Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Win Some - Lose Some

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.


Cooking Lager said...

You find poor hospitality and belligerent staff everywhere. I've long though Germany was generally one of the easiest places to raise a complaint. France sucks. But anywhere where the custom is mainly tourist has fewer reason to give a crap about repeat business and that goes for everywhere. Well done for trying tho. Next time give it the beer writer "Don't you know who I am" schtick, eh?

Tandleman said...

He wasn't belligerent. Just quietly bloody minded. Very amiable really.

Paul Bailey said...

With table service the norm in Germany, you often don't see your beer being poured anyway. Obviously it was a bit different in your case TM, as you could see what was going on, but it does make me wonder how much "topping up" goes unnoticed.

As for short measures!!!

Tandleman said...

Nobody likes waste is all I'd say. Likely gets used while fresh but in quiet periods......

Anonymous said...

Having lived in Germany for nearly 4 years now I couldn't agree more with your point about Germans (in genera)l not being inclined to admitting that they are wrong. Especially compared to Brits, which makes it more obvious to us and 'us' more susceptible to 'losing' these encounters. Of course they practically fall over themselves to point out your own transgressions, a national past-time if ever there was one.

My approach (and it helps if you can speak colloquial German) is to be polite but firm. Make it clear that eg. the beer should be topped up, but don't make a fuss or draw too much attention to it and certainly don't suggest any deliberate intention. As soon as you open up discussion they sense your doubt and dig themselves in. As an earlier commenter said, it helps if you can see what they are doing.

I find the general tapping of beer/maintaining of lines/glasses to be far inferior to our neighbours in the Czech Republic, even in Bamberg where I am lucky enough tom live. The other week I was sat in a pub (at the bar) in Ulm and they had a barrel of Augustiner Helles on from wooden gravity barrel. The guy poured 2/3s from the barrel and topped it up with keg. I cried inside.

I politely but firmly told him I had asked for holzfass and I expected to receive holzfass. It didn't happen again.