Wednesday 30 September 2009

South Downs Way - Part 3

I'm off in the morning to walk the final stretch of the South Downs Way. It's only a two day hike, and we'll be spending the first night at the Buck's Head in Meonstoke. The walk finishes in Winchester, England's ancient Saxon capital, and are planning to hit the city's pubs on Friday night.

I'll report on how we get on when I get back.

Tuesday 29 September 2009

A Walk in the Weald

Last Saturday myself plus a few CAMRA colleagues visited a part of the West Kent branch area that we don't normally get out to. We caught the 297 bus out from Tunbridge Wells, alighting in the village of Brenchley. From here it was a short pleasant walk to the tiny hamlet of Castle Hill. On the way we were rewarded with some spectacular views across the Weald towards the Greensand Ridge. Everything looked resplendent in the late September sunshine.

Castle Hill is home to the Castle Inn, a free-house that serves Adnams Bitter and Harveys Best. It is perhaps a slightly up-market village local, but none the worse for that. What's more although it's probably been the best part of 20 years since I last visited the pub, it doesn't seem to have changed much. Our only grumble was the food, as the portion sizes didn't quite match the up-market prices!

Leaving the Castle Inn we walked the short distance to the next village. Horsmonden was once the centre of the Wealden iron-making industry, and this is evident from some names like Furnace Pond and Furnace Lane that can be found in the locality. Horsmonden is centred around an attractive village green. It still boasts several local shops, including a Post Office, and also still has two pubs. (There used to be three, but the Kings Arms closed a few years ago.)

We first visited the Highwayman, a two-bar Shepherd Neame pub. Regular readers of this blog will know that Shep's isn't my favourite beer by a long chalk, but giving credit where it's due the beer in the Highwayman was excellent. Instead of the usual offerings of Master Brew and Spitfire, Canterbury Jack and Kent's Best were the beers on sale. I didn't try the Canterbury Jack, but the Kent's Best certainly opened my eyes to just how good Shepherd Neame can be when looked after properly. The friendly landlord had only been at the pub for three weeks, but he was doing a great job. The Highwayman is certainly a place we will return to.

We thought we'd better check out Horsmonden's other pub. Situated just across the village green from the Highwayman, the Gun & Spitroast is an attractive former coaching inn, famed for its roast beef, pork and venison dishes which are spit-roasted over an open log-fire. As one would expect from a building of this age there is the usual wealth of old beams and low-ceilings and the pub is certainly not lacking in character. What it was lacking though was any drinkable cask beer. There were two pump-clips on display when we entered; one from Vale Brewery, the other for Ringwood Best.
Learning that the Vale was off our branch chairman opted for the Ringwood, only to find on tasting it that it had turned. The barmaid attempted to pull another pint, but the barrel had gone. Alas, the sweet-looking young thing behind the bar didn't know how to change a barrel. It wasn't her fault, but it did strike us as strange that the pub's management should have abandoned her on a Saturday of all days, with no cask beer to serve to the punters. Still it was their loss, and we returned to the Highwayman. After learning of the reason for our prompt return, the landlord very chivalrously nipped over to the Gun & Spitroast and connected up a cask for them. We were quite happy staying where we were though, and sat out on the pub's patio soaking up the beer and the sunshine in equal measures, before catching the bus back to Tunbridge Wells. It had been an interesting day out, and one that had opened a few eyes, including my own!

Saturday 26 September 2009

A Bargain Pub Lunch

Last Thursday I made a short business trip to Bristol. We required an additional analytical balance for our Quality Control Laboratory, so I drove down with a colleague to view a nearly new unit that had been advertised by a well-known vendor of second-hand laboratory equipment. We have bought several items in the past from this company, so know the products they sell are of good quality. It was therefore worth the three hour drive each way to Bristol and back in order to view, and as it turned out, purchase the balance.

