As usual, the Amsterdam – Berlin train was packed. Just as well Mike had made those reservations. My only worry was if he would remember I was getting on at Amsterdam Zuid.
I took the same train to Osnabrück last Saturday. That's how I knew about the kiosk on the platform at Bad Bentheim. Where the train stops for 15 minutes while they hook up a German locomotive. Good place to get in some beer.
It's an organic kiosk. With organic beer. Result. Pinkus Müller Pils and Neumarkter Lammbräu Pils. It could have been much, much worse. In Holland the choice would be Heineken or Bavaria.
The sprint to catch our connection in Hannover was fun. So much fun, that I needed to sit in the bar nursing a beer until my heart stopped racing like a Ferrari on speed. German trains are so civilised. Especially the ICE. You can sit comfortably, a glass of draught beer in your hand as the countryside slips past at 200 kph.
No-one was at home at Roter Ochs, our hotel. Only a cyclist who, like us, was trying to check in. We stood in the bar for a good 10 minutes before the owner showed up. A friendly chap who, by the look of him, enjoys his beer as much as I do.
“We have a tradition.” he said “Every guest gets a beer before going to their room.” Germany is such a civilised place. “What would you like: Helles, Dunkles, Weissbier?” I love the dark.
Thuisbrunner Elchbraeu, it was. “I have to fetch it myself.” the landlord told us. “It's a one-man business.” The beer was very pleasant. I was shocked to discover the brewery was only a couple of years old.
We didn't hang around in the hotel long. Mike, as ever, was thinking of food. Sattlertorstrasse, with three brewery taps, seemed the obvious choice. We took the short way. Via a park and a bridge over the Main Donau Kanal.
What a pretty town Forchheim is. I really must look at it properly someday. Where to eat? Hebendanz is still a smokers' club, so that was out. “I haven't been to Greif in ages. The last two times I was here it was shut.” Mike didn't argue. Bugger. It was shut. Again. Really shut. Not likely to ever open again shut.
That left just Neder.
Retirement Castle common room. Me and Mike fitted right in. “We don't do food.” the waitress said. “What about the sausages?” Mike said, pointing to a chalkboard of sausage offerings. “Oh yes, we have sausages.” Sausage for tea, then. Even though it doesn't seem to count as food around these parts.
Neder Export, straight from the barrel. At 1.80 euros a half litre, it's a real ripoff. Soft carbonation made it slip down like a oiled oyster.
The waitress explained Greif had been closed for a year. Best take it out of my Forchheim guide, then. “But they have another pub. Next to the brewery.” She helpfully marked it on our map.
As it was on the way, we planned a beer in Eichhorn. Closed, too. But just for the Annafest. Like most all of the pubs in town. We found the pub the Neder waitress meant. Built right into the middle of the Greif brewery. But, you've guessed it, that was closed as well.
There was one place I knew for certain was open: Schlößla. We'd walked past it on the way to Greif. And it was selling Hebendanz.
All well and good. Then we saw the sign, "Smokers' club". Bum, bum, bum. Aah, but there was a beer garden at the back. We sat at a table with a couple of locals. “Are you tourists?” one asked. “Yes.” “Are you here for the Annafest?” It's about all that happens in Forchheim.
Our neighbours were a chummy bunch. Two hours slipped by in conversation. Cabbages, kings and giant pharmaceutical companies. Beer. Naturally, there was beer. Both as topic of conversation and refreshment. Hebendanz Export, Hebendanz Annafestbier. And my German was unexpectedly functional. It usually takes a while to get it warmed up. Until the day I'm due to leave, mostly.
After dark, we walked back to Roter Ochs. A good start to the trip. Despite Mike trying to lead me down the wrong bloody footpath. Again.
Annafest tomorrow. Where tales of beer-climbing, a mysterious stranger and precisely how quickly your first beer of the festival should be drunk will fascinate, amuse and, I hope, educate you.
Gasthaus Roter Ochs
Telefon: 091 914511
Tekl: 09197 - 221
Bamberger Straße 49,
Telefon 09191 15149
Tel. 09191 - 2400
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