Year of the Beer Day 15: Astra Arschkalt Beer


Author’s Note: This was written in connection with the beer tasting experiment, which was done on 15 January 2016- the fiftteenth day. 🙂

Day 15 starts off with a nice quote that fits nicely to the winter weather in January. Snow plus beer equals- Arschkalt (icy cold in the tail)! 😉 Astra beer, originating from Hamburg’s suburb of St. Pauli, has its origin from its days known as Bavaria-St. Pauli, when it was established in 1647. Since 1909, the brewery has carried the name Astra, and its slogan “Was dagegen?” (Anything against that), plus its heart-shape logo has been running strong since 2008. Astra is well-known for the younger generation, especially among college students in Germany. One will find them on sale at restaurants, cafés and even small eateries that accompany mainly college students and others ages 30 and younger. More information on its history can be found here.

Like the Lammsbräu, the Astra has gone radical in terms of creative beer flavors, including this one, the Winterfestbeer. Found among the store shelves, I found it at the most perfect time, as it was a couple days before the snowstorm and subsequentially, cold spell which is giving the German fits. How? We had a tropical Christmas and a spring-like New Year’s- so Old Man Winter is no longer invited. He invited himself and we’re freezing our pos off! :-/

Anyway, the Arschkalt is similar to the Glühbier, a mulled flavor beer with spices, only that it is wise to drink it cold to warm up. At least, that was my impression. When drinking the dull, copper-colored beer with a persistent head, one can tell that the aroma and flavor are both super strong, resembling an ale flavor with flavors of grain, toast and nut malts as well as floral and herbal hops and corn flavor. The alcohol content is 5.9% which makes the beer taste not too bitter but herbal. The beer leaves an astringent and somewhat prickly taste when drinking it, yet it is not bitter, like some other brands, leading to the conclusion that the ale product is definitely worth drinking, especially in the winter time.

Grade: 2,0/ B: A solid beer with good craftsmanship, the Astra Arschkalt is not just a winter beer, as seen with some other examples. It has an ale taste that makes the beer part herbal and part bitter. For those with a sweet tooth, this beer is not recommended unless you want a shock to the system to warm up. For those who fancy an ale, it’s perfect for the winter time. And for those who are Astra fans, you can give them the seal approval for a creative mix worth drinking. So without further ado, wasail to winter. Share one with your friends and warm up with some chats and entertainment. Prost! 🙂


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City Institutions, Laws and Agreements: The Origin of the Flensburg Files

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Author’s Note: This article is a two-in-one deal. It’s an article in connection with Germany’s 25th anniversary, but it’s also in connection with the Files’ five years and how this column came into being. Enjoy! 🙂 

While living in Germany, one will see a unique feature that has been talked about at the dinner table: institutions, laws and agreements named after German cities. We are not talking about institutions like breweries, whose headquarters are found at their places of origin, like the Flensburger, the Berliner Weisse, the Köstritzer, the Saalfelder and the like. That topic is saved for a rainy day, unless you want to know more about German beer (in that case, there’s an article for you right here). And what is also typical are the newspapers named after cities- these are also common everywhere and heceforth will be left out here.

What is meant by institutions are the banks and insurance companies that were founded in the place or origin, and with some exceptions to the rule, still exist today. Many of these financial institutions had their roots to the time of Bismarck’s regime beginning in 1871, the time when Germany was first founded as a country. Part of that had to do with Bismarck’s introduction of the social welfare and health care systems, where every citizen was required to have insurance in case of an accident. With that came the dawn of the insurance (More on that later). The Dresdner Bank was one of these examples. Founded in 1872 Karl Freiherr von Kaskel and based in Dresden, the bank became one of largest banks in Germany and eastern Europe, surviving two World Wars and the Cold War before it folded into the Commerzbank in 2009. There is also the insurance group Alte Leipziger, located an hour west of the city in Leipzig, which provides insurance coverage, especially for burn-out syndrome and other psychological disorders. One will find such (financial institutions) in many big cities, such as Munich, Stuttgart, Hannover and Frankfurt, just to name a few.

