I'm going to tell you a little story. It could in theory be my entry into next year's British Guild of Beer Writers Awards in the Beer and Travel Section. Somehow though I suspect it is not exactly the sort of thing they have in mind - even if it does exactly what it says on the tin - it is all about beer and travel. Anyway here we go.
The lovely thing about Munich is that unlike a lot of German cities, there is an abundance of pubs and other drinking establishments. That - and you can trust me on this one - is kind of rare for many German cities. If you don't believe me, try walking about Augsburg for a few hours, dragging your thirst behind you. You will be disappointed and footsore. But I digress.
On a recent Munich visit, after the usual Christmas market stuff two or three weeks ago the lovely E and I decided that a quick visit to Tegernsee am Tal was in order. Now a couple of points are worth mentioning here. The first is that I have been in this pub a few times before despite the fact that it hasn't been in its current location for too many years. The second that I've been to the brewery itself and the third is that for years I have sold Tegernsee Spezial - one of my favourite beers - on the German Bar at the Great British Beer Festival. I know the beer. This is a relevant fact.
So in a quiet spell around 4 p.m. the pub is pretty empty. In the front a couple of locals have pole position for people watching and inside there is another pair near us. In the restaurant area, three Americans eat salad, drink dark beer and chat. Not quite the Mary Celeste, but fairly close. I order a Spezial and a Helles. We sit in the semi circular booth seat overlooking the bar. I can see, despite the brass or copper frontage, the beer being poured. It is fine. Poured straight from the tap it is golden, clean tasting and clear as a child's eye. Nothing much happens as we observe languidly and chat. My beer, the first of the day, disappears without a protest. It is good. Very good. I order a second. Again I can see what is going on under the beer taps. This time there is a bit of juggling with beer glasses. My beer when presented has a more tired looking head and isn't so sparking. Not cloudy, but a tad hazy. Certainly no longer zingingly clear. Hmm. It is flatter too. Seems I've had some older beer poured into my half litre and topped up with fresh. Damn.
Now I have a customary rule of avoiding arguing with Germans. One hates to generalise, but I find the German capacity for admitting being wrong, is, shall we say, limited. (Just try asking for a top up of short measure to see what I mean). But I felt a bit pissed off, so I enquired of my waiter in the most gentle of terms, about the clarity of my beer. He looked at it and went back to the pourer, who came to talk to me. "Ah" he said. "It's Spezial. That's always a bit like that.""Umm, no" I demurred in the softest of tones. "It never is.". He smiled knowingly. "OK" I said thinking foolishly I was playing a trump card. "Pour a little fresh beer into a glass and show me." He did and the beer was as clear as the clearest of bells. I could have took his photo through it. The beers were totally different. He smiled again. "There you are" he purred. "It's just the same." I couldn't help grinning back. He had me. I knew in that instant he would have climbed a snowy Zugspitze dressed only in his underpants rather than admit he was wrong. He wasn't the owner. He didn't really have any
skin in the game, but he was taking the view, for whatever reason of; "Look Mate, I'd rather tear my own heart out of my chest with my bare hands and dance on it, than change your beer for you. So just give up".
So smilingly, I left him and my unfinished beer to it. Somehow and somewhat oddly though I had enjoyed the encounter. Maybe it played to a feeling that I had just had an unexpected insight into the German physche. Or that a stereotype had been confirmed. I fought the urge to extrapolate that too far and simply went for a beer elsewhere.
I should mention that as soon as I called the waiter over, E buggered off and left me to it. Window shopping beats arguing in E's view.
Bonus. In the next pub, we arrived just in time for Ayinger Brau Helles vom Bayerische Anstich being freshly tapped - as happens at five every day. It was rather lovely.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
This blog mentions specifics; pubs and beer, good and bad. The opinions will be forthright, but you can always disagree, just don't be offended. Comments from those mentioned are particularly welcome and a right of reply is hereby offered.
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