I traveled to Detmold for this story as a guest of Nordrhein-Westfalen Tourismus (www.nrw-tourism.com). As always, all opinions are my own.
“Normally you can see it from here,” our host explained. “But with this fog…”
Our small group of writers followed her along the paved path, unable to see much more than fifty yards ahead. There was some freshly quenched green grass on either side of the path, but that’s about it. Otherwise, there was the feeling of walking into the abyss. Such a setting could’ve been used for an apocalyptic film, but in reality, we were just making our way to the popular monument.
As we neared, a silhouette started to form–a tall oval shape capped with a slender figure on top. Without the details, it looked like a giant bell you might find on hotel reception, ready to be rung for service. Or better yet, it could’ve been a spacecraft, like in a scene where the heroes tiptoe toward the alien ship. Except instead of shattering what we thought we knew about the universe, we were probably just going to get some nice pictures.
Eventually, it became visible through the fog––Hermannsdenkmal or Hermann’s Monument. The ancient warrior’s inanimate sword, hoisted high above the surrounding Teutoburger Forest as if trying to conjure lightning, proved impotent against the early spring weather. Nonetheless, he stood his ground as I climbed up the roughly 180-foot tower to the observation deck where I could look up and see him hovering above, as turquoise green as the Statue of Liberty.
Hermannsdenkmal gets the glory, but there’s more to this region than Lady Liberty’s brother from another copper mother. Detmold’s old town center, littered with photogenic half-timbered homes, is just down the hill. And perhaps the true pride of town, Brauerei Strate, is a mere residential stroll away where even the heaviest drinker would need a few days to properly sample everything they’re brewing.
- When To Visit
The monument is open from April 1st to November 3rd, 9 am until 6:30 pm. From November 4th to the end of March, they’re open 9:30 am to 4 pm.
Entry for an adult is €4. Kids (14 and under) are €2.
- How To Arrive
From Detmold, a bus service Saturdays, Sundays, and during public holidays on the Tourist Line 792 up to the Hermannsdenkmal parking lot. On weekdays, you could take line 703 (Kreuzweg bus stop) and route 704 (Hiddeser Straße stop) up to Hiddesen. From there, it’s a short hike to the monument. More transit information here (in German only).
Hermannsdenkmal is along the 226-kilometer (140-mile) Hermannshöhen trail. Stage eight from Oerlinghausen ends at the monument; stage nine to Leopoldstal (passing the Externsteine) begins at the monument. (Read more about the trail here and previous coverage of the trail here.)
Brauerei Strate sits on a residential street in a mansion of a building, the kind Professor Xavier might turn into a boarding school for some gifted students. The physical size can easily serve as a testament to the reputation and skill of the Strate family, a prestige they started to harness back in 1979 when husband and wife duo Friedrich and Renate Strate brought their first beer to the market. It was an instant hit and the family business was started with their daughter Friederike coming on board as the “Jüngste Braumeisterin Deutschlands.” That’s the youngest female brewer in Germany. The family never looked back, becoming one of the largest independent, family breweries in Germany.
Fredrich passed away in 1995, but his beloved wife Renate is still with the brewery as is his brewing daughter and son Simone. They’re continuing with their philosophy to brew “echt handgebraut” beer, which emphasizes the human touch that continues in their brewing process. They don’t rely exclusively on modern technology or look for the fastest brewing technique in order to ship as much product as possible. Rather, they give their liquid wonders time to mature in cold storage before being gently filtered and revealing their modern take on a historic style, given new life to long-forgotten recipes and ingredients.
For the Strate team, love and passion for their brew are just as important to the process as the malt. If you’ve ever spoken to a chef, a craftsperson, or any other creator of things, then you know the line isn’t just PR bullshit. And seeing Frederike excitedly welcoming everyone to the brewery on a Saturday evening, handing out beers, and sharing her story, it’s obvious the passion is still as fervent as ever. In fact, it was her very own father who said, “Wer schaffen will, muss fröhlich sein, Tränen lassen nichts gelingen.” Roughly translated, that’s “anyone who wants to accomplish anything must be happy because tears don’t allow for success.”
There were no tears at Brauerei Strate.
On the Frontlines of Hops and Barley
You’d think writing about beer is an easy task. I’m here to tell you that’s patently false. I mean, think about it. Beer intoxicates you. That’s the foundation we’re working off of. Even if you’re drinking beers on the lighter side, like a Pilsner or Kellerbier, there’s still booze in there. And unless you’ve maintained your collegiate stamina (in which case, seek help), you’re going to start feeling it after one or two. Throw into the mix any one of the various creative craft beers out there that laugh in the face of four percent ABV and you’re in for a hazy memory.
That’s all well and good when you’re just out with a couple of friends. But when you’re reporting on the frontlines of hops and barley for a parched audience, you can’t stop at one or two. That’d be irresponsible. You have to trudge forward and drink the hoppy Chardonnay-type creation, the bourbon-infused behemoth, and the Bock tiptoeing near 10 percent ABV, and at no point can you so much as cower. The waiter comes by, asks if you want to try another, and no matter what it is, you play the role of a gracious host and accept, because you’re drinking beer for work and you damn well better be grateful.
So that’s what I did. I sat there, gnawed away at my Schweinshaxe (a roasted pork knuckle from the end of the little oinker’s leg), and sampled everything from the more traditional Zwickel (an unfiltered, unpasteurized German lager dating back to the Middle Ages) and Landbier (defined either as a German session or simply a ‘traditional’ beer) to Strate’s more experimental creations, including the award-winning Detmolder Bourbon Chardonnay and Detmolder Polar Bock. Although I was nearing the end of my rope, I still managed to lodge the deliciousness of these creative concoctions to the longterm memory sectors of my mushy brain box.
It’s cliche in travel writing to declare, “I already want to go back,” but sweet Christ on a bourbon barrel, I already want to go back. This place had everything down the way it’s supposed to be. They even brought out small bowls of various malts for snacks where inferior establishments would leave peanuts. I swear with a little milk, one of them could make for a nice bowl of breakfast müsli, proving once and for all that beer (at least the ingredients) have a place in every meal of the day.
The Next Chapter
I awoke the next morning at the classically elegant Hotel Lippescher Hof after the kind of blissful sleep that good beer in good company can provide. (That chunk of hog’s leg in my belly didn’t hurt either.) Yet after working my way through the initial morning haze, stretching my limbs out across the bed in every which direction, it occurred to me that there were still a number of Brauerei Strate beers that escaped my liver. As an occasional beer writer, it’s not something I’m proud to admit, that I left the story without completing my research.
Fortunately, it’s a tragedy I can easily avoid with a return visit. After all, Detmold is a mere two-and-a-half hour train journey away. Methinks the next chapter awaits.
Brewery tours run April through October, Mondays through Fridays for €19.50 per person, which includes an hour-long tour, Schweinshaxe with coleslaw, and a beer tasting. More information (in German) here.
Looking for more Germany? Check out the Germany off the beaten path travel guide, my top things to do in Germany, the most important German travel phrases, and how to ride the German train system. Want something more literary? Read chapters from my upcoming memoir on moving to and living in Germany — There Must Be Order.