Beer Hall Eating in Köln

28 11 2011

A couple of weekends ago, Nick and I found ourselves in Cologne, Germany (Köln to the natives) for a concert.  Thanks to the Thalys high-speed train network, the trip from Paris was a short three hours, allowing us to spend the better part of two days eating and drinking our way through the city’s many beer halls.  We arrived in time for lunch, and after finding our hotel, headed straight for the Päffgen Hausbrauerei.

Paffgen brewery

The beers (Kölsch, and Kölsch alone) are brought around on deep trays with slots to hold the narrow glasses. The waiter keeps a tally of how many you’ve ordered on your coaster.

sauerbraten & potato dumplings

I had sauerbraten, a dish of braised beef in a sweet-and-sour sauce traditionally thickened with ground gingersnaps.  It came with potato dumplings and applesauce.  Classic.


Nick ordered the bratwurst, sold in lengths of three-quarters of a meter.  It was served with a tiny tureen of spicy mustard.


Just look at the lovely lace the Kölsch leaves behind on the glass.

After lunch we went out to do a little sightseeing.

Upwards, not forwards!

The cathedral is stunning.  It just goes up forever.  And it is there to greet you upon exiting the train station.

Köln Cathedral

Nearby, at the bierhaus Früh am Dom, a party atmosphere reigns, with waiters scurrying around making sure that everyone has a full glass.  We found the crush of people overwhelming, and the beer underwhelming, so Nick and I moved on, to the Sion brauerei.  Which was a train wreck.  All the beer was pouring foamy, glasses and dishes seemed to be breaking left and right.  Everyone was stressed.  After a short walk along the Rhine river, and a number of failed attempts to find a place we could sit and have a snack before the concert (apparently the Germans hold mealtimes much less sacred than the French – places were packed with people drinking and eating by 5 pm), we ended up at Gilden im Zims, a cavernous bier haus where we noshed on weisswurst and soft pretzels served with butter and sweet mustard.

more lion's head crockery

We also had a sour cherry strudel, the photos of which were completely unremarkable.

The next day dawned cold and sunny.  Following a wonderful brunch buffet (not words you’ll hear from me very often), Nick and I once again set out to taste Kölsch.  The small size – 20 cl, or less than 7 oz. – of the glasses makes it easy to taste a wide variety without losing your senses.  We visited Peter’s Brauhaus, where we sipped beer under bowers of hops, and the smells of dumplings and sausages wafting from the kitchen managed to reawaken our appetites.  But rather than get stuck all afternoon in one spot, no matter how gemütlich (cozy, welcoming) that place may be.  So we left, and I sure am glad we did, because at the very next stop we found our very favorite beer of the whole trip.


There, on the sunny terrace of the Pfaffen Brauerei, Nick and I sipped their kölsch from beautiful glasses.

I really wanted to buy some of these glasses, but they didn't have any for sale.

And we immediately grinned at each other.  Gorgeous hop bitterness and crisp, refreshing body made this beer the clear winner of our tasting.


As we enjoyed our beers, I took a gander at the food menu and noticed that they had a special menu for game season.  Sold.  Only it wasn’t quite time to eat yet – we wanted to fortify ourselves before our train ride home – so we had to find a distraction.


Fortunately, Köln is full of distractions for beer-lovers such as ourselves.  We took another short walk down to the river, skipping the Lowenbrau brauhaus in favor of the Bierhaus en d’r Salzgass, tucked away on a cobbled side street.  They happen to pour Päffgen beer, which we’d already tasted at the brewery the day before.  But we liked it, and the imposing-yet-cozy, dark carved wood-and-wrought iron interior intrigued us enough to settle in.


Of course, I thought we should have an apéro, so I convinced Nick that we couldn’t leave Germany without splitting a plate of liverwurst.

Liver and onions? Yes, please!

After which, we went straight back to Pfaffen for dinner.


Nick chose the wildschweinbraten, sauerbraten made with wild boar in place of the usual beef.


I had the goulasch of venison.  Both dishes were served with potato dumplings, braised red cabbage, cranberry sauce (I have suspicions that these were actually lingonberries),  and a baked apple, which made a lovely dessert after the hearty meal.

An aside – until I looked back through these photos, I hadn’t realized how ubiquitous the lion’s head soup bowls were, but I seem to have captured them in no less than three different places.  Funny.

Our bellies full of warming German food, Nick and I hopped on the train back to Paris, where we dozed and read and after three hours, we were home.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.




