Monday, 19 August 2019

Auf Wiedersehen Yet?

I've just picked up online a cheap secondhand copy of the Good Beer Guide to Munich and Bavaria, published by CAMRA in 1994 and written by Graham Lees, one of the four founders of the organisation (I especially like his dedication of the book "to all who appreciate good beer, regardless of borders").

Although I went to pubs in Dublin and the West of Ireland in the late 90s and early 2000s, it was as much for their historical/political and literary associations (notably the Brazen Head and McDaid's) as the beer (invariably Guinness), and my first specifically beer trip was to Germany at the end of 2009, to Düsseldorf and Cologne, followed by one to Munich and southern Bavaria in the summer of 2010 (when I accidentally attended the wedding of footballer Philip Lahm in Aying). I've been back to Düsseldorf and Cologne numerous times since then, and to the nearby towns Aachen, Bonn, Ratingen and Wuppertal, and in 2012 travelled to Upper Franconia in northern Bavaria to sample the very special pubs and beers of Bamberg and Forchheim.

Apart from some brewery takeovers and reorganisations, not that much seems to have changed on the beer front in south-eastern Germany in the last twenty-five years, thanks no doubt to the Bavarians' well-known conservatism (in both brewing and politics). The beechwood-smoked malt lager Schlenkerla Rauchmärzen is described as "virually black as coal" rather than the dark brown that I remember it being on draught in the brewery tap, but I think that might just be a question of perception rather than any change in the grist, and the warning that train travel around the state is expensive unless you book tickets in advance has been superseded by the relatively inexpensive Bayern day ticket, which covers buses, trams and underground services too. The advice that "Bavaria, especially in country areas, is likely to be a little stomach-shrinking for vegetarians" is probably still true given the locals' propensity to wash down huge plates of pork and sausage dishes with their litre steins of lager, and the description of the Hofbräuhaus in Munich as "plagued by coachloads of gawping tourists" (not to mention the oompah band) certainly is.

The next beer trip I'm planning is to central Europe, travelling by train from Prague to Plzeñ, Regensburg, Freising, Munich and Salzburg, although it'll probably be in the winter rather than summer months given the punishingly hot weather that now seems to afflict that part of the continent almost annually, and that direct flights between Salzburg and Manchester only appear to depart during the skiing season (assuming that planes and visa-free travel are still operating then).

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