Thursday, June 20, 2013

Germany: A Life-Changing Experience




I recently returned from a trip that was three years in the making. I spent most of my time in the state of Bavaria and explored the beautiful architecture, culture, and pride of the people of Bayern (Bavaria). From the country side of Aying to the history rich town of Bamberg, the beauty of Bavaria is nothing I have ever experienced before. And, let us not forget the amazing beer that Bavaria has to offer!






If you are a beer enthusiast/geek/nerd (if you are reading this, there is a 95% chance you are) like me, then you should be well-aware of how serious Germans take their beer. They even have laws on what ingredients can be used! There are only a handful of countries in the world that come close to passion and quality that Germany adheres to (Czech and Belgium come to mind).

I experienced an incredible beer epiphany in Germany. I can still remember the complex Rauchbier with its smoky flavor yet easy to drink, the refreshing Weissbier for breakfast with some fresh-backed pretzels and Weisswurst, or the crisp and bitter Pils bursting with perfumy noble hop character. These beers showed me what tradition is all about.



Although most beers are widely available in the States, there is nothing like having a beer at its origin. The freshness and quality of all the beers completely took me by surprise. I never imagined just how different and delicious these beers truly are. Simply amazing!

The travel bug has bit me deep and has latched on pretty tightly. Planning to places like Czech, Belgium, and Ireland (and of course, a return trip to Germany) is no longer out of the question. In fact, a voyage to Czech (Prague and Pilsen, to be exact) and/or Belgium will most likely be my next European adventure. I've never been much of a traveler besides road trips. But now that I have a purpose, the mere thought of going to different regions excites me!

I could go on and on, but pictures are worth a thousand words and speak volumes to what I experienced. Below are some of the pictures I took during my journey and beer exploration. Enjoy the pictures while I go grab a beer. See you in a while...





Ayinger


A short train ride south of Munich, is the tiny town of Aying. Green fields, fresh air, quite, and (of course) a brewery. What else would you want?


After a 2 minute walk from the Aying train station,
off in the distance is the Ayinger brewery.
My tour guide pouring unfiltered
Jahrhundert Bier direct from the Fermenter!
















One of many murals adorning the brewery.


The Bavarian and Ayinger flags welcome you
as you walk up to the visitors center.
Crisp and refreshing. The Lager Hell, Helles beer.









Tasting room and private banquet hall at Ayinger.
Yes, it is above the brewhouse!




















Hops. Just some gorgeous, Bavarian Noble hops.




Young brewer at Ayinger verifying the
Original Gravity (sugar content) of wort (unfermented beer).
Lots and lots of antique mugs.


At the bigining of the tour, a fountain lets
participants taste the well-water used for brewing.











The Tasting Room bar area with all Ayinger beers
available for tasting.




Erdinger


To the north-east of Munich and surrounded by farmland, the town of Erding holds grounds for the famous Erdinger Weissbräu brewery. This brewery visit was by far the most pleasant of the three simply because of the hospitality. The tour itself was nothing special, however the tasting room and generosity of the facility during the tasting made this a memorable experience! Not only were we allowed to taste all that was at hand, but we were also given fresh-baked pretzels and sausages to accompany our weissbiers. Some of their most recognizable product are on display below as well as some Germany-only specialties.

Welcome to Erdinger!
Erdinger flag, German flag, and Bavarian flag
greet you in the welcome center.











As you approach the welcome center, countless flags
from around the world catch your eyes.


The welcome center. Gifts, gifts, and more gifts.
I raided this place (rightfully so!).



View of the brewhous from the second floor.


Mural at the beginning of the tour.

Germany exclusive, Weißbier Leicht.
Literally a light Hefeweizen at only 3%ABV!
Another view of the shinny stainless-steel brewhouse.
Also exclusive to Germany, Champ is
meant to be drunk directly from the bottle.

Dunkelweizen (Dark wheat)

Pikantus Weizenbock
A robust flavored dark wheat at a generous 8%ABV.
The original Urweisse is the only one of
Erdinger's brews that uses a different yeast strain
The welcome signs as you approach the Tasting Room.
The Erdinger Tasting Room
The original well for Erdinger's brewing water
is still in use today.
Entrence to the brewhouse direct from the Tasting Room.




Weihenstephaner

On my final full day in Germany, I had the honor of visiting a piece of brewing history: The Weihenstephaner Brewery... The oldest active brewery in the world! They have been a brewing beer officially since the year 1040. The brewery itself has burned down three times and each time has been rebuilt to continue the art. To add even more prestige to Weihenstephaner, the brewery is now part of a vast complex of buildings that make up the Life and Food Sciences branch of Technical University, Munich (in fact, as early back as 1803, the grounds have been used for agriculture study and brewing sciences). How would you like to earn your Masters of Science degree in brewing learning the ropes in the oldest brewery in the world?


Point the way, please.
This was the sign outside the administration building,
where the tours start.
The tour begins...
The brewhouse at Weihenstephaner
Mural inside the brewhous. One of many.
Painted on the wall of the brewhouse.
The coned bottoms of 8 giant fermenters.
This was one of 3 rooms like this.

With the tour concluded, it was time to grab a bite...
and a beer, of course.

Golden, crisp, refreshing, hoppy.
A German Pils at its absolute best!
A sweet dunkelweizen with some pork ribs.




Perfect weather for an afternoon at the biergarten.
Just in case you forgot where you were enjoying your beer.







The Biergarten even has some cleverly named
water dishes for mans-best-friend. Loved this minor detail!