Once the business had been concluded we decided that a spot of lunch was in order. There was a large pub just down the road. We had eaten there on a previous occasion and remembered that whilst it was a bit on the basic side, it offered good value for money. This proved to be double the case on this visit, as a sign at the entrance informed us that the pub was offering lunches for just £2.00 a head!

The menu, like the pub, was pretty basic - chips with everything, including the curry! I chose cod, chips and peas, whilst my colleague settled for ham, egg and chips. There was one cask ale on tap; Gem Bitter from Bath Ales. The ale was in good nick and the food was well presented. The portions weren't gargantuan, but for £2.00 a time we weren't complaining. and at these prices it was the best value I've come across in a long time. Not all the tables were full. but a good proportion of them were, with a good mix of people enjoying the excellent value food. My colleague and I were wondering how the pub's management could offer cooked meals for less than the price of most sandwiches? Is this he way forward we wondered? I know of at least one local pub in Tonbridge that does lunchtime meals for £2.99, so perhaps the idea is catching on.

The pub offering the £2.00 meals was the Chequers, in the Kingswood district of Bristol. Check it out if you are ever in the area.

Sunday 20 September 2009

Triumphator Dunkler Doppelbock

Last night I drank the last of the beers that I'd brought back from Munich. I seem to have cracked the art of packing them in my suitcase so that they survive the rigours of being crammed into the baggage hold on the flight home. However, as weight is another consideration apart from the risk of breakages, I usually limit my purchases to around half a dozen bottles.

I'd saved the strongest beer to last. It was Triumphator Dunkler Doppelbock from Loewenbraeu. At 7.6% this beer doesn't take many prisoners. Doppelbocks are dark, strong beers that were originally brewed by monks to see themselves through Lent. Being strong and sustaining, these potent brews are literally "liquid bread". Although Doppelbocks may be available in bottled form all year round, they typically make an appearance on draught for a limited two week period starting around the middle of March. This period is known as the Starkbierzeit (strong beer time), and is celebrated by most of Munich's beer halls. The parties put on by the Paulaner and Loewenbraeu Kellers are said to be particularly noteworthy, and copious amounts of these potent beers are consumed. Despite their strength, they are sold by the litre! Starkbierzeit is sometimes referred to as the "5th Season", and is the time of year just before spring when the indoor beer halls are about to give way to the opening of the city's many beer gardens, and the celebrations move outside until late autumn.

The original and Grand-daddy of the Doppelbocks is Paulaner's Salvator, and in acknowledgement to this fact virtually all other breweries that produce these potent beers add the suffix "ator" to the chosen name of their brew. Thus starting at the beginning of the alphabet, we have Aviator, whilst at the end we have Unimator with just about everything else in between. (Celebrator, Kulminator, Maximator, Operator,Spekulator - to name but a few!)

To return to the beer in question; it was absolutely superb beer that totally belied its big-brewery origins. I have drank Salvator many times now, including on our recent trip, and have been somewhat disappointed, particularly of late, thinking it was missing something. This was not the case with Triumphator; it was an absolutely brilliant beer that knocked spots off its cross-town rival. From first pouring it you could smell the toffee like malt of this rich dark beer, and when first tasted it had the most unbelievable chewy maltiness imaginable, balanced by just the right amount of bitterness. My only regret now is that I did not bring back a suitcase full of this marvellous beer!

Saturday 19 September 2009

New Patio Nears Completion - Home Brewery Draws Nearer

50 slabs laid and only another 10 to go! It's been hard work mixing up the sand and cement by hand and then laying each two foot square slab by hand. Each one, of course has to be checked that it's in-line with its neighbour and is dead level. The real hard work though was digging out the base and then filing it with compacted hardcore (I broke up the old concrete garden path with a sledge hammer, and then pummeled the chunks up into smaller pieces). The whole site had to pegged out and checked with a spirit level, before being covered with a layer of compacted sand.

