All these posts and I still haven't finished day two of the tour. Is anyone still reading? Never mind if you are, I want a proper record of my experiences.
Hotel-Gasthof Schweizer Grom
Tel. and Fax: 09191 - 3955
Sunday afternoon we arrived at our hotel for the Annafest. Schweizer Grom is run by Mr. and Mrs. Eisgrub, a jovially rotund couple. In the kitschly rustic bar, Mr. Eisgrub served us steins of the uncompromisingly bitter St. Georgen Kellerbier whilst giving us tips on the best way to get to the Annafest. A taxi for six, he suggested, would work out cheaper than the bus. He helpfully phoned to book one for us.
Walking wasn't an option. It was pissing it down and the weather didn't look like clearing this side of Christmas. Just as well I did bring a coat.
There's no beer festival quite like the Annafest. It takes place on a forested hill at the edge of town. Cellars dug into the hill are where local breweries used to lager their beer. Then someone had the bright idea of setting out a few tables and chairs and serving beer direct from the store. So the Sommerkeller (the original beer garden) was born.
The Kellerberg has 24 of these beer gardens. Some open all year, but others just for the Annafest. Between them are shoehorned a variety of fairground attractions. Quite a feat given the steepness of the slope and the number of trees. If my description conjures up weird images then you've probably got the right idea. It is pretty strange.
Andy's used to hiking. And mountain biking. Climbing the hill didn't have him breaking sweat. Those of us whose bodies betray our liking for beer found it more of a struggle. Why did we have to go to the very highest Keller?
There was some respite when Andy got talking to a couple from Warrington. They seemed dazed and confused by the event and were happy to tag along. It gave me a couple of minutes to catch my breath.
At least our destination was selling Eichhorn. It was voted best beer of the festival. Quite pleasant, in a peppery hop sort of way. With a minimum measure of a litre, you'd better like anything you order. Otherwise you've an awful lot of beer to force down your neck.
The bloke behind the bar was happy to show us his cellars. Excavated by hand a couple of centuries ago, you can still see the chisel marks. The constant temperature is perfect for storing beer, though in the past, before fridges, food was kept here, too.
Not for us a dull old tent. We decided to go for the cave seating. You can see a photo of it somewhere here. Cave, seating and the photo could take care of the description. I have things to do today. I can't spend too long writing this. (For those of you who are wondering, I do have a life. One that often distracts me from my beer obsession. Maybe I should trade in the kids.)
After a quick one (quick for a litre that is) we descended the hill to Rappenkeller. It has a Löwenbräu (Buttenheim) beer and a good view of one of the music stages. I'm not sure if the latter is a good or a bad thing. It's pretty loud and the tribute band has a bizarre selection of material. Lots of 80's electropop, Abba and Led Zeppelin.
The beer wasn't bad. It took me a while to get used to it, but by the third litre it was slipping down a treat. Quite similar to the Eichhorn, it was dominated by spicy hops.
The couple from Warrington, who on account of their accents and flawless beauty we dubbed them Hollyoaks (the only word my son Andrew can say in a geordie accent), were keen to try roast chicken. Unfortunately it isn't on the menu at Rappenkeller. Not only was the waitress unphased by them fetching it from elsewhere, she even provided plates and cutlery. What a civilised place Franconia is.
Andy made sure that he took plenty of group photos including the Hollyoaks couple. They reduced the average age of our party by 20 years and increased the attractiveness quotient by a factor of 10. I bet he'll use the shots in all his promotional material.
One of the absolute highlights of the trip was Stonch's drunken walk back down the hill at the end of the evening. He'll be posting the video on his blog, so there's no need for me to go into any further details. I'll just say that he looked very fetching in his beer hat.
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