Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Leeds-Dortmund Connection

As a young scamp, meeting your mates in ‘town’ in the eighties and early nineties meant only one place – ‘The Fat Man with The Barrel’. We didn’t care who he was, with his mercurial grin and smiling eyes poking out from under his cap, and we cared even less. He was just ‘the’ place to meet and tower over us as we plotted how to get our underage selves into The Odeon cinema to watch Tim Burton’s Batman.
Given that I see the rotund fella most days as I travel to work, I started thinking only recently about his connection with Leeds – and how that connection is Beer.

Leeds was twinned with Dortmund in in 1969, and to celebrate ten years of partnership, we were presented with the bronze Dortmund Drayman, which was sculpted by a chap named Arthur Shulze-Engles.
In my mind, the beer connection hits home straight away. Whereas Leeds has beer, with Tetley’s in particular propping up its history, Dortmund has its Pale ale. Dortmunder Union were, as the name suggests, a cabal of smaller, local brewhouses who joined forces to brew a new, pale, pilsner-style thirst quencher for the factory workers, and became the largest exponents of the style in the process. The beer became known simply as “Dortmunder Union” and the rest is beery history. This refreshing, crisp pale ale was so popular that Dortmunder Union became Germany's largest brewery for a while. Although dwarfed by Pils sales these days in the homeland, the style has its fans and remains somewhat cultish over here.
I’ve sipped Dortmunder Union many a time at North Bar – in fact, it was a bit of a staple when I was younger and didn’t know enough to make an informed decision when faced with North’s kaleidoscopic beer list (They have DAB on tap nowadays). To me and my buddies, ‘Union’ was a clean, crisp lager sophisticate, and it certainly helped those long hot summers (that we don’t get anymore, it would seem) go by a lot faster. Purists would argue that DU is a style in itself, something that I personally don’t agree with, but I’m glad we are twinned with a city with something of interest to me- and I hope that others agree with my notion that ‘The Fat Man with the Barrel’ should stand proudly (but thirstily) side by side with our glowering Black Prince in terms of sights to see in Leeds.


Matt Gorecki said...

Hey Leigh, you're right Dortmunder Union is sorely missed at North. DAB is an excellent replacement but doesn't quite have that winning smoothness of Union.

Union was phased out as an export when Brinkhoff's was formed and DAB was pushed in lieu. Something from Dortmund is always permanent due to Leeds' historic links with the city.

I'm always looking out for Dortmunder beers, if you have a little look at Michael Jackson's beer companion there's a comprehensive list of beers in the style.

Many are still available, one of the most interesting I've tried is SAS brau which is actually a Belgian job, it's really good and at last year's Belgian beer festival flew out in a day. I'll be buying plenty more this year, I may also have a line on some bottled Dortmunder Union - I'll let you know... Watch this space!

Rob Sterowski said...

Dortmund pale ale? Am I missing something?

ZakAvery said...

Nice post, Leigh.

Barry M said...

Sounds like you were able to get DUB Export easier than I could in Dortmund! :D Asking for a DAB or DUB around here will normally get you a pils.

Nice to see the links between the cities though :)

My wife's home town has a similar statue of a guy with a barrel, only he's tilting it over, with water pouring out fed by a spring. Not such a romantic beer link though, as the Kiwwelschisser represents how proud the citizens are of the fact they were one of the first town in the area to have their shit taken away in barrels in the medieval period. Thankfully things have moved on since then. :)

Leigh said...

Bolero - interesting, didnt know that about how Brinkhoff's repositioned DAB. thanks. Barry - nice linkage - another beery fact! Barm - my phrase!

Bailey said...

Dortmund's a really nice place, for what it's worth, and definitely a good place to visit if you're in the region. Brinkhoff's No 1 (as I've said many times...) is a very, very boring beer. Sadly, I don't think we came across any 'export' at all on our visit.

Barry M said...

Just thought, if you're looking for beer recommendations from Dortmund, you could do worse than Hövels Original (previously called Hövels Bitterbier). A slightly corny website, as many German brewery sites are, but it's one of my go-to beers when out in the pub.

The brand, and hence the stuff you get in bottles and kegs is, as far as I know, made by the Oetker Group, but they still operate the brewpub which I was told still makes it on site for serving on the premises. I tried it there and it felt a little sweeter and less hoppy than the Hövels I got elsewhere. It's a bit like an altbier, but also leaning towards a bitter. Although considering I thought Schlüssel Alt tasted a bit like London Pride, there's probably more similarities than differences. :)

Leigh said...

Bailey - defo a place I would consider, yeah. Barry - thanks for the tip. Always welcome. Brinkhoffs - not good. I think we talked about this on one of Bailey's posts not so long ago.

Phil C said...

Anything like an IPA tradition there?

Leigh said...

Philip - not that I am aware of, mate.

Barry M said...

If you mean an IPA-like tradition in Dortmund, not a hope (or not a hop?), unfortunately. Of course that depends what interpretation of IPA, as my views have probably been skewed by the American flavour. :)

Hazzardous said...

good to hear about this connection.
stay in touch, we are opening a bierkeller, it would be good to talk