City laws and agreements are even more unique in Germany. While in the Anglo-Saxon countries have conferences and agreements on a larger scale in terms of international relations (such as the Washington Conference of 1922, the Bonn Agreement on Afghanistan in 2001 and the Frankfurt Documents in 1948), what is meant by agreements are the creation of domestic laws and systems that people in Germany have to abide by, which were signed and enacted at the place of origin. In some cases, like the Flensburg Point System, there is even an office that specializes in this type of law. As seen in the point system, the Kraftfahrtbundesamt (the office of vehicular registration) in Flensburg is responsible for giving drivers points for violations on the road. Other agreements known to exist include:

_The Düsseldorfer Tabelle: Founded in 1962 based on a controversial ruling and its subsequent appeal, the table determines how much child support a partner has to provide at the time of the divorce. It is classified based on the amount of money that person has to pay per month until the child is 25 years of age.

_Frankfurter Tabelle: This table is used to determine how much money a traveller should receive as a refund for lack of accomodations. This is determined by another table created in Kempten. The Würzburger Tabelle has a similar scheme but for boat cruises.

These are just a handful of agreements and laws that exist, which leads us to this activity:

Identify which city has its own law and agreement that was enacted in its place of origin and describe briefly what it is and how it works. That you can do in the comment section, links are welcomed regardless of language. 🙂


Origin of the Files:

Keeping German cities in mind, the next question that many readers, family members, friends and colleagues have been asking me is: Why Flensburg and not Frankfurt?  As Piggeldy and Frederick would say: Nichts leichter als das (Easy as this):

I visited Flensburg for the first time in May 2010, as I needed to get away from everything that had been going on in my life that was unwelcomed. Just to put it bluntly and leaving it there. I had heard of the city and its proud heritage from a pair of people who either come from there or have lived there for many years. One was a former student colleague from my days as a teacher in Bayreuth, another was my best friend and his girlfriend from my days in Thuringia. I had heard about the point system before that and the beer. But upon setting foot on Flensburg soil, and exploring the city and visiting the people, it became the city worth visiting (along with the surrounding region), because of its natural surroundings, its landscape, and especially its history, tied together with that of Germany, Denmark and on the international scene. Some articles have been written about it, other themes have yet to make the column (and will soon enough). 🙂

While my main profession is an English teacher (and I’ve been doing this for 15 years), my second profession is a writer, who has been contributing works not only to this one but also to other newspapers. One day, in response to a letter I had written to a local newspaper demanding that my hometown in Minnesota set an example of what Flensburg is doing with its historic architecture by saving the former high school building, a friend and former high school classmate of mine recommended me to the areavoices website, where I can write about my experiences as a Minnesotan living in Germany, providing some photos and food for thought. She works at the Forum Communications Company based in Fargo, North Dakota but has newspaper offices throughout the Midwest, including Worthington (Minnesota),  Mitchell (South Dakota), and those throughout North Dakota in Grand Forks, Jamestown and Williston, just to name a few.

After some thought about her offer, why not?

Together with the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, the Flensburg Files made its debut in October 2010. The origin of the Files came from my will to keep the German tradition alive: my visit in Flensburg, using the German city name for the title, and the files- there is a file for every document submitted in a form of article, photos, interviews and the life. Besides, one can do a whole lot with the letter F, as you can see in the logos below.

Five years laters, the Files is running strong. Not only does the column provide some topics pertaining to German-American themes and places to visit (Christmas markets included), but it has extended to include more on culture, education (esp. for those wanting to learn English and are non natives), current events and some food for thought on the part of the author. It now has a wordpress website, which has attracted almost a thousand subscribers (and counting) plus unknown numbers of frequent visitors to the Files’ facebook pages and twitter. In other words, it has gotten bigger, attracting a large audience from all aspects of the world. Plans are in the making in the future to include a couple more social networks and provide a few more series beyond 2015, but the Files will remain the same, an online column that provides readers with an insight of German-American themes, even if it means going behind the scenes, as the author has done already.