I bring you this earth-shattering news not so much to bore you with my DIY exploits, but to let you know that the patio will form the base of our new summer-house-cum-brewery. I'll leave it to the spring now before ordering and erecting the latter, but once everything's in place then it will be time to recommence brewing again.

Before we took on our shop I was a keen and accomplished home-brewer. I don't make that last statement to brag, although I was (and still am) proud of the beers I was turning out. All my beers were full-mash recipes that were bittered with whole-leaf hops. I tried all sorts of styles, ranging from authentic IPA's and Porters to Dubbels and Doppelbocks. I even produced the odd Rauchbier using specially imported smoked malt from Bamberg! I usually had a well-hopped 1045 OG pale ale on tap as my everyday drinking beer, complemented by a darker brew during the winter months.

Running an off-licence was a 24/7 activity, but the reason I didn't re-start my brewing activities straight after we sold the business was that in the interim we had our garage demolished and an extension to the house built in its place. The garage doubled up as my brewery, and without it I have been left with nowhere suitable in which to mash and boil my wort. (I have always been barred from using the kitchen for these activities; understandable really as the hour and a half boil fills the room with steam and leaves sticky hop oil resins on the walls and ceilings!)

Anyway, there's still quite a way to go until I stir in my first mash, but I'm feeling now that the project is well on track. I will keep you informed of my progress.

For more information on home brewing follow this link.

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Some Different Beers Whilst Abroad

Most beer tourists to Munich will be familiar with the city's "Big Six" breweries: Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbraeu, Loewenbraeu, Paulaner and Spatenbraeu whose products can be found and enjoyed all over the Bavarian capital. Yet with a bit of detective work, and a bit of travelling around, it is possible to track down beers from a number of other Bavarian breweries.

I have already mentioned Forschungsbrauerei and its excellent beers, as well as Erharting, whose beers we enjoyed on a trip out to the Walderpach area of the city, but even when one first arrives in Munich, it is possible to sample beers from a brewery you will not find anywhere else. Airbraeu is situated just off the open concourse which lies between terminals 1 and 2 at Munich's international airport. It is a brew-pub-cum-restaurant-cum-beer-garden, offering house-brewed beers at very competitive prices.

As our flight got in just before 11am we wasted little time after re-claiming our baggage in making for Airbraeu. It took a bit of finding; Franz Josef Strauss International Airport is a big place and we took a number of wrong turns. Eventually we located it and took a seat in the outdoor drinking area before ordering ourselves a half litre each of the unfiltered helles-style beer called FliegerQuell. It was a good way to start the holiday and a good way to combat the sweltering heat which we would have to get used to. The beer was full-bodied and tasty, and at 2.30 Euros for a half litre was extremely good value.

The village of Aying, which is about a 35 minute S-Bahn journey on line S6, is home to another "out of town brewery". Ayingerbraeu, (named after the vilage), brew an astonishingly wide range of beers and it is well worth making the short journey out to the suburbs to enjoy them at Liebhards, which is the brewery tap. We have done this on the last two trips, but our most recent visit was cut short by a thunderstorm which rapidly emptied what had been a pretty-packed beer garden! For those not wanting to make the trip, Ayingerbraeu beers can be enjoyed at the Wirtshaus, right opposite the world-famous Hofbraeuhaus, in the centre of Munich.

Another brewery whose beers can be found in the centre of town is one that needs little introduction to beer tourists. Kloster Andechs, situated on a hill overlooking the shores of Ammersee lake to the south-west of the city, is one of the few remaining monastery breweries in Germany. People literally come here on a beer pilgrimage in order to sample its range of well-regarded beers, and I have made a point of visiting the "Sacred Mountain" on all three visits that I have made to the Bavarian capital. To reach Andechs you need to travel to Herrsching, at the southern terminus of S-Bahn line S5. From here it is either a short bus ride up to the monastery or, for the more active, a pleasant uphill stroll through the woods; a walk that takes about an hour to complete. It is very satisfying to do the walk and you will feel well-rewarded when you reach your destination. (You will certainly appreciate your beer more!). Having a teenage son for company on the last two occasions meant we ended up getting the bus, although we did walk back from the monastery on the previous occasion!

