Travel report time. About my trip to Bavaria last weekend. Well, the first day. Probably won't be as extensive as my previous reports as I was in drinking rather than note-taking mode.
I had an early morning flight. The downside of having to get up before 6 am was more than balanced out be being up and running in Bavaria before noon. Well before noon.
Every year I take an off-duty tour. Where I let Andy of Bier-Mania! do all the work. Planning, booking hotels, driving me from pub to pub. It makes a nice change. This year it was four days of beery fun in Bavaria slotted around the Oktoberfest.
I was slightly worried when I couldn't spot Andy in the terminal of Munich airport. Then I recalled how vague our plans to meet were. Nothing more than me passing on my flight details. "He's a professional." I reassured myself. "He's bound to track me down." After a bit of wandering around, I considered heading for the bar. He'd be bound to look for me there eventually. Wouldn't he? No need for such drastic action. A voice behind me boomed "Big Ron!".
The other tour members (a very nice young couple from New Hampshire) were waiting in the minibus. Within a couple of minutes we were on the road to Andechs.
Bavaria is a very pretty place. Not that I paid that much attention to the countryside rushing past. My mind was on higher things. Literally. On the Andechs monastery, stuck on top of a hill. Like all German monasteries seem to be.
Our early start meant we were in danger of arriving before the 10 o'clock opening time. But the slowness of my plod up the hill meant we arrived a minute or two after. There were already a few people in the beer garden, sipping beer and sucking in the sun.
"We'll see you in 15 minutes" Andy said, pointing me to the bar. He didn't even bother asking if I wanted to accompany them to the monastery. I wasn't sure whether to be flattered or annoyed at his certainty of my preference for beer over culture. But walking up the rest of the hill really didn't appeal. A couple of decades living in Holland has left me deeply distrustful of all but the gentlest incline.
The Bräustüberl is self-service. You pay the bloke with a moustache sitting in a little booth your dosh, he gives you a receipt which you then give to the bloke without a moustache behind the bar who pulls your beer. It took me all of two nanoseconds to make my choice between Helles, Dunkles and Doppelbock. I'm sure you can guess just as quickly.
The years I've been a CAMRA member have affected my thinking. Especially when it comes to things like fake barrels. Why can't they just be honest and have a normal pressure tap? I expect better of monks. Though there was nothing fake about the bang with which moustache number two smashed my half litre down onto the bar.
I sat in the garden and gazed across the valley. Inbetween greedily guzzling my Doppelbock. After the walk up that bloody hill, I deserved it. Ah, the rolling fields of Bavaria, with their subtle shades of green and brown, punctuated by trees and a red-roofed farmhouse. On the crest opposite a forest stretched out like a waiting army. Only 10:15 and I was already as happy as a pig in shit. Though significantly cleaner. And with considerably less chance of being roasted.
It wasn't just the view and the Bock that brought joy to my heart and a smile to my face. Those smells! Roasting pork and brewing. It's how I imagine heaven.
I was well into my second beer when the others got back from their cultural bit. It didn't last much longer. "Do you want to get yourself another?" Andy asked. Pope, catholic and woods immediately came to mind. Course I bloody wanted another.
I contemplated trying the Dunkles. But it would inevitably have tasted watery after the Doppelbock. Sometimes decision-making is just so easy.
Three Doppelbocks before 11:00. The tour had started perfectly.
My first encounter with an Arrogant Bastard - ... was like looking in a mirror. My first encounter with the Californian beer of the same name, however, was the subject of a blog post here in August 2007....
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