Sunday, 15 July 2012

Mike's trip

 This is Mike's version of our first few days away:

Our first stop in Bavaria was Falkenberg - a tiny, but very striking village that supports three Zoigl stuben. The weather was beautiful and the streets were quiet. As only one stube is open at a time, we enjoyed a lovely dinner in the garden behind their place and slowly wandered back to our accommodations.

The next morning, I decided to walk down to the village and pick up some coffee and cakes. Halfway down to the main road, a middle-aged woman wearing a backpack that towered over her head asked me if I was local. No, I said. Well, I'm looking for a bakery, she replied. Me too!

We carried on down the hill together and came upon an older man. He, it turned out, was indeed local and directed us to the all-in-one shop in the village. So, fresh coffee and cake in hand, I headed back up the hill. Lovely beginning to day two.

The Windischeschenbach/Neuhaus twins didn't thrill me - that deep gorge that divided them seemed to underline their determination to remain apart. Yes, between the two parts, there are probably more Zoigl stuben than any other village in the Oberpfalz. But those hills! Yes, the beers, the stuben, food, locations were all brilliant, but those hills!

The next stop was Neuhaus - a different one. The official name is Neuhaus an der Pegnitz. This Neuhaus had no Zoigl, but it did have a communal brewery and three pubs that used it. They also used the six-pointed star common to Zoigl, but they described it (on their beermats) as "the sign of good beer."

We ended up a Kommunbrauer Paul Reindl, which may be the most commercial of the three brewers. The beer may well have been the best beer I experienced on this trip. It was certainly more complex than most of the other beers on the trip and it slid down the throat easily enough. Second only to the beer was the food. In fact, the food/beer offering was so good, we had both lunch and dinner there. Definitely worth a visit.

In Bamberg, I had planned to visit two beer gardens up a hill from the main part of town. I found a bus that brought us to the top and then an easy walk down. Unfortunately, we got there a little too early and none had opened yet. Making a note of the opening time, I went back later on my own. I was not thrilled with the garden or the beer at Wilde Rose, but the Spezial keller knocked me out!

Spezial is located on top of an open field that looks out on the city. The views are really quite sensational. And, they have beer (I'm pretty sure it was bayrischer anstich, but there was only waiter service) and lots of food. Brilliant place. Now that I know the opening times, I'll be back.

After Bamberg, we eventually worked our way to Pegnitz. Like it's neighbour (Neuhaus a.d. Pegnitz), it also had something a bit like a communal beer, even with its own name - Flinderer. Similarly to Zoigl, there is a Flinderer calendar showing which one pub is serving it. Unfortunately, the pub that day was out of town and the weather wasn't nice enough for the long walk, so I headed into Pegnitz and hoped to find something.

It turns out the beer has a "brand name": Böheim. I found a pub, a real local's pub, btw, and found myself sitting behind a Helles. It was quite nice and the landlady explained to me that the Flinderer was actually a slightly higher alcohol version (5.5 vs. 4.9 percent) of the beer I was drinking. The beer was nice enough for a second. I would have had a third, but my bus was leaving and missing it might leave me stranded.

Pegnitz, the town, is nothing special, however, there is a good deal of good beer in the general area (though not in Pegnitz itself), so a return visit could be in order.

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