Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Ayinger Bräu - Munich's favourite country brewery

Whilst bemoaning the total lack of travel opportunities at the moment, I started looking back at some of the places I have visited over the years – places where beer inevitably plays a pivotal role. Most of my holidays have been relatively short city breaks, and there are two places that keep coming up. More than that, these two cities seem to compete with each other for my affection and hence it is often difficult to decide between the two.

The two cities are both relatively close to one another, and both are famed the world over for being places where large amounts of beer are brewed and enjoyed. You might well have guessed the names of these two places by now, but in case you haven’t, they are Munich and Prague.

Since the middle of the 2000’s, when I was free to travel again, following the sale of our off-license business, I have made six visits to both cities, although Prague comes out on top due to a much earlier visit, back in 1984. My son Matthew has accompanied me on most of these trips and, like me, he seems equally torn between the Bavarian and the Bohemian, but for this article it is Munich I want to concentrate on.

 Our last visit to the city was a fleeting one, in May 2018. We’d spent a few days in Bamberg, with some friends from Maidstone CAMRA and because we’d flown in and out via Munich’s large international airport, we managed a short stop off in the city on our way home. We also took a short break there, the previous February.

This was primarily to meet up with Matthew’s best friend; my role primarily being to keep an eye on the two, whilst acting as a sort of tour guide. Mid-winter isn’t the best time for visiting any city in northern Europe. The bright lights and the crowds of the Christmas markets will have long vanished, and spring still seems a long way off, but I still enjoyed the break. 

It got me thinking that it is a long time since we enjoyed a proper summer holiday in the Bavarian capital and when I checked it turned out our last high season break in Munich was in 2014. We were unlucky with the weather that year, leaving sub-tropical temperatures behind as we left England, to experience a 10 degree fall in temperature and leaden skies, on our first full day in the city. A sudden change in direction in the jet-stream, bringing the remains of tropical storm “Bertha” was responsible for the wettest and chilliest holiday we’ve had in Munich, but we still managed to track down plenty of decent beer.  

I was reminded of this holiday by some beers I bought back in December. Unable to serve the on-trade, local beer café Fuggles, who have outlets in both Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells converted their premises into off-licences offering a wide range of bottles, cans and mini-kegs for customers to takeout, and it was here that I picked up some beers from Bavarian brewers  Ayinger Bräu,

The latter brew in the village of Aying, a 35-minute train journey on the S-Bahn to the south of Munich. The company like to promote themselves as “Munich’s favourite country brewery,” and it is well worth making the trip out to Aying in order to sample their beers.

A short walk from the station leads to the village centre, where you will find the brewery inn and guest house complex, known as Liebhards.  Ayinger Bräu’s large, modern-looking brewery is on the western edge of the village. It brews a wide and diverse range of different beers and also offers tours, although I have still to go on one.

Previously our visits to Liebhards, had been in the early evening, but in 2014 we made the trip at lunchtime instead. It was our first full day in Munich and the grey-leaden skies were pouring with rain like it was never going to stop. We got soaked just walking up from the station, but once inside the rustically furnished, but surprisingly large inn, and with a half-litre mug or two of Ayinger Bräu’s excellent, unfiltered Kellerbier in front of us, all thoughts of the inclement weather outside vanished.

We arrived at around 12.30pm and the pub was quite quiet, but not long. After we has sat down and ordered our drinks, several parties of mainly elderly people came in. Like us, they seemed glad to escape from the rain, and like us they ordered some food to go with their beer. Actually, we only ordered some soup, as we were planning on eating something more substantial in the evening, but the chicken noodle soup and the dense, dark local Landbrot that went with it, were exactly right for lunchtime.

If you don’t want to make the trip right out to Aying village, the company’s beers can be found in several outlets in Munich itself; including Ayinger am Platzl, opposite the Hofbräuhaus, right in the city centre. The latter is run by a member of the Inselkammer family, who also own and run the brewery, but for thirsty travellers, who have just arrived in the city, there’s another Ayinger run establishment, directly opposite the Hauptbahnhof (railway station).

On the northern side of Arnulf Straße, directly opposite the halt where the Lufthansa bus drops off passengers from the airport, you will find Wirtshaus Rechthaler hof.  Its yellow painted walls and distinctive Ayinger Bräu signs, are easy to spot, and on the last afternoon of our February 2017 visit, we decided to pop in for a couple of final beers, before taking the bus to the airport. We were glad that we did, as the place was spotlessly clean and welcoming, with an interior decorated in a traditional Bavarian-style, with wooden barrel ends mounted on the wall, animal trophies and historical pictures.

