Tuesday, 7 August 2007


I'm wondering how long it's going to take to tell you about my holiday. It's an indication of the pace of Andy's tours that I've still on the first day. Maybe I should tell you a little about the way he operates.

Bier-Mania! is the name of Andy's tour company. He arranges tours in the heartlkand of European brewing: Belgium, the Rhineland, Fanconia, Northern France and the Czech Republic. Bus tours conjure up a horrible image of a coachload of pensioners being moved from one photo opportunity to the next, pausing only for tea and a fish supper. Andy's tours are nothing like that.

For a start, he uses a minibus. That limits the number of participants to a maximum of seven. There's little time ewasted hanging around for the last person to return from the toilets. Even more importantly, the group is small enough to have minimal impact on the places being visited. What would be the point of destroying the very thing you want to experience?

I have nothing but praise for his Franconia tour. He took us to the places - remote villages - that are near impossible to reach by public transport. Literally out where the buses don't run. All the best breweries seem to be in the smallest villages. Thankfully Andy knows where they all are.

Weissbierbrauerei G. Schneider & Sohn
Emil-Ott-Straße 1-5,
93309 Kelheim.
Telefon 09441 - 7050
Telefax 09441 - 705 190

The famous wheat beer producer in Kelheim is our first brewery tour. Kelheim itself is a pretty little town, though somewhat noisy on our visit. A trike rally was in full swing on the main square. Their colourful horns provided an oddly discordant soundtrack.

The older brewery buildings are very scenic, but most of the brewing process now takes place in a factory-like environment. Disappointingly, we weren't able (for reasons of hygiene) to enter the fermentation room. I've heard the open ferementers are quite a sight, with the wort violently bubbling away. After a quick initial ferementation, the beer is bottled and placed in a warm room to condition.

Most interesting is the bottling room, where many obselete pieces of equipment have been retained. It was our luck to be there on a Saturday, a rest day. During the week it's possible to bottle yourself using one of the ancient fillers. Sounds a lot of fun. Our first contact with the bottles was the row of samples we were given in the beer garden at the end of the tour.

I was quite taken aback by how many beers they brew:

Das Original
Weizen Hell
Aventinus Eisbock

Even the lower (or alcohol-free) versions aren't that bad, retaining the typical spiciness of the standard beer. But I wasn't here to mess about with anything wimpy. "Do you have the Eisbock?" I asked one of the dirndled waitresses. It's wonderful stuff, even better than plain old Aventinus, which is itself one of my favourite beers. Two Eisbocks were almost enough to slake my thirst. Almost. Just as well. We still had two breweries to go.

Klosterbrauerei Weltenburg
Asamstrasse 3293309 Kelheim.

Northern Bavaria is a beautiful place. In one its most scenic spots, is Kloster Weltenburg. Nestling on a narrow strip of land at the foot of cliffs where the Main-Danube canal makes a 180º turn, you can't fault the monks on their choice of location.

Sadly, silence and peace are no longer to be found. I wonder what the founding monks would make of the bustling market/beer garden that the courtyard has become? I doubt they would be very impressed.
I would have gone in to have a look at the church. I really would have. But a trip to Malta has left me all churched out. Maybe next time. Anyway, it was a beer tour and it a shame to ignore the beer garden.

This was first chance to impress my travelling companions with my fluent German. Perhaps it was the disconcerting sight of a black lass in traditional Bavarian gear that threw me. The charming waitress polititely corrected me. How did I manage to get four mistakes into a sentence of just six words?

Not to worry, a mug of Weltenburger Barock Dunkel was soon sitting in front of me. I'd heard a lot about the beer. Which is perhaps why it was such a disappointment. Sweetish, with a touch of roast but otherwise pretty dull. Nothing unpleasant, just bland. We were to have much, much better dark lagers later on the trip.

Overly commercial, average beer. Yet I still had a great time, thanks to the delightfully whacky and witty waitress. You can see her waving at me in the photo. What a sweetie.

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