The first time I visited Andechs, having only seen small groups of people on my walk up to the monastery, I was stunned by the sheer numbers packing out the sun-terrace and the Braeustueberl on my arrival. After sampling the brewery's Helles, Dunkel and Doppelbock beers I could understand why Kloster Andechs is so popular. Again if you don't want to make the journey, or if your itinerary doesn't allow enough time, then Andechs beers can be enjoyed in the city centre, at Andechser am Dom in the shadow of Munich's impressive cathedral - the Frauenkirche.

Travelling a bit further afield takes the beer tourist to the picturesque town of Tegernsee, overlooking the Alpine lake of the same name. The town is home to the Herzogliche BrauhausTegernsee , whose prodcts can be enjoyed at the impressive Braeustueberl which adjoins the brewery and overlooks the lake. Independent rail operator, Bayerische Oberland Bahn ("BOB" for short), will transport you all the way to Tegernsee from Munich's central station, or you can do what we did, and transfer on to "BOB" from the S-Bahn at Holzkirchen. (We had stopped off at the latter town to sample the beers of the Holzkirchner Oberbraeu, only to find the brewery tap closed for its Ruhetag, or rest day!). The Braeustueberl itself is a former monastery and royal palace. We visited on what was probably the hotest day of our trip, and were glad to sit in the cool, vaulted beer hall enjoying some of the excellent beers brewed next door.

Another "out of town beer" that we tried tracking down was Kaltenberg. Some of you probably remember the TV ads from the 1980's, promoting the brewery's Diaet Pils. The ads made great play of the fact that the beer was "brewed by a prince". What they didn't mention was that the prince was none other than Crown Prince Luitpold, heir to the Bavarian throne and a direct descendent of the Wittelsbach dynasty that had ruled Bavaria until 1918. Today the prince operates a number of breweries under the Kaltenberg banner, including ironically enough the aforementioned Holzkirchner Oberbraeu!

We wanted to visit the original brewery at Kaltenberg itself, situated in Prince Luitpold's picturesque castle. We consequently travelled out to Geltendorf, at the terminus of S-Bahn Line 8. From here we planned to catch a bus to Kaltenberg but, much to our disappointment discovered that the buses were very infrequent, especially during the schools holidays. We toyed with getting a taxi to the castle, but there still appeared to be no buses back. We gave up and caught the S-Bahn back into Munich. Had I done my homework correctly I would have discovered that Kaltenberg have a brewery at Fuerstenfeldbruck, five stops back up the line on our way back into town!

We finally got the chance to sample Kaltenberg beers on the last day of our trip at a beer garden called Muenchener Haupt'. A short S-Bahn ride to Mittersendling, followed by a short walk, brought us to this large shady beer garden, situated next to an impressive 19th Century mansion. Although it was litres only here, both the Helles and the Dunkel were well worth the wait.

Our journey out to Geltendorf was not a complete disaster though, as approaching Munich we were able to transfer trains and put Plan B into action. We travelled out to the small town of Maisach where we located Maisacherbraeu, whose impressive tower-style brewery dominates the main road out of town. The brewery buildings had the appearance of an English country brewery, although I couldn't quite put my finger on which one! The beer garden was closed until 4pm, but there was a small terrace area at the rear of the Braeustueberl which overlooked the brewery yard. We sat out here sampling several Maisacher beers, including the interesting Raeuber Kneissl a Dunkel that is named after a notorious 19th Century robber.

We managed to track down one more unusual brewery on the last evening of our visit. Unionsbraeu was a fairly substantial Munich brewery that was taken over by Loewenbraeu in 1922. Brewing returned to these impressive buildings in 1991, but on a much smaller scale. Unionsbraeu is situated a short walk from Max-Weber-Platz U-Bahn station. We sat out in the small, but pleasant beer garden at the rear of the pub, enjoying a couple of glasses of the unfiltered Unionsbraeu Helles. It was a fitting place at which to end our sampling of some of Munich's more unusual beers!

