“Our Happy Place” is the latest episode of One Pint at a Time.
After a busy and stressful summer selling Teachings From The Tap, we badly needed a vacation. And we could think of no better place than our happy place: Germany. Starting in Franconia, we explored the countryside, as well as completed the Bamberg breweries. After a relaxing few days in Munich, we traveled south to the Bavarian Alps to drink beer, hike and go to the top of Germany.
So enjoy our latest beer adventures in Germany…
For all the episodes of One Pint at a Time go to beergeekTV.
Another long (and fortunately) uneventful day of travel landed us in our favorite beer city, Munich. We used our two days in the Bavarian capitol to recover from jet lag before starting our beer adventures.
We arrived at our hotel in the city center and had just enough time to take a quick shower before jumping on the train to Herrsching. We headed for one of our favorite breweries, Kloster Andechs, something we had been unable to do our last several times in Munich. We also had a date with our friend Willy, A-B’s hop guy in Europe who we first met last September.
Apparently the previous week in Munich was full of sun and warm temperatures, but on our first day the weather was chilly and rainy. The rain fell lightly during our train journey until we reached our destination. Exiting the train in a downpour, we dreaded the 45 minute walk to the monastery in heavy rain. But we refused to take the bus, the other means of getting up to the kloster from the train station. Luckily the rain let up a few minutes after leaving the train station and we reached the monastery fairly dry… well except for the sweat running down our faces.
We quickly found Willy and decided to sit outside in the covered part of the beer garden. The hot, steamy and loud braustüble was not a good jet lag recovery atmosphere. Once situated outside, I went for a round of beers while Willy headed to get some food.
It was good to be back at Andechs after a three year absence. As we caught up with Willy, we enjoyed the Andechs beer offerings, Helles, Dunkel and Doppelbock. We even tried the Apfelweiß, a mixture of apple juice and Weißbeer. Not a lover of beer cocktails, adding apple juice to Weißbeer seemed to me to be a good way to ruin a perfectly good beer. Luckily, Willy ordered it so my manhood never came into question.
With our evening complete, it was time to head back to Munich for some much needed sleep.
Sunday’s weather dawned better, which was important because the plan was to visit two beer gardens new to us. On the advice of Willy, we also added a third. The Königlicher Hirschgarten, an Augustiner beer garden a short S-Bahn ride outside of central Munich.
Before hitting the beer gardens, we walked to the Löwenbräu Keller. We had been there on a previous trip but hadn’t counted it on “the List”, because I wasn’t sure about the location of the brewery. This is rather stupid on my part because the monstrous brewery, I learned just recently, is almost directly across the street. Walking around the corner from the Keller, the Löwenbräu brewery cannot me missed. It butts up to its neighbor brewery Spaten.
With the brewery location verified, we joined the Sunday morning crowd in the Keller. I think we were supposed to have Weißbier but each of us went with our respective Munich favorites, Helles for Merideth and Dunkel for myself. With a lot to do, we only had time for a quick half-liter.
We made a short stop at one of our favorite beer gardens, the Seehaus. Then it was off to the Hirschgarten, an easy 5 minute walk from the Laim S-Bahn station.
The largest of Munich’s beer gardens with 8,000 seats, the Hirschgarten was the former royal hunting grounds (Hirsch means deer in German). Even today, deer wander the park, though they all must have been hiding from the large crowds the day of our visit.
The Hirschgarten’s other claim to fame is that they are the one of the few remaining beer gardens where you select your liter mug from a cabinet and wash it before having it filled.
We easily found a seat and each ordered ein Maß and some lunch. There were a number of people in traditional outfits and we learned from the menu that it was “Trachtentag”. This is a day when the locals dress up in traditional clothes and perform traditional songs and dances. We were treated to everything from traditional Chevy Chase slap dance to an accordion accompanied by the cracking of horse whips. Most impressive was the intricate May pole dance, where the dancers wound the colored ribbons around the pole.
We spent the rest of the afternoon at the Hirschgarten and passed on visiting the other beer gardens. The weather was beautiful, so we enjoyed our liters and the entertainment in the sunshine. The others would have to wait for our next visit to Munich.
We ended our day with our two traditional Munich stops. First, Weisses Brauhaus for a Hefe Weizen. Then it was up the street to the Wirtshaus Ayinger for Kellerbier and dinner. We had a fun-filled day but it was time to retire. We had an early flight to Dortmund on Monday.
This will be our ninth visit to Germany, which ties it with Ireland as the country we most frequently visit. The beer, food, scenery and German people keep us returning to our favorite country for beer travel.
But this trip is extra special. We are going over for our friend Wolfgang’s 50th birthday party. We’ll join the horde of his friends descending on Mannheim the last weekend in July for fun, merriment and punk show.
Prior to Wolfgang’s birthday party weekend, we are stopping in Munich and embarking on a “City with a Beer Style” tour. We will visit three German cities: Dortmund, Düsseldorf and Cologne. Each has it’s own unique style of beer.
We are using our short time in the much beloved city of Munich to get our European legs, visit a few biergartens, see friends, and of course drink some liters.
While in Munich we’ll make another pilgrimage to Kloster Andechs. The trek was something we used to fit in to our schedule every time in Munich, but on our last few visits we haven’t had the time. The walk, beer, food, and atmosphere all make Kloster Andechs one our favorite breweries.
After getting adjusted to being back in Europe, we head north for some new beer adventures.
Our first new city will be Dortmund. There we’ll search for Dortmunder, which is a native beer style, not a city resident. Back in the day, this beer was popular with the region’s coal miners and steel workers. Think of Dortmunder as a cross between a Helles and a Pilsner.
Unfortunately, over the last decades, the style has suffered the ill effects of brewery mergers. The two major breweries in Dortmund, DAB and DUB, have gobbled up the smaller competitors. The style that put Dormund on the beer map is now only a small portion of their production. Today, a few private breweries are trying to revive this brew and restore it to it’s past glory.
From Dortmund, we travel down the road to Düsseldorf, the home of the top fermented Altbier. Alt means ‘old’ and the name is simply a reference to the fact that the brew predates bottom fermenting beers.
Unlike it’s neighbor in Dortmund, Altbier is thriving in Düsseldorf, with breweries in the Altstadt serving the copper-colored brew from wooden barrels.
Our last stop on the ‘German Cities with a Beer Style’ tour is Cologne, the home of Kölsch. Another top fermenting brew, the golden-hued Kölsch may be the ultimate session beer. It certainly makes for a enjoyable afternoon with friends.
The waiters buzz around with their trays, called a Kranz, filled with 7 ounce glasses, called a Stange, of Kölsch. They dispense the brew with amazing speed. Once a Stange is empty they drop off a new beer, adding a tick mark to the beer mat. The beer deliveries stop and the ritual comes to an end when the mat is placed on top of the glass. Our last time at Früh am Dom, one of Cologne’s main Kölsch bars, six of us finished with 40 tick marks on our mat.
After Cologne, we are off to Mannheim for three days of revelry celebrating Wolfie’s 50th birthday. Interspersed with the beer drinking, there will be a couple of brewery visits.
The culmination of our trip is a punk show headlined by The Dreadnoughts, an Irish punk band from Vancouver, BC. A good time is sure to be had by all.
We hope to add a dozen new breweries to the list, which will put us within sight of reaching 500 by the end of the year.