Saturday, 30 August 2008

Bavaria isn't Germany

Bayerische Erste say the Bavarians. Bavarian First. You are always struck how Bavaria is simply different. The yokel accent, the traditional dress, the huge skies, the beer gardens, the food and the "blasmusik" make for somewhere that is quite unique. It's why we always love going there and why it rarely disappoints. It was thus we arrived in Pfronten, a mere two miles from the Austrian border but firmly in Bavaria, with hope in our hearts, despite the pissing rain, so heavy it precluded our cycling. We went in the luggage van, neither of us fancying 55km in a monsoon. Others from the same company agreed and we spent quite a time picking up waifs and strays and their sodden bikes.

Our hotel was a pub. A big pub and early signs were hopeful. Kloster Andechs said the sign. Alas after checking in, it was not to be. The Andechs had been swept aside in favour of Kaltenberg, whose brewery tap in Neuschwanstein we had just passed on our way there. It could have been worse. We had a couple and then, braving the rain which had eased off to a downpour, we explored the town. I knew there was a brewpub and this was our target, both for beer and lunch. Braugasthof Falkenstein was easy to find, just in front of the station and impressive inside as these kind of places tend to be. In fact very impressive. The coppers were on show, but a quick look around had my heart sinking. Was this going to be yet another German brewpub with a crap unfiltered helles and a sweet, worty dunkel? You bet your life it was.

Now I could start a rant here about why this pointless style exists, but I won't. OK. I will. What is the bloody point of all that expensive brewing kit if you are simply going to sell tasteless, unfinished beer that is full of trub? It isn't smart and it isn't clever. You might as well buy some partially feremented beer from a big brewery, bung it in glasses, save the wages of the brewing staff and flog the kit to the Chinese for scrap. Stop it and use your kit to produce something decent and drinkable you morons! A glass of each was enough and we departed in a persistant drizzle to find a decent drink. At least the grub was good.

Later that night we went to yet another Munich Brewery's outlet. This time Augustiner, where glasses of Edelstoff and giant portions of schnitzel in a very "gemütlich" atmosphere restored our equilibrium. In honesty the beaming Bavarian waitresses in their dirndls did just as much to do that as the beer - for me at least. That's another thing I like about Bavaria!


Rednev said...

No point in ranting; their customers probably don't know any better. Presumably they have no problem selling the beer you don't like, which is why they have all that expensive gear. Why buy in poor beer when they can brew it themselves? They can hardly produce beer just to satisfy a cycling English ale drinker who might call in once every 20 years, can they?

Captive market, I expect. After all, not everyone goes into brewing to create craft beers ~ some go in just to make money.

Tandleman said...

In fact Renev they know exactly what they are producing and the customers know what they are drinking. Unfiltered beer goes with the German perception of "healthy" pretty well, so they lap it up. The brewers are giving the public what it wants to a large extent.

It is emperor's new clothes stuff though. If you have to force it down it must be doing you good kind of thing. Daft but pervasive thinking. Seems if you open a brew pub, that's become what's expected.

I expect they make quite a lot of money. It was a smashing place.

Boak said...

Yes, we've visited lots of brewpubs in Germany where we've had a few sips and said;

"Mmm. It's alright. Bit like our homebrew."

As you say, they often look the part and are as gemütlich as you like.

So, what is that "homebrew" taste? We get it with our dark beers but not our pale. Our money is on too much crystal malt, but keen to hear other theories!

Gazza Prescott said...

I agree - we've given up going to Germany for beer as all you ever find is the "holy trinity" of cloudy helles, sweet dunkel and bubblegummy weiss. Very few brewpubs make any effort to produce anything outside this terminally dull and boring threesome... very sad indeed, but that's mainly to do with the ludicrous "beer purity law" which still holds sway in Germsny.

Jeff Frane said...

I was thinking that the unfiltered helles played in to a sort of "health" notion, and then found Tandleman had beaten me to it. That's at least part of why Bavarians like their hefeweizen and, reportedly (is this true?) roll the bottle so that all the sediment ends up in the glass.

Would give me a serious case of the farts; perhaps that's the "natural" bit.

Adeptus said...

I could be wrong, but I think the "holy trinity" of helles, dunkel and weiss from a brew pub applies more to (southern) Bavaria, which clearly isn't a part of Germany ;). Up north you're not going to get a Helles, but probably a Pils, and they don't seem to go in for Dunkel up here either. I actually like Dunkel, but then I probably haven't tried some from a Bavarian brew pub :D

I'm not sure if Pinkus Müller in Münster counts as a brew pub, as it's more a brewery with a pub attached, and although they do have a Weissbier (a northern interpretation, so not exactly bubblegummy), the rest is made up of Alt, Pils and a few interesting specials. I need to seek out some real brew pubs. But don't give up on Germany yet! Get into Bamberg or other parts of Franconia. I'm sure there's some interesting brew pubs there! :D

Erlangernick said...

The vast majority of modern "brewpubs" in Germany (with some exceptions) brew --as der Tandlemann says-- flabby, murky, unfinished, bland crap in a couple of colors. I use "modern" to denote operations that have started up in the last 20 years or so, somewhat concurrently with the explosion of brewpubs in the US.

These places, being equipped similarly to modern US brewpubs FWICT, could brew great bitters, stouts, pale ales, etc., but no, they brew quick-n-dirty lagers. Franconia's brewpubs turn out more or less the same kind of crap, with the odd exception of a drinkable rotating beer (as in the case of Steinbach's in Erlangen).

OTOH, small, old, traditional Franconian breweries turn out a fairly staggering variety of good lagers. I don't like refering to these as "brewpubs", even though there's no logical, functional reason not to in many cases, where they really are little breweries attached to "pubs". It's the age of the brewery that seems to matter.

The differences between modern brewpubs and traditional Brauereigaststätten go beyond this; you just have to slog your way around a bit to realise it for yourself. (Not that you lot don't already know this!)

And Tandleman: sorry we couldn't make it down to meet you two! Next year, Franken!

Erlangernick said...

Forgot--DON'T tell me you partook of any Radler!

Tandleman said...

Nick I certainly partook of no radler whatever. I never do.

Glad as a man on the spot you agree with my assessment of German brew pubs (by and large). It just seems SO pointless to me. The shame is that invariably they places themselves are marvellous - until you come to the beer that is.

Laurent Mousson said...

Happy to realise I'm not alone in considering local independent breweries are a better bet in Germany than brewpubs...

Indeed they could brew great pale ales, stouts etc. but they don't want to. Because what I tend to call Germanic ordnance beer styles are allegedly "what drinkers want". Although indeed they know no better... and worse still, and they don't want to know !!

So it's green unfiltered Helles, green worty Dunkles and rather dubious Hefe-Weizen all over... Uuuurgh.

The quality is usually poor because most modern German brewpubs just don't invest enough in lagering tanks, and therefore do not have enough capacity to keep beer until it's fully matured, especially in periods of high demand.

Of course there's the odd exception here and there, but they're damn few and far between. :o(

Adeptus said...

Erlangernick, I'm glad you came up with a definition of a modern brew pub like that. I think I have yet to find one so. My experience has been of small breweries that have been around for, well, quite some time I guess, and that clearly makes a huge difference.

As to the general drinkers knowing no better than the "usual suspects", I'd agree completely. This happens to be part of my personal challenge to expose my new neighbours to more than the usual suspects, while breaking down my own opinion of German beers which has become rather jaundiced over the years.

Tandleman said...

Adeptus. I'll stick a link in my blog for you. Be glad if you'll reciprocate

Adeptus said...

I already did a couple of weeks ago. Happy to spread the love! :)