This trip was conceived two years ago during the Year in Beer. Merideth and I were in a pub in Carlow, Ireland watching Germany play Turkey in the 2008 European Football Championship. With a scant nine patrons in the pub, Merideth and I seemed to be the only people watching what turned out to be an incredible match. I was texting with our friend Ute in Germany who said there were hundreds of German fans at the Zentrale, her local in Mannheim. Thinking about the Zentrale and looking around the almost empty pub we were in, we decided that night we would be in Germany for the 2010 World Cup.
Our first day in Germany was the last day of group matches for both the USA and Germany. Arriving at the Frankfurt airport early in the morning, we were showered and relaxing in Ute and Wolfie’s flat in Mannheim by mid-morning. The USA match wasn’t until 4pm so we could make a leisurely afternoon of it. Naturally a brewery visit was in order.
While waiting for Ute to finish up work, we had a few beers with Wolfie at the Zentrale. When in Mannheim, we always drink Eichbaum, lovingly referred to by the locals as ‘corpse water’. After the first sip of her Eichbaum Pils, Merideth, ever the lager girl, proclaimed, “ahhhhhh…. German beer.” After our second beer, we were off to the Hauptbahnhof to catch the S-Bahn for the short ride to Frankenthal.
I think the very first time we visited Ute and Wolfie in Mannheim, they brought us to Brauhaus zur Post. Our foursome walked up to the front door only to see a sign posted that they were closed for a private party. Ute felt bad but we took the disappointment in stride, explaining this had happened before in our beer travels. Luckily, our second attempt was more productive.
Conveniently located across the street from the Frankenthal Hauptbahnhof, we did get a pang of deja vu as we emerged from station to see an empty beer garden out front. But Wolfie and Ute assured us they were open because Wolfie called to double check and even made reservations.
Walking in, we were still somewhat confused. There were a few employees scurrying about as a bartender filled beer mugs, which seemed normal. However, the restaurant was completely empty of customers. Wolfie joked about why did he make reservations for an empty restaurant. But then we spied out the back window to see the other beer garden full of happy Germans eating lunch and drinking beer. Eagerly, we joined them.
We were back in our favorite beer environment; a German beer garden on a beautiful summer day with friends. It had been six months since we had seen them in Australia, so over a few beers, we quickly got caught up.
Typical of German breweries, our beer choices were Helles, Dunkel and Weizen. Merideth, Wolfie and I all started with the Helles. Ute, the rebel of our group, started with the Weizen. I would eventually try all three with the Weizen being the star of the show.
One note on Braushaus zur Post: come with an appetite as the portions were huge… even for Germany.
After lunch, it was time to head back to Mannheim to watch the World Cup matches. The plan was to watch the USA-Algeria match at Murphy’s Law, one of the Irish pubs in Mannheim. Then, we would head back to the Zentrale for Germany’s match against Ghana.
There turned out to be a hitch in our brilliantly conceived plan. The last group matches are played simultaneously and while Murphy’s Law has a number of TVs, most were dedicated to showing only the England game. The outside TV, the one we were watching, was set to ‘combo’, an annoying feature that automatically switched back and forth between the two matches. No matter what the action, the game switched at five minute intervals. Just before half time, Wolfie got a call. He was told that prime seats were being saved for us at the Zentrale, but we’d have to get over there somewhat soon. Already annoyed by the switching and how our game was going, we made a plan to move on the Zentrale at the half.
As we watched the conclusion of the England match in the beer garden at the Zentrale, we could see that the 0-0 score for our game remain unchanged. With England beating Slovenia 1-0 and Slovenians not threatening to equalize, our team needed to score a goal or we would be going home. All seemed lost as full time was blown in the England match with the final being 1-0. Right when I was about to start crying, the broadcast switched to USA v. Algeria. It took me a second to realize what had happened. We had scored a goal in injury time. As the referee blew the final whistle, we, along with the Germans at the Zentrale, erupted in cheers. It was an amazing feeling to see the Germans cheer our victory and Merideth and I heartily accepted the congratulations of our German friends.
As for the German match, they needed a victory over Ghana to guarantee their place in the knockout stage of the World Cup. We had several hours to prepare and round after round of Eichbaum beers were delivered. Underneath the facade of revelry, there was a air of nervous tension in the crowd. The loss to Serbia in their previous match left the normally confident German fans shaken. The beer helped, but there was still some doubt.
It was a tense affair most of the match until Germany finally scored in the second half, securing their 1-0 win. Walking back to Ute and Wolfie’s flat after the match, the streets of Mannheim became a huge party. Car horns blared, people cheered, and German flags waved.
After waiting two years for this trip, the first day couldn’t have turned out any better. Beer gardens, beautiful weather, friends, plenty of beer and a dramatic, group winning victory for the USA couldn’t have been scripted any better.