It’s no secret that Germany is the land of beer; although, they are neither the world’s largest consumer nor producer of beer as many people might assume. (False German stereotype #1 = officially squashed!) But they do take their beer very seriously, and I think that’s where a lot of the associations between Germans and beer come from. I think breweries especially take a lot of pride in their work and their creations.
Here in the Eifel, most people know the Bitburger brewery, but there are actually a number of other – smaller – regional breweries that can be found in the Eifel. One of those breweries, Vulkan Brauerei, even holds two titles: having the deepest beer cellar in the world and brewing the best craft beer in Germany (2017 winner).
Touring the Beer Cellar
There are actually a lot of things you can do at the Vulkan Brauerei. We spent the whole day there recently, but we started our visit off with a tour of the beer cellar since that was the main thing that drew us there to begin with.
We reserved our spots online ahead of time, which I don’t think you necessarily HAVE to do, but it’s certainly possible that if you don’t, the group might fill up. Now, whether you pay for the tour there or prepay online, you have to go into the gift shop to get a token in order to enter the cellar. We just showed the lady behind the counter our tickets in my husband’s Apple Wallet, and she gave us each a token. Then we went back outside to the turnstile that leads down to the cellar to wait for our tour guide.
The reason you need the token is for the turnstile. The only way to go through it is by depositing your token. Before we headed in, though, our tour guide told us some brief facts about the cellar and what we should expect once we entered. See, as soon as you go through the turnstile, you head down a narrow staircase. I’m 5’4, and I had to duck my head just a tiny bit in a couple of spots. My poor husband is 6’4 and was basically bent in half all the way down. It’s cold, it’s kind of wet everywhere, and so you have to be careful.
In total, there are 153 steps – taking you roughly 100 feet underground.
Our tour guide waited until everyone was down, and then we all gathered in one area. He told us a little bit about the cellar – how old it is, recent events they had down there, etc. – and then we started making our way through various “rooms” in the cellar.
I have to admit, I thought the tour would be more about the beer. Yes, he did talk about it a bit at the end, but I would say 80% of the tour was more about how the volcanic rock was mined in the past. It is the Vulkaneifel, and I believe he said we were either standing in what used to be a lava stream or under what used to be a lava stream, so it was interesting to hear a bit about the history of the cellar. But, my German vocabulary is still quite limited when it comes to the sciences, so I got kind of lost after a while, and then – by no fault of the tour guide – I kind of stopped paying attention and just took in my surroundings instead.
That being said, I still completely enjoyed the tour. I especially liked how they had mannequins staged in certain places to give you a feel of what it was like when people worked down there in the past. The place is massive, and I got the feeling we only saw a teeny tiny portion of it.
So, here are the most interesting tidbits I took away from the tour –
- All the way back to the 1800s, breweries were using this cellar – or really, mine – to store and ferment their beer.
- The temperature stays at roughly 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
- The cellar was formed by a volcanic explosion more than 200,000 years ago.
- Romans were the first to mine the volcanic rock from the cellar, which they shipped as far away as Scotland.
- The modern refrigerator sort of put the cellar out of business in a sense.
- Today, only the Vulkan Brauerei uses the cellar for their beer.
I was a tiny bit worried about the tour as I usually don’t do well with tight spaces or anything underground, but I didn’t have any problems at all. It was just rough climbing those stairs back up after the tour was over.
Enjoying a Beer Tasting
We wanted to have the full brewery experience, so in addition to the cellar tour, we also reserved spots for one of their beer tastings. You don’t need a token for the beer tasting, but you have to know where to meet. Just outside of the gift shop is a sign that basically says, “Beer Tasting – Wait Here.” We joined the group of people standing there, and after a few minutes, our host arrived. He checked our tickets/receipts (we also prepaid for this online), and then he led us back outside (so, if it’s winter, keep your coat nearby) to a small building towards the back of the parking lot.
We had a small group – six people total, including me and my husband – and I was the only non-German. What I noticed, though, was that it was all couples. This was actually my first ever beer tasting, so I had to watch everyone else because I had no idea what I was doing.
Note to other Americans – I did one thing wrong, so you should learn from my mistake. When we got into the room, it was filled with picnic tables. My husband went to the bathroom, so I was alone with all of the other people. The two girls also went to the bathroom, and they left their purses on various seats before doing so. The guys were all standing up and sort of scattered throughout the room, so I didn’t know where to sit. In a panic, I just sat down at the end of the picnic table close to the host and the bar area. Well, the two guys sat down at the opposite end of the picnic table at about the same time. The ladies came back, moved their purses, and sat down by the two guys. I didn’t know if I was also supposed to join them, so I just stayed where I was. My husband came back, sat with me, and then whispered, “Did you pick these seats?” I knew it right then. I had done something wrong. So, then I was paranoid the whole time that I had done something super rude because I sat us away from the rest of the group. My husband said it wasn’t a big deal, but if you go, make sure you sit next to the other people, especially where you see bottles of water. Our host put out two bottles of water, and of course, the spot where I sat us didn’t have a bottle of water because we were supposed to sit with the group.