We chose one of the high tables close to the window, so we could sit and watch the world go by, whilst enjoying our beers.  I sampled the Helles, plus the Altbairisch Dunkles; both were good, with the former being probably the best beer of the trip. Judging by the newness of the décor, I was wondering whether Ayiner Bräu had only recently taken over but given the central location of this excellent pub and the quality of its beer, I would definitely recommend a visit.

I digress and returning to my haul of takeaways from Fuggles, I bought the following three bottles: 

 Kirtabier 5.8%, is an amber coloured, Märzen style beer, that is packed full of
chewy-toffee, malt-driven flavours. It is soft on the palate, whilst being rich in flavours, making it easy to drink and enjoy.

Winter Bock 6.7% is a strong, dark, Bock style beer, full of rich, but soft roast malt flavours, balanced by the spicy, earthy pepperiness derived from a generous hopping. Rich in flavours whilst soft on the palate, this is the perfect winter beer to enjoy on a cold late January night.

Celebrator 6.7%. This is a strong, Doppelbock beer, brewed specially for the winter season. I haven’t opened this one yet, although I might at the weekend, for reasons that might become apparent toward the end of this piece.

This talk, and sampling of Ayiner Bräu beers has increased my yearning for a return to Munich and that train ride back out to the village of Aying. Foreign travel may well still be several months away; it might not even be possible until the autumn, at the earliest. But when it does come, I shall make that journey to Aying, walk up to Liebhards and drink deeply of whichever beers they have on tap. I might even call in at Wirtshaus Rechthaler hof as soon as I arrive in the city.

One thing that really does fill me optimism at the moment, is the phone call I received earlier today, asking Mrs PBT’s and I to attend the local vaccination centre, for our first shots of the Covid-19 vaccine. The local medical centre has even given us the date for our second jabs.

A small step I know, but a significant one along the rocky road to an eventual return to some form of normality. That eventual outcome can’t come soon enough, and I’m sure we are all in agreement on that! 

Footnote: The Lufthansa transit service, to and from Munich airport, is a bus in the American sense of the word. Effectively it is what we Brits would call a “coach.” If you want comfort, style and a reasonable transit time, it really is the best way to travel into central Munich. It certainly beats struggling onto the S-Bahn with your baggage, and then sitting there as the train stops at every station en route – that’s if you can even get a seat!




The last photo in your post clearly illustrates the best beer glass in the world: Willi Becher. The Rising Sun in Epsom when it was run by the Pilgrim Brewery chap Dave had these pint glasses.

Curmudgeon said...

By coincidence, I had a bottle of that Winter Bock over the weekend, which I had bought from the Bottle Stop off-licence in Bramhall. Not sure that Matt Hancock would approve of me doing a 12-mile round trip just to visit an off-licence ;-)

As a Southerner, you may not recall that Sam Smith's used to brew under licence from Ayinger and sold Alpine Ayingerbrau as the standard lager in their pubs. It had a distinctive bar mounting containing a little model of a jolly Bavarian gent complete with Stein and Lederhosen. They also built a bizarre German-style pub in Rochdale called the Alpine Ayingerbrau Gasthof.

They eventually dropped the licence-brewing, no doubt due to Humphrey's parsimony, and the beer eventually metamorphosed into what is now Alpine Lager, their 2.8% ABV "cheapie".

Curmudgeon said...

Oh, and I think Willibechers are an abomination for serving British ales, especially when they're brim measures. The glass is designed to accommodate a large head.


"Oh, and I think Willibechers are an abomination for serving British ales, especially when they're brim measures. The glass is designed to accommodate a large head."

Large head ie a northern pint?

Paul Bailey said...

Thank you said, for enlightening me about the Willi Bechers. It's an attractive looking glass, although I can see understand the difficulty with trading off the need to accommodate a large head, whilst still delivering a full measure.

Mudge, although I am a southerner, I did spend the years 1974 - 1978 living in various parts of Greater Manchester, so I do recall the tie-up Sam Smiths had with Ayinger around that time. I also remember the bar mounting with the jolly Bavarian gent, encased inside!

I imagine there must have been some sort of falling out between Humphrey and Ayinger, although we can only speculate as to the actual cause. A 2.8% lager though, really is taking the piss - cheapie or otherwise!