Saturday, 10 May 2008

The last day

Though it sometimes seems as if we've been on the road for several weeks, the final day has still come too quickly. The final day for me, that is. The others have a few more days to go.

After breakfast we drive to Windischeschenbach to have a look at their communal brewery. Andy thinks he knows where it is. He's wrong. But as we're driving down the high street, Keith spots a tractor pulling the Zoigl trailer. Andy turns around and tries to give chase, but we've lost it. Bum.

We still can't find the brewery. Andy stops and asks an old bloke. He gives a pretty incoherent reply, but Andy does his best to follow them. No luck. Andy tries another local, who gives a completely different set of instructions. This doesn't look good. "Why don't we just check the street the tractor came out of?" asks Keith. It's a pretty good suggestion. No, it's better than that. It's the perfect suggestion. We find the brewery at the end of the side street.

It's nothing like as grand as the communal brewery we saw yesterday. There's a worryingly large crack in the wall. A spillage just in front of it suggests the trailer really had just been filled with wort. I peer through the window, but can't see much. Today there's no friendly Zoigl man around to unlock the door for us. I walk over a small stream to get a good shot of the side of the building. It's bigger than it appears form the entrance, but not much.

We explore a little further and find another brewery. It's tiny, too, but is commercial. I manage to get a photo of the inside when a worker comes out. After he's disappeared the place is deserted, as is the adjacent pub.

That's it for Zoigl country. We're now headed back to Franconia. Things could be worse. Much, much worse.

Klosterbrauerei Weissenohe
Klosterstr. 20,
91367 Weißenohe.
Tel: 09192 - 591

We're now retracing part of the route from last year's Franconian tour. First stop is Weißenohe. "I wonder if the conical fermenter will still be lying outside?" I say jokingly. It is.

I'm looking forward to this. Last time here I was feeling well below par, having stayed up way too late the night before. I drank my first two beers through gritted teeth.

The bar is deserted. The others have gone to look at some church. This is my church. Just as Costcutters is for Jeremy. I think mine's way superior, as it serves four different draught beers. Which Costcutters that does that? Or church. Eventually a barman shows up and I order a Dunkles. I stay true to tradition right to the bitter end.

Klosterbrauerei Weißenohe Export Dunkel: pale brown colour, sweetish taste, nuts, pepper and toffee flavours. It's pretty good, apart from being too fizzy. Both malt and hops are present - very nicely balanced. 66 out of 100.

The others have turned up. That was a pretty brief church visit. Keith orders the sampler set of draught beers. Very cute they look in their tall and elegant 20 cl glasses. I'm in so much better form than last time. That Dunkles didn't last long. I order a Altfränkisch.

Klosterbrauerei Weißenohe Altfränkisch: amber colour, sweetish taste, caramel, honey, fruit and grass flavours. Like a slightly hoppier Märzen. OK if you like that sort of thing. I score it 57 out of 100.

A group of girls comes in. They look perfect for Andy - they all have lovely grey hair.

We don't linger that long. We need to be at Hofmann for dinner.

Brauerei Hofmann
Nr. 16,
91322 Hohenschwärz.
Tel.: 9192 - 251

I'm so excited. Hofmann was one of my favourite stops last year.

Considering it's a Wednesday, the bar is pretty full of diners. We've just caught the end of the dinner service and there isn't a great deal left. No matter, I get bratkartoffel and three bratwurst.

Hofmann Export: Dark brown colour, bitterish taste; roast, butter, cream and pepper flavours. A very distinctive beer, but difficult to describe. A bit of roast, a bit of hop, abit of butter. I score in 75 out of 100.

I'm not a great believer in all this crap about beer and food pairing. Drink what you want and eat what you like is my philosophy. I suppose concern for matching food and drink provides employment for some. Having said that, the spud and sausage goes really well with Frau Hofmann's Dunkles Export. But I love the beer so much, I'd drink it with anything. A couple of half litres throw themselves down my throat. Honestly. I don't remember pouring them in there.

After we've eaten Frau Hofmann has time to show us around her brewery. Even this seemingly irrepressible woman is a bit down about raw material shortages. She's had to raise the price of her beer from 1.70 to 1.90 a half litre. A kilo of hops that only cost 7 euros last year she now has to pay 44 euros for. The price of 100 kilos of malt has also risen by 30 euros. I don't get the impression that beer is making her a fortune even at this price. If it were, she wouldn't be cooking as well as brewing.

The brewery is housed in a building that resembles a barn. Inside there's a small, but perfectly-formed, brewery. Right at the end of the trip, I've rememberd that my camera has a video function. It saves me taking notes while I interrogate Frau Hofmann. Publishing the video here also saves me the trouble of transcribing what she said. There's really no downside to this. Except that you'll get to hear my voice. I'm the twat asking questions in really poor German.

One point she does clear up: her beer isn't 100% Vienna malt. That is the base malt, but she uses some a small amount of carafa malt, too, less than 1%. The hops are Hallertauer. The yeast comes from Brauerei Kitzmann in Erlangen and is re-used 2 or 3 times.

She brews 2 or 3 times a a week, The batch size is 26 hl. The primary fermentation is in open vessels at 7º C and lasts 8 days. The beer is lagered for 8 to 10 weeks at 4-5º C at a pressure of 0.6 bar.

Hotel-Gasthof Schweizergrom
Röthenstraße 5,
91301 Forchheim.
Tel.: 09191 - 3955

Just like last time, we're staying at Schweizer Grom in Forchheim. We arrive in the late afternoon and, as usual, Andy is slaking his thirst about 30 seconds later.

Schweizer Grom is a proper pub despite being a hotel. They even make their own sausage. There are plenty of non-resident drinkers in the bar. On draught they don't have a local Forchheim beer, but St Georgen Kellerbier from Buttenheim. That's miles away. It must be 10 kilometres, at least.

The plan is to walk into town after a couple of warm up beers and something to eat. Three or four beers, all enthusiasm for a stroll has dissipated. I forgot to mention that I'd been lugging some of my Whitbread beers around with me. This seemed a good opportunity to sghare one of each with the group. OK, it was the last chance. Never put off until tomorrow what you can leave until next week, is what I say. We borrow glasses from Herr Eisgrub (the landlord) and pop the corks. The others like my beers. Or are at least polite enough to say that they do. I don't care which is true.

The evening disappears in a succession of Kellerbiers. Nothing much out of the ordinary happens, but it's no less fun for that. A week on the road together has made us quite a tight little group. It's going to be strange being back on my own tomorrow. I've got used to Andy handling all the annoying little details like getting us from A to B, arranging the hotels, finding somewhere to eat, paying the bills. How will I cope by myself?

A rather smartly-dressed businesswoman in the age range 35-40 comes and stands at the end of the bar. She orders a meal and a glass of red wine. She's definitely attracted Jim's attention, the old lech. Disappointingly for him, she disappears back to her room with her food and drink.

The last day of the tour is over. For me at least. It's been a wonderful experience. But that isn't quite the end of my trip. Last year a breakfast session in Forchheim with Stonch was just perfect. Can I repeat it? Find out in the next installment.

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