On a recent business trip in Europe I stopped by a local gas station for a few things. Rather than pay the felonious prices of the mini-bar, first thing I do in Europe is stock up on a few snacks and beverages. I still had a long day at the office ahead of me, but was already looking forward to returning to the room and a nice cold German beer.
The weather could not have been more perfect. In contrast to the cool and damp weather back home, spring was in full force across northern Europe. Flowers were blooming, the trees were greening nicely and the weather was warm and pleasant. I’d drag a chair onto my little veranda overlooking the hotel courtyard, crack a Warsteiner, or a Becks, or a Paulaner Weisse and let the day desolve away into a heavenly glass of quality suds. Suddenly my eyes beheld something that seemed, well, impossible and absurd all at once.
Almost hidden among those legacy German beers was a single row of 18 ounce brown bottles with bright red labels that took me back to a time before the Simpsons were a household name, when they were still somewhat obscure and edgy. There on the shelf I beheld a true to life bottle of Duff Beer. Indeed, I might have imagined Homer rushing in, banging me aside and scooping up every last bottle.
I laughed, and could only imagine what it might taste like. Surely Duff Beer would be some watered-down skunk juice, and about as appealing as drinking vinegar from a boot. And so I went to the office, joking about it with German colleagues, all of whom were as mystified as I was about the stuff. No one knew a thing about it, except that it was made in a German brewery. Beyond that, no one had ever tasted the stuff, nor did they know anyone who had. That was enough for me. Some mn long to solve the mysteries of the world. I wanted, I needed to know what Duff beer tasted like. I decided after work I’d pick up a couple of bottles and reclaim my crown as the unofficial beer expert of Chicago, according to WMAQ-TV and one time anchorman Emmit Miller.
Duff beer is actually brewed in the scenic little town of Eschwege, north of Franfurt at the Eschweger Klosterbrauerei. Lest you think this is simply another novelty brew, Duff is brewed under the Reinheitsgebot, or purity order-please no jokes here. Quite literally it actually means the German Beer purity Law, which resstricts brewing to three ingredients: Water, barley and hops. The law is no longer in effect anymore, but the Germans love their beer so much that the tradition has continued out of a sense of honor and heritage. But tradiion is one thing and taste is another.
With the sun setting crimson that evening, and a silken west wind I sat back with a pizza from a local and excellent hole-in-the-wall pizzeria and twisted the top off my very first Duff beer. It’s what Homer would do, and undoing the button on my pants, just to be comfortable, I felt as if I was carrying on his brave and gluttonous tradition. I tipped back th bottle and let the cool liquid wash against the back of my throat, surprised at the pleasant taste, reminding m a little like becks; casual, with a slight smokeyness that brought out the flavors of the ingredients, and brought to life the pizza in my lap.
And so I sat there on a perfect spring evening in a little German town watching the planes come and go from Franfurt airport a few miles away. Two Duff beers and a thin crust pizza of spicy salami and mushrooms and I was ready to doze off, feeling perfectly satisfied and a little like Homer Simpson, aaaaaggghhh.