21 responses

28 11 2011

Okay wow, among what you posted I don’t think there is 1 thing I can eat there. But the sites? Yes please! Really need to get to Germany!

28 11 2011

The cathedral looks absolutely amazing; stunning detail and architecture. Was the cathedral damaged during WWII?

29 11 2011

Oh Camille, I love this post!! It made me wish I were back in Europe and traveling, eating, and drinking everywhere like never before…
I’m tempted to try the German places around here that get pretty good reviews… I’ll let you know if we do 🙂
xo to you & nick

29 11 2011

Ah I love goulasch! and bratwurst! No one does sausages like the Germans.

29 11 2011

Lindsey – Come on, there was *some* beef. 🙂

Michel – It is truly breathtaking. While Cologne itself was pretty much flattened during WWII, the cathedral remained standing, though I’m sure it needed much repair afterwards. There’s a whole Wikipedia page about it if you want to know more, which you probably do, since it is fascinating.

Celine – In a way, it’s easy to take the travel opportunities for granted. I’m relishing every minute, though, because I think my free weekends are short-lived. Miss you!

Jessica – They really know what they’re doing with their charcuterie in Germany, that’s for sure. 🙂

30 11 2011
Inger Wilkerson

What a wonderful excursion! One of the best things about living in Europe would be the proximity of… so much! My oldest is studying in Edinburgh this year and will soon be popping down to London to see the Royal Ballet’s Nutcracker (making her ballet studying sisters extremely jealous) and doing a jaunt to Spain to visit a friend studying there. Paris comes in the spring (and I know she is craving a good hamburger–impossible to get in Edinburgh she says).

30 11 2011
hungry dog

What a fun trip! I have never been to Germany but would love to go. That cathedral looks amazing. And, kolsch is my favorite kind of beer (after Sierra Nevada, which reigns supreme in this house!)

1 12 2011
Bier Beer | An American Brewmaster

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1 12 2011

Oh, a pox on the horrendous cold and bung toe that prevented me from ducking quickly into Koln after Munich and Berlin! Thank heavens I’ve seen a glimpse of this part of Germany through your eyes, Camille. I’ve always trusted your eyes.

I think you know that I’m not the hugest fan of meat, but any main meal that’s flavoured with cookies gets my vote. Also, you know the wildschweinbraten plate? I’m pretty sure it’s staring at me.

Actually, I’m often happy to try game meats. Hand your plate over, Camille. I’ll finish it off.

3 12 2011

Inger – Great! When your daughter is in Paris, be sure to send her my way… to Blend Hamburgers! 🙂

hungry dog – Kölsch is one of Nick’s favorite styles as well. It can be harder to find in the States, but Pyramid makes a good one in the summertime.

Hannah – I was amused by the cafeteria-style plates they had. And you’re right, the dumplings do kind of look like eyeballs. Or boobs. 🙂 Well, now you’ve been to Berlin, and I haven’t, so we’re even for now.

7 12 2011

Eye-boobs, even.

16 12 2011
Inger Wilkerson

My daughter is definitely interested in your burgers (I think she actually started to drool)–do you have a website?

20 12 2011

Yes, we do. It’s, but right now the most current information is on our Facebook page.

7 12 2011

Sounds like you had a great time. You know, I rarely eat meat but sausage is what I love. three quarters of a meter has me in stitches. Glad you were there to share.

7 12 2011

Tammy – Hilarious, isn’t it?

7 12 2011
The Troika Table

Your photos bring back happy memories for me! We used to live right along the rail line between Koeln and Trier, and I love both cities. We’re still in Germany, but not so close to either one now.

I’ve fixed refrigerator-case and boil-in-the-bag knudeln, but I’d like to try making them from scratch sometime – the ones in your photos look delicious!

7 12 2011

Troika Table – Are knudeln the dumplings? I’d like to try recreating them at home myself!

7 12 2011
The Troika Table

Yes, I’ve also seen it spelled knoedel, and at a little St. Andreas market we went to a week ago, they were called hoorische knepp (perhaps not spelled correctly, but our friend said the translation is hairy balls :)) – it was basically the same potato dumpling, with a bacon cream sauce. I’m determined to figure out the recipe!

8 12 2011

Love the sound of a bacon cream sauce!

8 02 2012

Wow! there are so many delicious food to be found and try on Germany. Sure to love having a trip back to Germany this Summer!!

8 02 2012

Sebastian – Have fun!

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