Don’t mess with the beer name in Germany

Read the title one more time, DO NOT mess with the beer name in Germany!

Why? Let me tell you a true bitter story of a friend of mine first. Couple of weeks ago a friend of mine from the Netherlands came to visit me in Germany (I was living in Cologne at the time). He was planning on attending a conference in Dusseldorf, which is basically 40 minutes away from Cologne by train. So he came over to my place for a short visit first and we chilled out the first night in a bar. I took him to a regular local bar and ordered some local Kölsch there, since Kölsch is a special local beer in the Cologne region (German word for Cologne is Köln) that you don’t find easily elsewhere, and also I like Kölsch a lot and had been even more loyal to Kölsch than the locals (they always bitch a lot about how Kölsch sucks but drink it anyway). So when the waiter came to take our order, I decided to be a total smug to show off my five-sentence-level German by ordering beers in German (Ordering beers being one of the five sentences that I handsomely learned and mastered). “Zwei Kölsch, bitte! (Two Kölsch please!)” I have practiced this line for countless times to the point that it sounded almost like a typical local shouting out loud for beers with involuntary reflection that doesn’t even have to go higher than the spinal cord. The waiter was almost as cool as me and briskly turned back to the bar for the order. That was a typical smooth order. My showing off worked well to impress my friend at the time, who literally had little clue about my seemingly non-sense German. “Wow, nice seeing you speaking the language here,” he complimented on my beer-slogan, “what’s the beer called again?” “Kölsch,” I wasn’t caring much about his question while still immersing into the complacency of the compliment, “The beer is called Kölsch.” My friend nodded and took it by heart. Then the next thing I remembered we started drinking loads of beers and wandered around the city in the middle of the night like two spaced-out hippies…

The next morning my friend parted and went to Dusseldorf for the conference. I saw him off to the train station and then went to the park to enjoy a nice sunny Sunday (as in Germany it’s rather scarcity and therefore super precious to have good old sunny days). Soon things went back to it was before and life went on…

Very recently I finished my work in Germany and went back to the Netherlands. One day that friend of mine came to me and started to mention his German trip in a very agonizing tone.

“Hey mate, you know your little trick almost made me the enemy of the whole town in Dusseldorf.”

“What? What happened? What did I do?”

“You told me that beer in German is called ‘Kölsch’, so I went to a bar in Dusseldorf and tried to speak some German to order beers. So I said ‘ein Kölsch bitte’.  Guess what, it almost started a riot there, everyone started to hate me immideately…”

I couldn’t wait until he finished the story and start to laugh really hard, “You said what… in Dusseldorf for Kölsch? You know…”

“Yeah, yeah. You don’t say Kölsch in Dusseldorf, you drink  Altbier in Dusseldorf” he interrupted aggravatingly, ” Look at that despicable smirk on your face, you sneaky bastard!”

I was trying so hard to restrain myself from giggling, but finally gave in and burst into minutes of non-stop laughing, “I was referring to the local beer in Köln to you, and you thought that was the German word for beer…”

Classic misunderstanding comedy. We couldn’t do anything but start sniggering at each other. So we reconciled in laughter…

Entertaining story it is. I wrote it down here just to warn those tourists who plan to visit both Cologne and Dusseldorf (if people ever go to Germany for tourism, hmm…), it is not cool to mess around different beer names. The locals do take that pretty seriously; the same you don’t mess around Manchester to hail Arsenal or Chelsea, or speak Spanish to a Catalan in Barcelona. German’s deep connection to beer is not something to make fun of, you would really have the risk of ending up with something drastically different from a glass of Kölsch by ordering it out loud in Dusseldorf.

They are rivals, but I gotta be loyal to the place I lived before. So in the end, I would still prefer Kölsch. 🙂

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2 comments

  1. You should go to Dusseldorf and try the Altbier, it is not bad either 😛

    Actually if you do that the other way around (ordering Altbier in Cologne), you would probably get into much bigger trouble than your friend’s experience in Dusseldorf.

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