We intend having a beer in the Dampbierbrauerei tap opposite the brewery, but the tour took rather longer than expected. Instead we head straight on to Eck, through a wondrous landscape of wooden hills and rolling green fields. Just outside Zwiesel a bicycle heads towards us up a hill. As it passes we notice that the woman riding it can’t be less than 70 years old. Another fit granny for Andy.
I’m rather surprised when Andy announces “We’re there!”. This village isn’t Eck, which is where I thought we were heading. It’s called Böbrach. Despite consisting of just a couple of streets it has two butchers and a handful of pubs. Looks promising. But we drive straight through and back out into countryside. Approaching a handful of buildings I notice a sign with “Eck” written on it. Eck isn’t a hamlet, more like a farmstead.
Brauerei Gasthof Eck
It turns out that the whole of Eck is part of the brewery complex. There’s a brewery, hotel, pub, beer garden, holiday flats, distillery, distillery museum, distillery shop and an off-licence. That’s what I call diversification. The only thing missing are any farm activities.
Being off-season, it’s pretty quiet inside. Eventually, we find someone to check us in. He turns out to be the brewer. A friendly young chap with an excellent command of English. As we clamber upstairs to our rooms Andy tells us to meet him downstairs in 10 minutes for a quick look around the distillery museum.
It’s quite a small museum. The attached shop is just about as big. I’m surpised to see “Vogtland” stamped on some crates. I happen to know where the Vogtland is, because I’ve been there. One of Dolores’s university friends comes from Plauen. It’s in the former DDR. Then I spot a heap of bottles with VEB Erzgebergische Likörfabrik Bockau and EVP 11.90 M. They must have got all this stuff from a small distillery in the East that closed.
Five minutes and I’ve done with the museum. I only took that long because of my curiosity about the origin of some exhibits. In the shop, where the others have already gathered, a nice lady is pouring out free samples. This is more like it. She gives us a Blutwurz (the local speciality) to try. It reminds me very much of Becherovka. Then a plum brandy. Unsurprisingly, that tastes like Slivovic. This is turning out to be good practice for the Czech Republic.
Half a dozen samples later, I start feeling guilty. The guilt isn’t inspired by knocking back the shots so early (it’s 16:45). More that I really should buy something after so many freebies. Keith and I gaze longingly along the shelves of fruit schnapps. After one last sample to make certain of its quality, I leave clutching a bottle of Obstler. Well, not actually clutching it. It’s packed away neatly in a black fabric Blutwurz bag. I’d forgotten to bring a bag in which to carry my pub-crawling necessities: camera, notebook, notes.
“What about a beer?” asks Andy. Does the pope shit in woods? His first one barely touches the sides. All that driving gives him a right thirst. I’ve barely touched my first and he’s slurped down two. “I’m off to the sauna, see you in half an hour.” says Andy. I would join him, but for two facts: I hate heat and naked flesh makes me uneasy. The rest of us go to check out our rooms.
I forgot to mention the view. We’ve spent the day driving through some wonderful countryside, but I still have to stop and gape in awe. My room has the best view of anywhere I’ve stayed outside Jamaica (itself one of the most beautiful spots in the world).
After a quick call home to let the family know I’m not lying dead in a gutter, I’m ensconced again in the beer garden with a mug of Dunkles. Jim and Keith soon join me. We sit for a while without speaking, breathing in the silence and drinking in the wonderful vista of hills, woods and fields. Earlier in Zwiesel I thought the day pretty damn perfect. How wrong I was. It really doesn’t get any better than this.
Eck Wilderer Dunkles: red-brown in colour, sweetish with liquorice, pepper, roast and toffee flavours. My score - 66 out of 100. Very, very drinkable - as our bar bill attests.
When it starts getting chilly we go inside to eat. The pub is charming, but nearly empty. Who cares? It means the service is quicker. Like everything else, the food is perfect. How can anything live up to this? I may as well top myself now. Deciding that may be a little drastic, I order their special beer liqueur instead. It comes in a tiny beer mug and is topped with whipped cream. It looks like a miniature version of the Dunkles the others are drinking.
Once again, I astound Andy by being the first to go to bed. I really have learned my lesson.
Will the rest of the tour be a huge disappointment? Has this been the highpoint? Find out tomorrow.
Just happened to see the rating for Eck Dunkles on RateBeer. Half the ratings are from a single, obviously duff bottle. I find it really annoying that people post ratings like this, especially when there are so few others, that create a totally false impression of a beer's quality. Why do people do this? I can understand why brewers get really pissed off with ratings sites.
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