After almost a year living with a 40 minute drive of Oelde, the home of Pott's Landbier, we finally went today. Pott's Landbier was one of my regular local beers, and it appears to receive somewhat of a cult following in this area, although it seems people either love it or hate it. I have to admit I like their quirky website -- including the music which is playing while I type this -- and always had this image of a tavern-like brewery and bakery out in the countryside. Well, with an official name like Pott's Naturpark Brauerei, you imagine Bambi and family frolicking nearby while you sip a landbier and eat their cousins.
My illusions were quickly shattered when I realised that Naturpark is a euphamism for Industrial Park. Ok, it's on the edge, and it's close to the Vier-Jahreszeiten-Park Oelde, but right across the road is a petrol station, a Burger King and a Penny Markt. The building itself is not quite tavern, and is more a large, modern brewing, baking and butchery operation, perched on a slight rise in the Münsterland's mainly featureless landscape. However, with all the glass showing glimpses of brewing equipment all over the place, I was a little excited. The restaurant is modern and bright, with redbrick divides splitting the room up and tables engraved with images of barley and hops at the corners. The menu is what my wife called typcially Westphalian -- based on the fact they mixed carrots and stuff into a white sauce on her fish -- but to me it was typically German, featuring alot of meat. Of course I stayed in with the country theme and picked Leberkase. I should mention that each of the items on the menu had a recommendation for which beer to pair with the dish. On their website they mention that they have two Biersommeliers -- and I'm still not sure how to take that terminology --, the first to qualify for the diploma in the Münsterland. I can't help wondering though if they are limited in their palette of colours to choose from if they must stick to the Pott's beers, tasty as they are.
My son screamed for malzbier (he's a malzbier junkie now) while I politely asked for a landbier. I have to say, I was disappointed with the food. Sure, it was ok, but the bratkartoffeln were a little over-oily, and there was nothing much about the meat. It felt more like canteen fare, but maybe I ordered something too simple. The service and friendliness of the staff was excellent though -- always a bonus when you have a four-year-old -- and quite a large staff they have too. Well, there is the restaurant, the bakery and the butchers to run as well as a fairly large brewery.
The brewery was founded in 1769, but it's clear that the building we were sitting in was not the original. What I didn't know, before today, is that the original is still in use in the heart of Oelde. The first stages of the brewing is still carried out there using water from their own well, and the beer is later brought to the Naturpark site, which was built in 1996, for conditioning, filtering and bottling/kegging. In their information leaflet they say that this idea of brewing in one location and lagering in another location is traditional, and that moving the beer stirs up the yeast and helps the beer along it's merry way. I guess it is traditional if you consider the use of caves in the past for lagering.
You can walk the corridors behind the restaurant and view the rooms for the differnet stages of the processes they carry out at this part of the brewery. The conditioning tanks, the filtration system (complicated looking!) and the state-of-the-art bottling line, complete with robotic arms for lifting crates around. Well, it wasn't running on a Sunday, but I saw the arm working in a video, I swear! I just love robots...
Down the end of the corridor is the Georg-Lechner Biermuseum. The website doesn't do the museum justice, as it's a lovely area to ogle bottles, mugs, labels, posters and brewing equipment from the past. As well as the prettiness, there's a wealth of information about the breweries of the region, past and present, laid out in posters all around, grouped by town. There's so much informaiton it was hard to take in during our brief trip, but one item that really caught my eye was that apparently there were 152 operational breweries in Münster in 1890, between them producing 12,086,000 litres of beer. 7,663,500 bottom fermented and 4,422,500 top fermented if you want to know. I'm not clear on whether those numbers encompass the Münsterland as a whole, or the city, but regardless, now, there is only one operational brewery within the city of Münster, and probably only a handful in the surrounding region. As it was Sunday, there was nobody there to answer questions, but with a bit of time you could learn alot about the brewing history of the major towns of the region. And I'm sure if Georg was there (after waking up and getting out of his barrel) one might get access to his office and the masses of journals there. Oh, and the giant chandelier made of 330ml Pott's swingtop bottles and copper pipe was very nice. I'm tempted to make one myself.
On the Pott's beer front, the Pott's Landbier was a little different from the brewery tap, firstly being colder than I would normally drink from the bottle, but also a little more crisp and hoppy. That could be the temperature of course. Their Pott's Weizen had classic light cloves and banana, but also a nutmeg-like warmth and a nice fullish mouthfeel. Tasty! I have yet to try their Prinzipal and regular Pilseners.
On an aside, I had heard rumours about a beer called Pott's Paddy, which used Irish whiskey malt. I couldn't find it anywhere and began to suspect my colleague was pulling my leg, but today I got it confirmed that it did exist, but no longer. Schade.