This leads to the last question: Why Flensburg and not other cities in Germany? We have too many institutions, laws and agreements going by the names of Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt and Hamburg, just to name a few. Plus using names of other small cities are possible but they don’t provide the kick to a top-notch column like this one. One could rename it like the Husum Herald, St.Pauli Sentinal,  Münster Morning News, Nuremberg Newsflyer, Glauchau (Daily) Globe (here, the people in Worthington would have a say in that), Leipzig Local (again same as Glauchau as that group exists), Weimar World News, etc. But nothing can top what the Flensburg Files can offer for title. And sometimes using something local and building off of what the city offers for rum, beer, handball and its point system, in addition to its beaches, landscape and especially its heritage can give a city like Flensburg a boost, like it has in the five years it has been in business, with many more years to come. 🙂

To close this article here’s a word of advice for those wanting to start an online column like this one, or a career as a journalist. Because our world is full of lies and corruption, there is one variable that is constant, which is the truth. The truth is the most important commodity a person has to deal with. This includes being true to yourself and your future. If you are sure that you want to uncover the truth and expose it, then do it. People may laugh at you at first, and you may face failure for the first few months or even years, but in the end, if you are true to your heart, you will win the hearts and minds of true friends who will stay with you to ensure that you stay to your course to become a successful writer. It takes likes of patience, passion, perseverence and persistence- the 4 Ps. Once followed, and once you receive accolades and respect for you as a true writer, then you will reach your destiny and beyond. Aim high and let the heavens do the rest.

And now, back to the writing…… 🙂

Logo from 2011
Logo from 2013
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Its present logo (since 2014)

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Germany Quiz 2: The Answers to the Questions about Hamburg


And now the moment you all have been waiting for: the answers to the Quiz on the German City-State of Hamburg. To access the quiz (if you have not tried it yet), click here. For those who have yet to visit the city, there are many opportunities to visit the sites, participate in many events in the fine arts sector or just enjoy the daily life as a Hamburger. The answers to the quiz should serve as a small whiff of what you should see in the hanseatic city. The Files will have some additional links to some other sites and sounds at the end of this article. Some other highlighted words in the answers also have links to their sources that will show you some more information about them, so check those out as well.

Let’s get a whiff of what you know about Hamburg, or rephrasing it, what you want to know more about the city 🙂  :

True or False?

  1. Hamburg is bordered by Mecklenburg-Pommerania, Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein and Saxony-Anhalt.

ANS: False. Hamburg only borders Lower Saxony and Schleswig Holstein. Mecklenburg-Pommerania is located only 25 km east of the city.

  1. A Hamburger is a person born and raised in Hamburg.

ANS: True

  1. The original sandwich Hamburger did NOT originate from the city of Hamburg

ANS: False. Despite controversy as to its origins, the original Hamburger consisted of minced steak patties, similar to Salisbury steak, on bread. For a time during World War I, the Hamburger was renamed Liberty steak. Yet the first American Hamburger was introduced in 1921 through a restaurant chain White Castle. The rest was history.

  1. The official name of Hamburg is the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg

ANS:  True

  1. Hamburg is the third largest city in Germany with 1.8 million inhabitants.

ANS: False. Hamburg is the second largest city behind Berlin, surpassing Munich and Cologne

  1. The river passing through the city is the Elbe.

ANS: True

  1. The premier soccer, handball and basketball teams are owned by Hamburger SV

ANS: False. Only HSV has a soccer and handball team in the German Premere League (Bundesliga)

  1. Hamburg has the busiest train station in Europe.

ANS: False. With 450,000 people passing through the station daily, Hamburg is the busiest station in Germany BUT the second busiest in Europe behind Paris’ Gard du Nord.

  1. Pauli has the largest island in Europe.

ANS: False. Wilhelmsburg is the largest island borough in Europe. St. Pauli is located northwest of there.

  1. Hamburg has never hosted the Olympics.

ANS: True. If it wins the bid for the 2024 Olympics, it will be the state’s very first one.

11. Put the following bridges of Hamburg in order beginning with the oldest.

Kersten Miles Bridge (1897)         Hamburg-Harburg Bridge (1899)  Lombard Bridge (1865)

Freihafen Bridge (1917)                Kohlbrand Bridge (1974)              Feenteichbrücke (1884)

ANS: The Lombard Bridge is the oldest, followed by the Feenteich, Kersten Miles, Hamburg-Harburg, Freihafen and lastly, the Kohlbrand. 

