Monday 20th January 2014
This is one of the four traditional houses left in the Altstadt (Old Town) that still brew and serve Altbier in their beautiful pubs. This is the most northerly and is slightly off the beaten track compared with the other three. To my mind this is a positive advantage as the Altstadt can be a bit manic, especially on Fridays and Saturdays. It has 300 bars and restaurants and is known in Germany as "The longest bar in the world".
On top of that there is the Carnival for which preparations were already underway when I visited. Düsseldorf is a Catholic city and the observation of Lent and the celebrations after it ends, are taken very seriously indeed.
The celebrations are quite exceptional with massive pub crawls by many drunken people in fancy dress. The open spaces and squares are occupied by fairs and astronomical amounts of Altbier are consumed.
As can be imagined, there is a considerable story behind the "Brewery in the Little Foxes". It may sound a somewhat strange name but it becomes a bit clearer if I give you an abridged history.
Ratingerstrasse (the road to Ratingen) dates from around 1640 and there was a house at 28 almost from the beginning. By 1770 it acquired the name "Little Foxes" although it was still a residential property. By the early nineteenth century it had become a private school.
A brewery was established in the building in 1848 and thus the name now makes sense. Some time after that the adjacent property, no 30 was incorporated into the brewery. This was also a brewery known as the Zum Jungen Bären (at the Young Bears), so this must have been the name of the building that the brewery was in. Life continued uneventfully for some time after that; after all it was one small brewery in a city full of them.
In 1908 it was purchased by Theodor and Louise König. Following the Great War the pub did not open. That fact is known, but there are two differing reports about the length of the closure.
One says it was closed for six years, the other that it didn't open till 1930. I'm not sure, but the former seems to be the most plausible. Just supposing that the date is a typo and should read 1920, it would make sense; four years closed during the war followed by another two to restore it to production.
The brewery was completely destroyed by allied bombing during the Second World War and was then rebuilt and reopened in 1950. It has been modernised since and with the arrival in 1995 of the fourth generation of the family in the form of Peter König, this has continued. When I first visited here it was the 1980s, and back then it was very small, nothing wrong with that of course, probably better in reality. I do believe the public rooms in the pub have been extended since.
The brewery has certainly been expanded. It now produces around 27,000hl per annum and the beer goes to 75 outlets (bottled beer to shops, mostly) and around 40 restaurants and bars are supplied with draught beer.
Obviously the main beer is Füchsen Alt (4.5%) and this one has, at various times, been my favourite. Basically I can't make my mind up between the products of three of the traditional breweries.
A new development is bottled Weizen (wheat) beer called Silberfüchsen (Silver Foxes), From 10th November each year there is Weihnachtsbier (Christmas beer), a stronger version of the normal Altbier is available in the pub.
I walked down to the pub from the U-Bahn station of Tonhalle / Ehrenhof. On the way I passed the rear of the brewery in the next street and noticed their lorry being loaded with beer for delivery. Around at the front door I couldn't help noticing the two very odd sentry boxes either side. May be there are posh shelters for the bouncers during the days of the Carnival?
Inside this is a classic pub. Most of the seating is in rooms to the left and rear of the pub. I took a seat on the high seats opposite the two wooden barrels perched on the high bar that were being, ever so slightly, emptied of the beer I had just ordered. Of course, it was as good as ever. There is a small room behind the main serving area and at one end is a lovely statue of a life size fox drinking from a barrel.
On the corner of the bar the Thekenschaaf is to be found. This is where the manager lives and it is his office. The word is in the Rhenish dialect of the area and it is often abbreviated to just Theke. It is also known as the "confessional" because of its resemblance to a confession box. No traditional pub in the northern Rheine area should be without one.
Of course, there is a full menu with all of the local specialities.
This pub is an essential visit should you be in Düsseldorf.
Brauerei im Füchsen, Ratingerstrasse 28, Düsseldorf 40213. Tel: 0211 134470
Open: Monday-Thursday 09.00-01.00; Friday-Saturday 09.00-02.00;
The pub is less than ten minutes walk from Heirich-Heine-Allee, the main transport centre in the Altstadt, and is about the same from anywhere else in that part of the city.
Nearest U-Bahn station is Tonhalle/Ehrenhof, the last stop on the east side of the Rheine.
It is only about five minutes away and is served by the following routes:
U70, U74, U75, U76 and U77.