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Some Decent Beer at Last

The local beer scene finally came good at the weekend. The Humphrey Bean, our local JDW in Tonbridge had a really good beer on from Daniel Thwaites, of Blackburn. Golden Wunder, their 4.6% seasonal beer has been specially brewed as the company's Oktoberfest offering. It was a fine, well-hopped golden ale. I'm not sure what visitors to the main event in Munich would think of the beer, but so far as I was concerned it certainly hit the spot.

Brewing a beer to celebrate the Bavarian capital's legendary festival of imbibing seems a relatively recent phenomenon in Britain, but last October I spent a couple of weeks in the United States, visiting my sister and her family. It seemed that most craft brewers over there had produced an Oktoberfest special; many of them being produced in the traditional Maerzen style. The offering from Great Lakes Brewing Company (based in Cleveland Ohio) was the most widely available Oktoberfest beer, and very good it was too. Several other craft breweries had also produced Pumpkin Ales, especially for Halloween.

I digress. Returning to the subject of good English ale, last night we held our CAMRA committee meeting in the Royal Wells Inn; a comfortable, and well-appointed hotel bar overlooking the common in Tunbridge Wells. The Harvey's Sussex Best was on fine form. My faith in our native beer has at last been restored!

Friday 11 September 2009

Too much Brown Beer?

Is it me, or is something seriously wrong with English beer? I say that because I don't seem to have had a decent native pint since I returned from Munich two weeks ago. I know I drank a lot of beer out there, but I don't think my palate could have changed that much

Last Saturday's beers in the Golding Hop really weren't up to much, but it was Wednesday's CAMRA social that really did it for me. It was held at the Bullfinch in the Riverhead area of Sevenoaks. The pub has recently been acquired by McMullens of Hertford, and is the company's first, and only, pub in Kent. Three cask ales were on offer, one of which (Cask Ale 3.8%) was definitely passed its best. (we would have noticed this sooner if it hadn't been so chilled). The 4.3% Country Bitter, and the seasonal Googly (also 3.8%), were of acceptable quality, but really didn't do anything for me - Brown Beer at its worst.

On the way back to the station, a couple of us popped into the Halfway House. Ok it's a Greene King pub, but there is nowhere else in the vicinity following the sad, and totally unnecessary demise of the Farmers. We thought the Abbot would be alright but were proved wrong. It wasn't quite bad enough to return, but it had that stale fruitiness that strong beers can develop when they have been kept too long.

CAMRA business took me over to Sevenaoks again yesterday. The beer range in the Sennockian, (the JDW outlet) was decidedly disappointing, and the Bath Ales SPA was cloudy. The Polish relief manager, who knows us, and who should know better, kept insisting that this beer was normally cloudy. I told him it wasn't a wheat beer, and definitely was NOT supposed to be served cloudy, but he wouldn't have it! The Kings Mallard 5.2%? also had a strange taste to it, and by this time I was starting to think I would never get a decent pint of English ale. Most of the Sennockian's clientele seemed to be immoderately-dressed young girls. The manager was kept busy asking them for Proof of Age, but they weren't the type of customers who would be boosting his flagging beer sales!

We adjourned to the nearby Anchor afterwards, where the Harveys proved to be the best pint of the night, and indeed the preceding fortnight. Another time I would have probably been singing its praises, but my palate was definitely jaded following the SPA and Mallard experience.

Northern Blogger, Tandleman , refers to these tasteless and insipid Brown Beers as "Slutch", and I think he is right with this definition. By the way, I am not counting Harveys as Slutch, and neither I think would he. McMullens definitely qualify though, as do Shepherd Neame and Youngs, to name a few.

