Saturday, 20 February 2010

Alt versus Kölsch

At the risk of appearing like I'm becoming a beer-war correspondent, it looks like that old rivalry between beer towns Cologne and Düsseldorf is heating up. Beer geeks will no doubt be aware of this competitiveness between the people of these two cities on the Rhine when it comes to loyalty to their city's respective beer, Kölsch or Alt. I even see it in my office when the subject of either type of beer is raised, although the majority seem to prefer Alt, based on the Kölsch blind tasting I ran a while back.

The latest salvo was triggered in response to a series of billboards comissioned by Früh that were displayed all over Düsseldorf, basically showing an empty glass of Kölsch with the words “Before it gets old”, with Alt, of course, being the German for old.

Torsten Heinson, a CEO of communications company Wunderknaben (wonder boys is a rough translation), saw this and decided enough was enough, the Kölners had breached the walls and had to be repulsed. Gathering the collective creativism of fellow Düsseldorfer and Altbier-fan colleagues, art directors, web designers and copywriters came together to create a focal-point, Alt Knallt (more or less Alt Bangs, in the fireworks sense), as a non-commercial initiative to try to mobilse the masses via social media to rescue their beloved Altbier from the encroachments of the pale invader.



Interestingly, no breweries are yet involved, and Wunderknaben are taking this on board as an internal project for the love of the beer and as a social experiment in trying to rally the troops while having a bit of fun.

So far it seems like early days. There are Facebook, Twitter and other social networking accounts ready to go, and the Alt Knallt site itself has a forum and an area where supporters can upload their own billboard designs as a counter-attack to insidious Kölsch invasion.

If I had to take sides, I think it's clear where my loyalties would lie, so here's my English-language contribution to the efforts. I know it just doesn't translate into German, but you get the meaning, right?

14 comments:

Mark said...

Haha, brilliant! And maybe beer-war correspondent is your new niche in the beer blog world?

So is this essentially just a marketing war at the moment, with no breweries actually involved?! If it's successful then it's a very interesting experiment in social media...

Woolpack Dave said...

I need to get over there and see what this Alt stuff is about....

Barry M said...

I dunno, Mark, I'd need more to support my niche than Brewdog/Schorschbraeu and Cologne/Dusseldorf! :D

Yeah, although clearly Früh was involved in getting it's ads into Dusseldorf poking fun at Alt. It seems that the Dusseldorf Altbier breweries didn't react, so this group is doing it for them. From what they told me last night, it is a bit of an experiment, so even if it doesn't do what they want it to do (mobilise altbier lovers), then they'll still learn something out of the experience.

Dave, I'd be happy to meet you in Dusseldorf for a pub crawl. Or I can send you some. Not quite the same as from the tap, perhaps. :)

Bailey said...

Heh heh. Your advert is funny.

I like both types of beer but, if I had to choose one, it'd probably be alt.

Russ said...

Alt gegen Kölsch? Although Altbier is my favorite style of all, I'll shamefully admit to enjoying Kölsch as well. Unfortunately, while you can get good Kölsch-style ales in the U.S., most American-brewed Altbiers are terrible. And because most Americans don't have access to Düsseldorf Alts, they think the weak American Alts are good examples of the style. This causes many Americans to conclude that Altbier is a crappy style, which then decreases the demand for a good Alt here in the U.S. And because there's little demand for a good Düsseldorf-style Alt, we continue to be stuck with the few weak American Alts on the market, and thus the cycle of crappy American Alts continues.

Barry M said...

Ouch! Funny thing is, Uerige, which makes one of my favourite Altbiers, makes this Uerige Doppelsticke for export to the US. I think you can only get it here if you go to the brewery, and then only on certain occasions. Actually, that's wrong, as I could order it on-line too.

See if you can find some of that though!

Just wondering now, would a crappy Alt be better than a good Koelsch? A true blind tasting might be required :D

Russ said...

It's funny... You can get Uerige Doppelsticke at just about any good beer store (at least here in Chicago). The regular Sticke--my personal favorite--is less-frequently stocked but available from time to time. The original Alt? Virtually impossible to find. It certainly makes sense given the American market, but for somebody like me who's had the joy of drinking in Düsseldorf, it really sucks. Here I am with beers like Dark Lord and Kuhnhenn Raspberry Eisbock at home and I'd gladly trade them for some Schumacher and Füchschen Altbier if only we could get them here.

Oh, and as much as I love Alts, I assure you that a crappy Alt is not better than a good Kölsch!

Tom said...

I love both styles and just about all German beers. I welcome the diversity and will always have enough room on my fridge for both. This is one debate where I'll sit on the sidelines. Although, I do believe this beer-war carries more weight than Bud vs. Miller.

Barry M said...

Russ, one thing I've noticed about buying bottles of Uerige in my local beer store is that they list the bottled on date, and the best before date is four weeks later. Could be one reason they don't export much of it.

Tom, to be honest, I'll drink anything, but I do have a preference for alt, in general terms. I think much of this is the friendly rivalry between two neighbouring cities manifesting through beer. Maybe that's what keeps it friendly! Or maybe I'm not seeing the full story :D

Martin said...

Great poster you made! Any chance of a high resolution version so I could print it?

Barry M said...

Thanks, Martin. Unfortunately not, as I was working with images I grabbed from the Alt Knallt site, so the resolution was a bit crap. If I can get a high-res image of a glass of Frueh I could do it :D

Here's another one I did, although I'd arrange it differently if I was doing it again.

Martin said...

"If I can get a high-res image of a glass of Frueh I could do it :D"

That's trick question, isn't it? ;-)

Altbier said...

Yes - there is no doubt! I drink Altbier. I do not like Kölsch. My most favorite beers are Fueschschen Alt and Langenfelder Alt. Both are Altbier - what else?

Kind regards to all readers especially to the visitors from Düsseldorf!

(Sorry for my bad english) ;)

Barry M said...

Thanks for commenting, and sorry for the slow response. Moving house and Telekom problems... ;)

I really liked Fueschschen, but never had the pleasure of Langenfelder Alt. Now that I've moved south (north Baden), my choice of Altbier is nearly zero!