  1. The Freihafen Bridge was originally supposed to be a double-decker bridge serving what type of traffic on the upper deck?

ANS: Light rail (S-bahn) and subway (U-bahn) traffic. Unfortunately the rehabilitation in 1926, converting it into a single-level automobile traffic scrapped these plans.

  1. There are more than _______ bridges in Hamburg- more than Venice, Pittsburgh and Berlin.

a. 1500           b. 2000                c. 2500                 d. 3000                e. 3500

ANS: 2,500



Odd One Out: Which of these celebrities was NOT born in Hamburg?

  1. (Actors/ Actresses)   a. Udo Lindenberg    b. Til Schweiger       c. Evelyn Hamann            d. Caroline Beil

ANS: Til Schweiger. He was born in Freiburg im Breisgau. Yet he is in the Tatort Hamburg series.

  1. (Writers)   a. Hans Massaquoi       b. Karen Duve    c. Wolf Biermann             d. Guido Hammesfahr

ANS: Guido Hammesfahr. He is neither a writer nor a Hamburger. He was born in Dierdorf near Neuwied in Rhineland-Palatinate. He plays Fritz Fuchs in the children’s series Löwenzahn. 

  1. (Athletes)    a. Maya Lindholm       b. Richard Marx               c. John Jahr                       d. Anita Felguth

ANS: Richard Marx. He is a American songwriter from Chicago

  1. (Architects)    a.  Heinrich Scheel     b. Carl Theodore Sorensen           c. Friedrich Voss      d. Charles Hartage

ANS: Friedrich Voss. The civil engineer responsible for the Hochdoon, Friedrichstadt and Rendsburg Bridges was born in Braunschweig (Brunswick) in Lower Saxony.

  1. Which of these landmarks do NOT belong to Hamburg?            a. Hamburger Elbharmonie            b. Hafen City       c.Breathing Bridge      d. St. Nicholas Church      e. City Hall       f. Reeperbahn   g. All of them exist.

ANS: All of them exist

  1. The suburb of Wilhelmsburg was the site of two important events in 2013. Name these two worldly renowned events.

ANS: The International Building Expo (IBA) and the German Garden Show (BUGA)

  1. Most of Hamburg’s food specialties uses this important ingredient                                                                                    a. fish            b. chicken           c. pork                 d. beef                 e. shrimp

ANS: Fish


  1. One of the specialties, the Hamburger Labskaus is an entrée that consists of ____________, ________________ and ______________.

ANS: Corned beef, potatoes, beets and onions

  1. Currywurst is a specialty most commonly found in Hamburg. True, false or naja?

ANS: Naja, currywurst is a popular specialty found in Hamburg, however, one can also find it in Berlin, Hanover, Bremen and other parts of northern Germany.


  1. The Berenberg Bank is the ___________ bank in Germany and the ____________ oldest in the world. It was founded in _______________.

ANS: The Berenberg Bank is the oldest bank in Germany and the second oldest in the world. It was founded in 1590 by Paul and Hans Berenberg.


  1. Which of the suburbs will you NOT find in Hamburg?            a. Hafen City              b. Altona             c. Harburg           d. Wilhelmsburg               e. Hamm            f. Horn                        g. Elmshorn        h. Pinneberg       i. Lurup                j. All of them exist in HH.

ANS: Elmshorn. Albeit located near Hamburg, it is an independent city located in Schleswig-Holstein.

  1. Refer to Nr. 24 and identify which of the suburbs of Hamburg will you most commonly find in the US?

ANS: Altona. With only one ‘o’ you’ll find Altona in six US states, Manitoba, Ontario (Canada), the Virgin Islands and Victoria (Australia). With two ‘Os’, Altoona can be found in seven US states, including Pennsylvania, Iowa, Florida and Wisconsin.

For more information about Hamburg, here are a series of links for you to look at and plan your trip:

The Bridges of Hamburg:

The City of Hamburg Tourism:

Official Hamburg website:

Hamburg Portal:

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