Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Das Boot Was Made for Drinking

Hessen Haus 101 4th St
Des Moines, IA 50309-4741
(515) 288-2520

You've been in this situation before.

You're a suit wandering the strange city your employer temporarily sentenced you to (in this case Des Moines, Iowa).

The days are long, even grueling at times.

You're only respite is the hope that a new unique bar or restaurant with an interesting local flavor and numerous beers on tap sits around the corner.

You cruise the nearby neighborhood and all you find are strip malls with chain joints from "anywhere USA."

The only bar almost worth visiting is yet another Irish themed pub that looks like it came out of Froto's shire.

This Lucky Charms-esque establishment is complete with plastic cobble stones and a yuppie guy playing a horrible rendition of Piano Man in a fake Irish accent.

As your coworkers dig into their "Irish Buffalo Wings" and swig down that flavorless, overrated stout known as Guinness, you think to yourself, "there must be something other than this commercialized, commodified BS…salvation must be somewhere!"

Then, you begin to hear the faint sound of an accordion billowing out polka music.

You pick up the whiff of beer mixed with the smell of charred pig flesh.

The quiet roar of people get your blood pumping and your hopes high. Could folks, unlike yourself, actually be enjoying themselves?

After following the scent you turn the corner to see an old railroad station, sitting along rusty old tracks that run long into the midwest.

The building has a large wooden sign shaped like a beer stein.

Uplifting polka fills your ears and before you know it you're sitting at a large table with a liter of quality German beer and a beautiful cut of swine atop a bed of golden sauerkraut; to Hell with Irish-fakery, you've found Heaven.

Friends, I'm talking about the German Beer Hall known as the Hessen Haus in downtown Des Moines, Iowa.

What a great place!

The menu was large and diverse with all your German/Austrian/whatever favorites such as, Wilde Schweine Wurst, Jaegerschnitzel, Goulash, and Rind Rouladen.

The copious beer menu was mind blowing with not a single American puke beer to be found.

For appetizers Suit 69 and I decided to go off the beaten path with a little midwest favorite that had an interesting twist; toasted ravioli filled with rabbit.

Not amazing as far toasted ravioli goes but the addition of Thumper made the difference - if only for novelty sake.

Dinner brought me the delicious Wienerschitzel.

A tender cut of veal freshly breaded and fried to a golden brown, served with that unmistakably sweet and smokey German potato salad then topped off with pickled red cabbage.

Like a good beer garden, the table was long and we shared it with another group.

Small talk commenced and gradually got better after liters of imported beer were consumed to the sound of tubas and acco

Our friendly neighbors to the left (geographically and politically) where kind enough to share their SchweinsHaxe, or for those who don't speak Deutsch, a large, seasoned, mild flavored pork shank served with sauerkraut.

Good times where being had when the challenge came.

Our new friends began to tell us about "Der Stieffel" or otherwise known as "The Boot."

This 72 ounce glass, shaped like men's footwear is the desert of choice at the Hessen Haus.

So large, so intimidating, that they won't even give you one unless there's at least three people in your group.

This beast can be filled with any of their tap beers and if in a drunken haze you manage to break "Der Stieffel," it will set you back $50.00.

Since we're not known as people who always follow the rules, Suit 69 and I decided the try on this boot solo.

No group for us, no letting the boot travel the table clockwise, no flicking it before passing it along. We were going to have our very own beerfest.

I don't know about Suit 69 but as the barmaid began filling this monster, I was having second thoughts.

Did I have the sauerkraut balls to take that boot down?

The heaping Spaten Oktoberfest arrived at the table and it was time for me to hike-up my lederhosen and dispatch that behemoth.

After about an hour of steady chugging, I struggled to return my empty boot safely to the bar.

Suit 69 dropped his in 42 minutes.

Soon after, a freight train went by the bar and a whistle inside sounded, signaling half-price jager shots and bad decisions.

It wasn't long after that the night came to a close -- mostly due to our inability to put a sentence together and the fear that we wouldn't be able to keep our wienerschitzel down.

The next morning I felt like I had been kicked in the head by the giant beer boot.

But my headache was nothing compared to the pain every lame Irish bar in the United States feels after a swift butt kicking from Des Moines, Iowa's Hessen Haus.

Rating: Why didn't I buy the shirt?

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