One of the most memorable experiences of the tour last year was a breakfast session with Stonch in Forchheim. I'd love to repeat the fun this year, so after checking out of the hotel, Andy drives us all into the town centre. These are my last few minutes on the tour.
If you look carefully at the photo to the right, you can see three brewery taps. How wonderful. Is there anywhere else in the world you can get a photo like this?
While the others look at the WW I was memorial outside the town hall, I quickly dive into Hebendanz. It's one of my all-time favourite pubs. Purely because of the nutters who inhabit it. There's a disconcerting sign on the door "Smokers Club - members only". Bum. Another sign seems to say that guests are welcome. I decide top take a chance, enter and sit at a table. It's the same young barman as last year. He seems pretty normal, which makes him look out of place.
"You're not a member, are you sir?" (I suppose what he means is "You don't totally radged yet, so you can't be a local".) "You'll need to sign in." He passes me a slip of paper and a pen. A couple of scribbles later and I'm a member for the day.
Unsurprisingly, every other customer is smoking. There are quite a few of them, spread around the room. Most are on their own, sucking on a fag and staring at their pint. What a cheerful bunch. I order a Hebendanz Export, which comes fresh from a barrel on the bar. It looks absolutely wonderful. It's almost worth enduring the fag smoke for. I wonder where the white ghost is? Probably dead. He looked pretty unhealthy. He might upset him if he is still alive. I'm sitting in his seat.
Hebendanz Export: golden colour, sweetish/bitterish taste, honey, pepper and resin flavours. Light and very drinkable. Surprisngly sweet for a Franconian beer. I give in 62 out of 100.
I'm hidden around a corner, so Keith doesn't spot me when he pokes his head in the door. I slurp my beer down more quickly than it deserves. I have very little time and I want to get to Neder, too. Greif is once again closed. Why do I never catch it open?
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The atmosphere is much better in Neder in every sense. Clean air and customers who don't look a hour away from suicide. The others are sitting with a beer in front of them. Soon I'm with them with a beer of my own.
Neder Export: )I don't know what colour it is, because it's served in a Steinkrug: my guess would be golden) sweetish/bitterish taste, pepper, grass, resin and cream flavours. This must be the perfect breakfast beer: light but tasty, refreshing and not too cold. I could sit here till dinnertime. I score it 70 out of 100.
It's quite busy here. too. Lot's of 50- and 60-somethings eating their breakfast. Each has bread and packages of sausage and cheese. They brought it with them. Is this allowed? It certainly is. There's even a sign in the window to encourage you. What a civilised place. This is how I dream of living after retirement: a few quiet beers with breakfast every morning. Lucky bastards, living in a town like Forchheim. I plan joining them when I finally say goodbye to work.
I only have time for the one, sadly. Andy needs to press on and he's giving me a lift to the station. It's quite emotional saying goodbye to the group. The last few days have been memorable and a whole load of fun. We've shared some great beer, too.
The minibus drives off and I make my way to the ticket counter. "Ein Einzelfahrt nach Nürnberg, bitte." I'll have to look after myself from now on. It's a bit like getting divorced. I just need a few more beers to dull the pain. I wonder if I'll be able to find any in Nürnberg? I wonder if I really do have a hotel reservation? Find out next time....
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