(Editor. December 2005: While most of us are busy preparing for the holidays, a band of hearty brew-loving souls is packing its bags and preparing for a journey. The mission: to rediscover one of beer culture’s most cherished places. This Bavarian expedition is being undertaken by 15 noted figures from the world of beer, including brewery owners, beer journalists and All About Beer Magazine Publisher, Daniel Bradford. We persuaded each of them to share their impressions of Bavaria and the nine days they enjoyed there, touring the countryside, visiting breweries and beer halls, and savoring some of the best beer to be made anywhere in the world.
They told us about a special place—a land of lager and lederhosen, where the Dunkel flows like the Danube. Of Munich and monasteries. Of Rauchbiers made of smoke and gardens filled with beer. This is Bavaria—the alpine home of Bock and Beethoven. Of hops and Hallertau. Of killer Kellerbier, shnappes and Stammtisch….and so much more.
Our correspondents have all filed their reports. So, if you’re ready, the bus is now boarding…)
In Quest of Beer Paradise
by Horst Dornbusch
Every religion and mythology seems to have a place in which everything is in a state of perfection…call it paradise, nirvana, Mount Olympus, Valhalla, utopia, or the Holy Grail. For beer lovers, no doubt, this place is Bavaria!
No other area has spawned a greater variety of beer styles. Where else could you get an authentic taste of a potent but gentle doppelbock, a turbid and rich kellerbier, a velvet hammer called an eisbock, a smoke bomb called a rauchbier, a black and alluring schwarzbier, a malty and satisfying dunkel, a complex and spicy-spritzy weissbier (hefeweizen) and a dainty, delicate helles—all within easy walking distance? The Bavarians even distill a clear, easy drinking schnapps from beer.
Other brewing superlatives in Bavaria include the oldest and most famous brew university (Weihenstephen, near Munich), which also happens to be the oldest continuously operating brewery in the world. It has been making beer since 1040. A decade later, the Benedictine friars at Weltenburg got their brewing license, making this cloister the oldest still-operating monastery brewery. The world’s oldest malting plant (built in 180 A.D.) is in Regensburg along the Danube. Franconia in northern Bavaria has the greatest density of breweries anywhere—some 100 of them within a 50-mile radius around Bamberg. Kulmbach has the world’s longest uninterrupted brewing tradition, as evidenced by a 2,800-year old Celtic beer fermenter found nearby. And, of course, there is always the Oktoberfest, the largest beer party in the world, and the Hofbräuhaus, the Mecca of all beer halls, smack in downtown Munich. Bavaria is the ultimate beer reality show!
So, when the Bavarian Brewers Federation and the Bavarian Department of Agriculture beckoned about a dozen leading North American beer journalists coming over for a look-see, everyone heeded the call. It was my privilege to take them around, and here are some of their impressions…