey banks of the Rhine, towards the big TV tower. We decided we'd had enough when we reached the wobbly Frank Gehry buildings and discovered that one of them had a bar. Meerbar is a blingtastic lounge-restaurant, big on chandeliers, soft furnishings and beautiful people smoking languidly.
About the only minimalist feature was the beer list, and I spied a beer I'd not tasted in a very long time: Maisel's Weisse. I couldn't believe how intensely sweet it is -- no cloves or yeast or spices or warmth, just a big soft candy floss texture. You want to know what it's like to drink a pint of Sugar Puffs? Grab a Maisel's. After one of these, I was ready to brave the rain again, and try to walk off some of the calories.
At the opposite end of the salubriousness scale there's Bier Museum, a dark poky, scuzzy pub in Cologne which feels like it should be a den of denim-clad bemulleted German rockers, rather than the beer specialist it is. However it's possibly the oddest specialty beer bar I've ever been in. For a start, the twenty-odd taps have no badges on them, and the battered beer list doesn't tell you what several of them are. I'm guessing that the "rauchbier" is Schlenkerla, but which one I don't know and I wasn't going to ask the surly grunting landlord. And in a peculiar fit of city pride, a sign on the bar indicates a choice of 17 different kölsches. That's a lot of yellow fizz.
Our first visit was on a Saturday night when the place was buzzing and we got chatting to a young American soldier who was up from Bonn and finding life in Germany hard, with no access to Sierra Nevada. Aren't the army supposed to supply these basic essentials? We went back a few days later at opening time on a Monday afternoon and had the place to ourselves. I was reacquainted with some lovely Hövels, and then progressed to a warming mug of Kulmbacher Doppelbock. I loved this beer: full and sweet and smoky; pipe tobacco meets smooth milk chocolate. There's no cloying heaviness to it, and the light carbonation makes it immensely satisfying to sit and draw upon. I would definitely look for it again if it wasn't for one thing: as far as I can tell there's no such beer as "Kulmbacher Doppelbock". Either it's something else from the same brewery (which also owns the Mönchshof and Eku marques), or it's a substitute doppelbock from somewhere else entirely.
I highly recommend Bier Museum, but they really know how to wind up the tickers.