Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Forchheim and beyond

The Monday after the Annafest, having resisted the joys of St Georgen Kellerbier in the hotel bar, I was remarkably chipper. Persistent rain the previous evening had caused us to skip the planned tour of the town's brewery taps. Luckily Andy let us have a free hour or so in the morning before heading off to the next destination.

One of the (many) good things about Franconian pubs is that they often open ridiculously early. I was confident that even at 9:30 AM at least one would be open.

That's the time Stonch and I should have hit the town centre. But I hadn't been paying attention the day before when Andy had pointed out the shortcut into town. I thought I knew where it was. As in so many other cases, my confidence was misplaced. By the time we got into town, after many unnecessary diversions, it was closer to 10:00.

Finding the taps in Forchheim isn't hard. Three of them are virtually next door to one another opposite the town hall (a rather attractive half-timbered affair). Two were open, including Hebendanz, the only one I'd never visited. Brillarific!

Sattlertorstrasse 14,
91301 Forchheim.
Tel: 09191 - 60747

Being a hopeless obsessive, the first thing I noticed was the cask behind the bar. Gravity-served beer. It kept getting better and better. Only when we started looking for a seat did I realise:

1) it was pretty full
2) it was pretty full of the oddest set of characters I've seen in years

True to form I chose I seat facing the big daddy of weirdoes, a guy with the skin tone of a zombie. Though looking half-dead wasn't stopping him knocking back the booze at an alarming rate (a half litre and two schnapps in the 15 minutes we were there) or chatting away. The local-with-an-incomprehensible-accent is a character I recognise from my time in Leeds. There, it was usually someone Scottish or Irish. With Mr. White Ghost I had a better excuse - he was speaking a German dialect.

The other customers were a little more normal, but not very much. Most were keeping themselves to themselves. Or at least not talking to Mr. Ghost, which explains why he was so keen on chatting with me. Stonch was safe. He had his back to him. Why hadn't I chosen that seat?

For early Monday morning there was some serious drinking going on. My new mate wasn't the only one indulging in schnapps. A bloke in one corner had a litre of beer in front of him. There was someone not pretending about the level of his alcohol intake.

The Hebendanz Export was tasty enough and, being gravity-served, I could sup it quickly. No, not so I could escape the nutter. I wanted to check out Neder, too. Our long walk had left me only half an hour for the pair.

(Thanks to Stonch for the phots of Hebendanz's locals.)

Sattlertorstr. 10,
91301 Forchheim,
Tel: (09191) 2400

Stonch wimped out on me here. He has a one beer for breakfast rule. Me, I'm on the way to joining the Hebendanz morning club. Neder was even more crowded than Hebendanz. Though here people were sitting in groups playing cards or chatting. Everyone looked pretty normal, really. Except that they were washing down their breakfast with beer. But who was I to talk?

Neder also had Export straight from the barrel. Similar to, but a shade worse than the Hebendanz Export. Drinking it in peace more than made up for the slightly lower quality. I would have integrated with the locals and knocked back a couple of shorts, but we had many breweries ahead of us that day. I didn't want to peak too soon.

I've already blogged about Aichinger. One thing I forgot to mention was Andy telling the brewer that his 80 year old mother was "really fit". Freudian slip?


St. Georgen Bräu
Marktstr. 12,
96155 Buttenheim.
Tel. 09545 - 4460
Fax 09545 - 44646

Löwenbräu Buttenheim
Marktstr. 8,
96155 Buttenheim.
Tel.: 09545 - 332
Fax: 09545 - 70789

This tiny place has two fair-sized (for Franconia) breweries right next door to each other: St Georgen and Löwenbräu. A barman in Wildeman told me that there was once just one brewery but two brothers of the family that owned it fell out. A bit like John and Sam Smith.

We'd been drinking Löwenbräu at the Annafest. Someone (I can't remember who) pointed out that the male lion in their logo on printed the stein looked quite well-endowed. Sadly, that detail was absent from the giant version on the brewery wall. Shame. It would have made a great photo. Perhaps I should just add it in myself.

We only stayed long enough to take a few snaps. Both brewery taps were closed. No great disaster. Dozens more within a 10 km radius.


Brauerei Schroll
Nankendorf 41,
91344 Waischenfeld-Nankendorf.

Another chance for Andy to try his granny chat up lines. The barmaid couldn't have been under 70. When we entered the bar she was in the living quarters. I imagine watching the German equivalent of Bargain Hunt in the absence of any customers.

There's an early-70's folksy look that you'll find in many Bavarian pubs. Schroll is a typical example. A bit bland. I prefer the older look myself. Schroll Landbier was good, though a little gassy. Amber in colour, hanging a precise style on it was tricky. So I didn't bother. I'll leave that to ratings websites. Bitter in the mouth (Schroll Landbier, not ratings sites), fruit and caramelly malt filled it out nicely. It finished with spicy hops while some more caramel was lurked in the background. My favourite non-Dunkles of the trip.

I always have a laugh when I see someone call Landbier a definable "style". I've seen Landbiers that were everything from very pale to nearly black. They weren't even all bottom-fermented. Ratebeer has this to say:

Three related, minor, lager styles most common in Franconia. Essentially, these are hoppier versions of a helles, served with natural carbonation and unfiltered - they are the lager world's answer to real ale. Kellerbier will on average be hoppier than zwickelbier. There is also Landbier, which is more malt-accented, may be filtered, but is similarly lacking in carbonation."