Tuesday 8 September 2009

Some More of Munich's Finest

We excelled ourselves on the Sunday we were in Munich by visiting three really fine beer gardens that just seemed to get better as the day wore on.

There wasn't much happening in central Munich that Sunday morning. Bavaria is a staunchly catholic country and, much to my son's annoyance, old customs, such as shops not opening on the Sabbath are still observed. "Never mind" I said, we'll just have to occupy our time in visiting a few beer gardens instead!

We started off at Leiberheim, an establishment that is not particularly well-known to foreign visitors, and which is definitely well of the tourist trail. Leiberheim was founded in 1918 by Eduard Ordnung a decorated war-hero on his return from the First World War. It is named after his former wartime infantry unit, the Royal Bavarian Leibregiment. The beer garden and restaurant is situated in the Walderpach area of the city, and our trip there involved both train and bus, followed by a short walk. We arrived shortly after midday when the place was relatively empty. The sun was quite fierce, after the previous day's rain, so we were glad of the shade afforded by the many chestnut trees, and soon settled ourselves down with a mug of the local brew. I must confess that the main reason for visiting Leiberheim was the chance to sample beer from a brewery not commonly seen in Munich. Erharting hit the spot, and we tried both the Helles and the Dunkel. We also has a light snack of Wurst and Brez'n.

Having previously checked the bus departure times we caught the bus back to Silberhornstrasse, where we changed to a tram and journeyed to Menterschwaige. From here it was a short walk through some rather well-to-do side streets to the beer garden of the same name. When we arrived the place was absolutely heaving and we were lucky to find ourselves a seat. I can't think of a better place to spend a a hot Sunday afternoon, despite being "buzzed" by some rather aggressive hornets. As well as couples and groups of friends there were plenty of family groups. The children, on the whole, played happily in the large play area. Lots of people had followed the time-honoured Bavarian tradition and brought their own food with them. The beer was from Loewenbraeu, and this establishment also qualifies for the BDG2M BOGOF offer.

Menterschwaige was once part of the estate of King Ludwig I, and it was here that he carried out an illicit affair with a Spanish dancer called Lola Montez. The affair ended in both scandal and public disgrace for Ludwig and led to his eventual abdication in 1848. Today though, despite its tucked away location, Menterschwaige is one of Munich's best beer gardens.

After a litre each of Loewenbraeu we decided to move on. The BDG2M showed that there was a 30 minute walk from Menterschwaige to another 5 Beer Mug BOGOF offer beer garden called Waldwirtschaft Grossesselohe. Despite the rather schematic map in the guide, we managed to find our way, walking at first through cool woodland on high ground over-looking the River Isar some distance below us. There were plenty of people out for a stroll that fine Sunday afternoon, and before long we reached the impressive Grossesselohe Bruecke, a high level bridge that carries the S20 and S27 S-Bahn lines across the Isar. Strung beneath the tracks, at a lower level, is a crossing for pedestrians and cyclists, and from here we were rewarded by the sight of the river, and its gravel beaches far below us. There were several groups picnicking along the banks, and being a hot day quite a few of them were bathing in the river. As we approached the far side there is a separate and much straighter channel where the river appears to have been canalised. We watched from above as a Floss, or rafting party passed along the channel. Floss is something of a local tradition. The rafts are constructed from large logs secured together, and are reputed to weigh in excess of 20 tonnes. Up to 60 people can be accommodated on one of these monster rafts, although the one we watched had considerably less passengers. Needless to say the rafts are equipped with both a bar and a barbecue, so this is a novel way to enjoy your beer as you cruise along the river!

Once across we found our way to Waldwirtschaft Grossesselohe, which is referred to as "Wa-Wi" for short by the locals. The number of parked cars clogging the approach road gave us an indication of the popularity of this beer garden, but despite the crowds, which were predominantly family groups, we still managed to find a table. Taking full advantage of our BOGOF token, we ordered ourselves a litre each of Spatenbraeu, and a bit later on treated ourselves to a grilled mackerel apiece from the Stecklerfisch stand. As well as good beer and good food, live jazz is a key feature of "Wa-Wi", and the toe-tapping rhythms add to the already lively and fun-loving atmosphere. Not for the last time on our holiday I was left wondering why can't there be places like this back home?

