Beer festivals are like buses, you wait ages for one to come along and then three arrive at once! OK, not quite all at once, but one after another, and this time of year always seems a particularly busy one for celebrating the fruits and delights of the brewers’ art.
Last weekend saw the highly successful SIBA South East Region Beer Festival, which I’ve already reported on here. This weekend sees the similarly- sized Kent Beer Festival, one of the longest running events of this nature in the country; in fact the Kent Beer Festival is the second oldest CAMRA festival in Britain. The first one took place in 1975, so next year, 2014, will be the event’s 40th anniversary. After a gap of several years, I attended last year’s festival and, after thoroughly enjoying myself, made a commitment to go along this year. Unfortunately the event immediately precedes another beer festival; one which takes place abroad, and one which I have wanted to attend for quite some time.
The event I am referring to is known as Annafest, and is held every July in the small Franconian town of Forchheim, in northern Bavaria. The event is primarily a folk festival, held over a 10 day period to celebrate St Anna’s day (July 26th). St Anna (Anne in English), was the mother of the Virgin Mary, and Bavaria being a staunchly Catholic country celebrates such events in style, and with the help of more than a few beers of course! We’re not actually flying out until Monday morning (22nd), so in theory I could have joined my friends at Canterbury yesterday for the first day of the Kent Festival, but with going away there were a lot of loose ends to tie up at work, but shopping and packing to do today, (not much fun with a hangover!), so I reluctantly decided that Canterbury would have been one festival just too many.
So what of Annafest? Well, not having been before I’m not quite sure what to expect. The festival takes place on a site occupying a wooded hillside, just on the edge of Forchheim. The “Kellerwald”, as the area is known, has 23 Bierkellers (beer gardens really), most of which only open for Annafest, although a small number are open all year. There are also fairground rides and attractions, plus six stages featuring a wide range of different musical acts, (quite what sort of acts remains to be seen). About nine or ten local breweries supply the beer, including the four breweries based in Forchheim itself, with many of them brewing a special “Annafest Bier”.
The event opened today (Saturday 20th), with a parade through Forchheim, followed by the ceremonial tapping of the first cask by the Bürgermeister, (town Mayor), but hopefully there will still be some beer left by the time we arrive late Monday afternoon. We’re renting an apartment in the centre of Forchheim, so shouldn’t have far to travel, and anyway a shuttle bus runs between the bus station and the Kellerwald. Whilst there, we’ll obviously be visiting the town centre taps of the four Forchheim breweries, as well as exploring a bit further a field. Forchheim is roughly halfway between Nuremberg, (where we’re flying in to) and Bamberg. We’ve visited Bamberg before. Not only is this beautiful city home to eight breweries and famed for its “Raucbier” (smoke beer), it also contains some smashing pubs. A return visit will definitely be on the cards.
I’ve got two books for guidance: John Conen’s excellent Guide to Bamberg & Franconia, plus Ron Pattinson’s Trip! (South), which covers a much wider area of southern Germany. I’ve also got the Annafest App for my Smartphone, which gives details of the various Bierkellers, opening times, beers sold, availability of food, music or music free etc. It also has a plan of the Kellerwald showing the location of the various Kellers, names, times and venues for the various music acts, plus general information about the event.
All in all it promises to be an excellent event, especially as the weather looks set to remain fine, for the first half of the week at least. Tandleman, who has been to Annafest before, gave me a few words of advice. “Take plenty of insect repellent”, he said. When I asked why, he reminded me that warm summer nights and forested areas are a bad combination when it comes to attracting biting insects. Thanks for the tip Peter, my “Jungle Formula” insect repellent is already packed.