I haven't time to discuss all the inaccuracies in those three sentences. Should we meet I would be happy to shout them at you whilst waving my arms around and frothing at the mouth. But have more important tasks today. See if you can spot the mistakes. There's a bottle of KK for the first correct answer.

I was going to say nothing else of much note took place in Schroll. Then I remembered Stonch and his girl's glass. What was wrong with him? It was getting on for midday and it was only his third beer. He'll never live it down. I just wish I had photographic evidence of his shame.


Anonymous said...

I had Landbier in Würzburg, don't remember whose. Several people remarked that this was the favorite beer of composer Anton Bruckner. Is Landbier more an idea (a "country" beer) than a flavor profile?

Stonch said...

Heh, I've sneaked into two of the photos in that post. In the first one I seem absolutely entranced by the war memorial...

Ron speaks the truth, I did wimp out of a pint in Neder. I'm kicking myself now - I had a couple of glasses of Neder Schwarze Anna at the GBBF and it was brilliant. The laws of beer dictate that a Franconian beer which tastes good from an English pint glass in a London beer festival will taste approximately 316% better in the brewery tap.

I've decided. I'm definitely going to the Annafest next year. See you there.

Ron Pattinson said...

Josquin, Landbier isn't so much an idea as a vague concept. "Country Beer" is an approximate English translation of the term. It's used whever a brewer wants to make a beer soun old-fashioned or rustic.

In terms of defining a flavour profile, it's about as precise as "traditional" or "premium".

Ron Pattinson said...

Stonch, I hadn't noticed you in the photo of the town hall.

You may see me there at the Annafest next year. It was great fun. Apart from walking up the hill.

Anonymous said...

The bit about Kellerbier, Landbier and Zwicklbier being the lager world's answer to real ale is about right though, isn't it?

I agree that beyond that it's not a discernable style.

Josquin - The landbier in Wurzburg might have been Distelhauser (pub on the river?). That was our first pint of proper Bavarian beer last holiday. Bloomin marvellous.

Stonch said...

Not really boak, because sometimes beers called Landbier and Zwicklbier are served under pressure (not sure if the same is true of kellerbier, but I wouldn't be surprised).

Anonymous said...

Well, yes in that they don't have a Campaign for Real Lager telling them exactly how they should and shouldn't serve their beer...

but the principle's about right. Live beer, not messed with. Lots of self-rightous blurb explaining how authentic their beers are. Even that distinct aroma of farts from time to time.

Anonymous said...

Aha. Boak, it was indeed Distelhäuser Landbier. And we were in some strange underground stone restaurant, the likes of which (maybe needless to say) no Texas establishment offers, sadly enough.

Stonch said...

Boak - if the beer's served under heavy top pressure, it has been messed about with - whacking great amounts of extraneous CO2 have messed with the carbonation, altering the way the beer tastes and feels.

We drank beer straight from the barrel and beer served under top pressure during our week in Franconia. Each time it was the latter, the experience was far less enjoyable. The trip - and enjoying German beers served via gravity at the GBBF a week later - has reinforced my belief that natural methods of dispense are best.

Ron - it was Hollyoaks boy who first spotted the lion's mighty shlong. I took the ball and ran from then on, and was thoroughly crestfallen when the mural at the brewery was sans-pénis.

Ron Pattinson said...

I'm with Stonch on this one. When served on top pressure, the Franconian beers were often too fizzy. Straight from the barrel the texture in the mouth was better and the flavours came through better.

Beers like Hebendanz and Neder, while not the most complex, were eminently drinkable on gravity dispense.

Stonch said...

Ron would you agree that even when top pressure is applied, it's a matter of degree.

I ask because I've just spent the evening in the Czech and Slovak Club in West Hampstead, London (write up on my blog tomorrow, if I have time).

The Pilsner Urquell and Budvar on offer was poured in the traditional manner (i.e. it took ages and involved leaving it to settle before topping up, leaving a lasting creamy head).

The carbonation was totally different to in any other pub I've had these beers in Britain - not nearly as enjoyable as the gravity dispensed Franconian beers, but much better than your standard pint of fizzy. My mate Jon - who is a recent convert to real ale - agreed something was afoot, and that is was good.

I thought perhaps they'd just turned the gas down?

What do you think?

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Interesting. I was intrigued by the gasless beers in Franconia -- they certainly do taste and feel different -- and thought some were great, but can't say that I uniformly preferred them. One of them (a wheat beer without "banana yeast", which we tried at Landbierparadies in Nuremberg) was one of the worst beers I've ever tasted. Or smelled. But I think Stonch probably has a point in that there are gassy beers, and there are *gassy beers*. The bog-standard lagers are often downright fizzy, like R White's lemonade. On the other hand, some of the more impressive specimens are carbonated without being over-the-top. Dark beers, in particular, probably benefit from being a little flatter. I can only speak for myself, of course. It's all a matter of taste.

Ron Pattinson said...

Stonch, I think you're right when you say that varying levels of CO2 have a different effect.

Air pressure is something again. When Czech beer wwas served by air pressure it was completely different. Not just the texture, but the flavour was different. There was a nice thick creamy head and very little fizz in the beer itself. Served by CO2, it's way inferior. It's a real shame air pressure dispense disappeared without a wimper of protest.

There was supposed to be one place in Vienna that still used air pressure. Can't remember what it was called, unfortunately.

For reasons I won't explain here, I drank a few mouthfuls of Fosters in London last weekend. It was as fizzy as cola! How can anyone drink pint after pint of it without exploding?