As late afternoon slowly turned to early evening, the temperature started to fall. Neither of us had brought jackets so we decided to call it a day. Leaving "Wa-Wi" we headed for the station at nearby Grossesselohe Isartal Bahnhof. The former station building has been converted into a brew-pub, complete with its own in-house micro-brewery. The pub specialises in wheat beer, but also features beer from Hofbraeuhaus Traunstein. Being somewhat "beered-out" by now we didn't venture inside, but instead caught a train back into central Munich. On the journey back I received umpteen text messages from friends back home telling me that England had won the Ashes! This was the perfect end to a perfect day out; one that had taken us to some of Munich's finest, yet well-hidden beer gardens.

Sunday 6 September 2009

Some of Munich's Finest - Part One

As promised, here is a write-up about some of Munich's best beer gardens. On our first full day in Munich we purchased a 3-Day Partner-Tageskarte. For the princely sum of 21 Euro's, my son and I enjoyed 3 day's unlimited travel over the inner-ring of Munich's extensive public transport network. This gave us the use of trains (both above and below ground), buses and trams, and we made full use of it.

On the Friday we travelled out to Thalkirchen, where the city's zoo is situated. Ignoring the zoo's undoubted animal attractions, we then caught a bus to a stop called Campingplatz, which as its name suggests is a large camping and caravan park. From Campingplatz is was a short walk through the woods, along the banks of the Isar River to our destination that lunchtime, Hinterbruehl. This attractive guest-house and beer- garden has the look of an Alpine lodge, yet is still well within the city limits. It began life as a a stop-over for loggers, floating their logs downstream from the forested areas outside Munich, to the saw-mills closer to the city centre. Nowadays, city folk have replaced the loggers, but the original forested atmosphere still remains.

We walked up the steps, and made our way to the self-service area, and found ourselves a table over-looking the river. We had the place virtually to ourselves for much of the time, but it was nice just sitting there enjoying the rural tranquility and the Hacker-Pschorr beer. An interesting snippet in the BDG2M, informs readers that Hinterlbruehl was a favourite meeting place for the likes of Hitler, Goering and Goebbels, both before and during WWII, it being close to Munich, yet tucked away and secluded enough to be a place where business could be conducted away from prying eyes. This somewhat ghoulish fact aside, Hinterbruehl proved to be the ideal lunchtime spot on this our first day in the Bavarian capital.

Our next port of call was at the opposite end of the city, but easily accessible by U6 underground from Thalkirchen. We journeyed to Studentenstadt, which as its name suggests is where much of the city's university accommodation is situated. A short bus-ride, followed by a short walk, brought us to Sankt Emmerans Muehle, a former paper-mill that is now a high-class restaurant and beer-garden. We would never have found this attractive and secluded establishment without the aid of the BSG2M, and the guide also informed us that this was, and still is the place to see and be seen. The guest book includes the likes of Rod Stewart, Led Zeppelin, ABBA and Tina Turner. Boris Becker is reputed to have paused for refreshment here, as did former top Bavarian politician, Franz Joseph Strauss, after whom Munich's international airport is named.

Despite its illustrious guest-list, Sankt Emmerans Muehle is still a place that is affordable to lesser mortals, and it was here that we used the first of our Buy-One-Get-One-Free, "Five Beer Club" tokens from the back of the guide We sat a table under a sun-shade, enjoying a litre each of Spatenbraeu, over-looking country meadows, watching the cyclists making their way along the path that passes the side of the pub. The umbrella came in handy shortly after when the heavens opened during a thunderstorm!