So, back to the story.
We got to try four different beers: a Pale Ale, a Porter, a light beer, and a dark beer.
Our host – I’m not actually sure what title I should give him here – was awesome. After pouring our beer, he would explain to us how it had been brewed, what makes it a Pale Ale, Porter, etc., and all kinds of other interesting facts about the beer. He had us look through the beer and then smell it, and then he talked to us about the various flavors. He told us stories and was very friendly and chatty. At one point, my husband said something about the beer and made a reference to us living in Bitburger Land, and that was actually pretty cool because then he talked about some of the differences between the Vulkan Brauerei and Bitburger. I have to say, though, I felt a little bit like we were cheating on Bitburger at that point, even though neither of us really drinks Bitburger.
One thing we kind of did wrong was to go to the beer tasting on empty stomachs. See, we made dinner reservations in the restaurant for later that evening, and we wanted to be sure that we were good and hungry, but we didn’t think about the fact that we would be drinking beer beforehand. You get half of a beer for each tasting, so that means you drink a total of two bottles of beer. I guess that’s actually not much, but we don’t drink beer often, and so doing it before dinner meant we got pretty tipsy.
The other people might have, too, because the conversations kept getting louder and more jovial as the night went on, so at least we all had a fun time!
A couple of things you should know if you go (and especially if you don’t speak German) –
- Sit where the host puts bottles of water.
- If you don’t like the beer, pour it out into the empty jugs on the table.
- People were very honest when they didn’t like one of the beers, so you don’t need to feel pressured to pretend like you like all of them.
- If the group is having a good time, the beer tasting may run well over the 60 minutes. We actually had to leave before it was all the way over because of our dinner reservation. But, the host was really cool about it and let me take my glass of beer with me over to the restaurant.
- Their award-winning craft beer is not part of the beer tasting.
Dining in the Restaurant
If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, then you know that we are all about the food. And, for the most part, it did not disappoint.
First of all, the restaurant itself is beautiful – and packed. I have a feeling that without a reservation, you won’t have a chance at a table. Secondly, the staff is so nice. I was talking to my husband about how they brew the Bourbon Barrel beer (try saying that three times in a row). We were trying to stay completely in German, but I was having trouble understanding some of his words because it was loud and I had drunk two beers on an empty stomach, so I asked him to repeat himself. He spoke slower and was trying really hard to clearly enunciate. Well, one of our waiters saw this going on, came over to the table, and explained everything to me in English. Yes, I was practicing my German, but I thought it was very nice of him to take the initiative to explain things to me, even considering how busy they were.
As for the food, I had a steak that was pretty good. What I didn’t like was that it was already cool when they brought it to the table. I tend to eat very slowly, so by the time I got halfway through it, it was basically cold. I didn’t say anything to the waiter, so that’s at least partially my fault. The potatoes, though, were amazing, and my husband was very happy with his meal.We also ordered their Bourbon Barrel Doppelbock because this is the beer that won the title of Best Craft Beer in Germany last year. It was so good. It’s expensive, but I thought it was absolutely worth the price.And then, of course, we had to try their cookie dessert because I had read so many things about it. IT. WAS. HEAVEN. Oh my gosh, it was the most amazing cookie dessert I think I’ve ever eaten. If you go to the restaurant, I don’t care how full you are afterward, order the cookie. You will thank me, I promise.
Know Before You Go
I would totally recommend taking a trip out to the Vulkan Brauerei. We had a blast, and it was a really unique experience.
- Whatever activity you decide to participate in, be there at least five minutes early. They started everything exactly on time, and if you’re not there, you’re ‘gonna be out of luck.
- In addition to the cellar tour and the beer tasting, there is also a brewery tour. We just decided to skip that one.
- The Vulkan Brauerei is just a one hour drive from Spangdahlem.
- You have to wear shoes with a little grip in the tread if you want to do the cellar tour because it’s uneven in places, and some spots are even wet.
- If the parking lot out front is full, drive behind the brewery. It looks like a private area, but it’s not. There is another parking lot back there.
- If you reserve everything online, it’s a tiny bit confusing because there is no option to reserve a table in the restaurant even though the form’s title makes it sound like you can. My suggestion would be to write a comment at the bottom of the reservation form telling them you want a table as well, with the time and number of people. We called after submitting the form because we hadn’t added that information, and they added it for us. So, you can also always call, too.
- I have no idea if the tours and/or beer tastings have English options, but even if they don’t, you should still do them. You will have a great experience regardless of how much you understand. The staff in the restaurant, however, spoke English.
- The address of the Vulkan Brauerei is Laacher See Straße 2, Mendig, Germany, 56743.
Links, Links, & More Links
Here is the link to the brewery. The various activities are listed under the tab “Erlebniss.”
Here is a link to the International Craft Beer competition that named the Vulkan Brauerei’s Bourbon Barrel Doppelbock best in Germany.
Here is a link to their page on TripAdvisor.
Have you been to the Vulkan Brauerei? Tell me about your experience!