Paulaner

Founded by munks in the 1600's, this brewery is named after the their order of Saint Francis of Paola. These monks famosly brewed a strong beer that is now known as the style Doppelbock which served the Friars as "liquid-bread" while they were fasting. Paulaner holds the rights to the term Savator, which means "savior" in German (it goes without saying as to why these monks refereed to their beer as a savior). 

Although I was not able to take a tour at this brewery, there were plenty of venues throughout Munich that was sponsored by Paulaner. Most of the pictured I chose are from what I thought was the best restaurant I found that served Paulaner exclusively. Not only were the beers amazing, the staff was friendly and helpful. Paulaner im Tal is a great establishment.


Taken at the Munich Airport, from a
self-serve draught system. How cool is that!?
The signature medallion adorning the daught tower
at Paulaner im Tal.
The typical draught system display. Beautiful shiny copper.
Salvator. What a great way to end the day.













Their Munich Dunkel was a nice, sweet, and crisp
lagered beer with a nice bready note.



Helles Lager
A smooth, balanced beer to wash your troubles away.




Schneider & Sohn’s

Almost accross the street from Paulaner im Tal, you'll find this gem called Weisses Brauhaus. Here, the showcase beers are from Schneider & Sohn's. With great service, friendly staff, and prime location, I found myself coming back here twice to try more fresh, high quality wiessbire!

The most famous of their brews is a Weizenbock named Aventinus. This beer has been renowned as the best interpretation of the style (in my eyes, it is THE best interpretation). You can imagine my excitement when I realized I could have the best Weizenbock in the world, fresh "vom Fass" (on tap, literal translation is "from the barrel").







Tap 2: Mein Kristal
Filtered Hefeweizen with a creamy-smooth texture.
Tap 4: Mein Günes.
A hoppy Hefe with tangy, refreshing wheat bite.






















Tap 5: Schneider & Brooklyner Hopfen-Weisse.
Essentially a Hefeweizen and an
East Coast IPA in one glass!


Tap 6: Unser Aventinus, fresh on draught!
Simply amazing with complex dark fruit
and warming character.

Aventinus Eisbock, a 12%ABV god-in-a-glass.
Ripe plums and banana aroma, tastes like heaven!

Above the entrance, the Schneider logo. 
This beer is so amazing that it has its own window!





Aecht

I kept hearing about some amazing smoked beers to the north of Munich so I traveled north to Bamberg to see what all the fuss was about. I was not disappointed. There were two breweries that stood out. Aecht and Spezial.

First, I stopped by the restaurant run by Aecht. It was a busy place! Unfortunately, I was unable to get a table and have some food here. However, I was able to have a beer! There is a beer pick-up window for you to enjoy a beer outside while you wait for a table, of simply if you wish to have a pint and stand outside. Now, I have had Aecht Rauchbier's before so I didn't think anything of it. Boy was I wrong....



Relaxing outside, enjoying my Rauchbier
with many other explorers.

Aecht Rauchbier Märzen
Smoky, yet not overpowering.




Spezial

Here was a nice surprise. After I finished my pint at Aecht and after a short walk, I stumbled upon a brewery I have never heard about. The sign read "Brauerei Spezial" and I was intrigued. I am so happy I found this place. The smoked beers were amazing, the food was great, and the atmosphere threw me back a century or two.


The golden lettering of the best surprise of my entire trip.



Yes, I took a few.
This was the simply called Rauchbier Lager
Amazingly crisp, smoky character
was soft and pleasant.


I have no idea what I ordered. All I know is
that is was amazing!!
This unfiltered beer named Ungespundetes
was full of sweet, tangy, and malt flavors.
No smoke, and no problem!

The dining room at Brauerei Spezial




Augustiner

This is the oldest, still independent brewery in the city of Munich. The brewery has many great beers and is quite uncommon in the States. And, as with many imported beers, when they do make it here, they are not as the brewer intended. Not only were these beers delicious, they are found everywhere in Munich in many beer-halls dedicated to serving only Augustiner. Good thing because I found craving some almost every day I was there.

In my opinion, the best example of a German Pils.
Bitter from start to finish, pleasant noble hop character,
yet refreshing and crisp. One of the best beers I had.


Plate of small sausages and sauerkraut alongside
the Augustiner Weissbier.

Holzfällersteak with grilled onion, potatoes,
and an Augustiner Dunkel.







Hofbräuhaus

Alas, it was my 30th birthday. I made my way though the bending streets of central Munich to end up at the most visited and talked about beer-hall in the world: The Hafbräuhaus! I know this is a tourist attraction and that authentic, traditional beer-halls have better beer (see above), but this was a turning point in my life. I was now entering 30 years on this planet and I wanted to experience something special. So, there was no way in hell that I was not going to visit the Hofbräuhaus... On my Birthday!


...I tuned the corner and there it was...






Cask was empty that day. Shame.
A pint of their summer beer.
An unfiltered lager. Tasty stuff!















What's a visit to the original Hofbräuhaus without
getting a giant beer!? Dunkel, bitte!


Some pretzels, a brawurst, sauerkraut, and
Original Helles Lager. Perfect!




One of many posts full of giant glassware.






An experience worth traveling for.

The entrance to one of the best birthdays I've ever had.




So, did you enjoy the pictures? Feel like taking your own beer-&-self-finding trip to Germany? I would highly recommend it! Like I've said before, this was an experience that I will soon not forget. My next expedition to Czech and/or Belgium will surely hold its own, but no matter how incredible my future adventures may be, my first trip will always have a special place in my heart.

Until next time, Prost!





















-Gilbert “Charlie” Perez