We waited until the storm had passed, before walking back to the bus-stop and making our way back into Munich. We alighted at Munchener Freiheit, and made our way back through Munich's excellent open-air park, the Englischer Garten, before catching a tram back to our hotel. Strolling through the park we passed two more excellent beer-gardens, Seehaus and Chinesischer Turm, but having by this time drank our fill, didn't stop

Later that evening we walked the short distance up to Stiglmaier Platz, and had a few more beers, plus a bite to eat, at the Loewenbraeu Keller. We sampled both the Helles and the Dunkel, before calling it a day. It had been a good introduction to some of Munich's finest beer gardens, and there would be more to come over the following days!

Friday 4 September 2009

Golding Hop - Plaxtol

By way of a complete change I'm off to the Golding Hop at Plaxtol tomorrow. I'll be meeting up with an old friend whom I haven't seen for some time. We'll be comparing holiday notes and catching up with what's been happening in our own different worlds, but more importantly we'll be enjoying some good beer, in an unspoilt and idyllic rural setting. This will be my first chance to enjoy some English cask ale since returning from Germany, and I'm really looking forward to it. I have written about the Golding Hop before, so double-click on the title of this post to read more about the pub.

The Beer Drinker's Guide to Munich

The first couple of times I went to Munich, I contented myself with visiting the better known beer gardens and hostelries. These included Augustiner Grossgaststatte and Keller, Lowenbrau Keller, Chinesischer Turm, Seehaus and of course the Hofbrauhaus. I did make a few trips to places outside the city such as Weihenstephan, Aying and of course, Kloster Andechs, but it wasn't until I logged on to a website entitled "The Beer Drinkers Guide to Munich" that I realised just what I had been missing in terms of traditional beer gardens that are off the normal tourist trail, and only known to locals.

Although having a presence on the web, "The Beer Drinkers Guide to Munich" is primarily a hard-copy publication; in fact it is exactly what it describes itself as, namely a fully illustrated, 240 page guide to drinking in the Bavarian capital. Now in its Sixth Edition, the BDG2M, as it likes to abbreviate itself, is the labour of love of American author Larry Hawthorne. Larry has devoted the last 30 years to both researching, and continually updating this indispensable guide, which is not only packed with details of over 50 of the best of Munich's beer gardens and taverns, but also contains essential information on how to reach them by public transport, sections on Munich Breweries, German beer styles, drinking etiquette as well as how to get around this fun-loving, easy going city. The comment on the back cover, sums up the guide. It reads "Enjoy Munich like a Munchener".

The BDG2M retails at $16.95, and can be purchased from the website. I bought my copy via Amazon, that way not only did I buy it at a discount, but I also saved on the shipping costs from the US. An added bonus is the inclusion at the back of the guide of a number of vouchers that entitle the bearer to a free litre of beer at selected "Five Beer Mug -Rated" establishments, when you purchase a beer at the regular price. (Essentially this is a "BOGOF" offer).

When the guide arrived through the post I found it hard to put it down. Most weekends this summer would find me sitting out in the garden for an hour or so, perusing the pages and selecting those beer gardens we especially wanted to visit on our forthcoming trip. When it came to actually using the guide in the field, so to speak, it proved to be worth every penny. There were places we would never have found un-aided, and yet by following the concise directions that accompany each entry, we were able to visit some real hidden gems. Getting to some of these establishments often involved a combination of train, bus and tram, but the only time we got a bit lost (and then not disastrously so), was when walking from Menterschwaige to Waldwirstschaft, a fantastic walk that took us right over the secluded Isar Valley, via a high-level pedestrian bridge.

If you are contemplating a trip to Munich, then I thoroughly recommend you get yourself a copy of this invaluable guide and no, before you ask, I am not on commission from the author!

ps. I almost forgot to mention that the BDG2M also includes details of six, out of town trips to places like Kloster Andechs, Tegernsee, Weihenstephan and even Augustiner Brau in Salzburg.