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Sunday, November 5, 2017

Black Forest Brew

With falling leaves and falling temperatures the end of beer garden season is upon us here in Germany. This is by no means the end of beer drinking but rather a change of venue from outside gardens to a more climate controlled environment. Finding ourselves at the seasonal crossroads our friends, “J” and J”, asked us to join them on a trip to a beer museum in the Black Forest.

Approximately 40 miles southwest of Stuttgart on the eastern edge of Germany’s Black Forest lays the village of Alpirsbach. Nestled in a valley Alpirsbach is typical of most villages in the area with one exception, Alpirsbach is the home of the Alpirsbacher Klosterbrau brewery. Founded in 1880 by then 18 year old Carl Albert Glauner the original brewery, serving primarily as a museum, sits adjacent to The Alpirsbach Monastery.
We arrived around noon, ensuring we could get tickets for the 2:30 museum tour. Fortunately “J” and “J” made lunch reservations at Zwickel and Kaps, a local burger/ steakhouse specializing in Nebraska beef. A quick scan of the menu revealed that “Imported” beef is not cheap, with some of the steak prices tickling 100 euro. Traditional German food it is! I quickly ordered a Jager Schnitzel, which in hindsight could have fed at least two people. If it weren’t for the occasional “Belly Rub” from our waitress I probably wouldn’t have been able to finish my meal!Returning to the brewery after lunch we met up with our tour guide along with a dozen other people. The original Alpirsbacher brewery is a traditional German brewery
complete with copper mash tuns. The brewery and monastery have always been separate institutions, according to our tour guide. After the reformation circa 1530 the citizens of Alpirsbach were forced to take on the same religion as the ruling Duke, which was protestant. As a result all of the Benedictine monks departed with the exception of one, Ambrosius Blarer, who converted to Catholicism. The brewery has named their “Ambrosius Barley Wine” in his honor.   Having been replaced with a larger facility in 1970 the original brewery with its belt driven pumps, remains fully operational and is still occasionally used! The brewery currently employs more than 80 people and uses Black Forest spring water from their privately owned spring to produce their beer.

At the conclusion of the tour the “Tourists” are ushered into the cellar where they are given two .330L samples of beer of their choosing. Thanks to  an extra token from the navigator  I tried three of their beers the Dunkel, Export, and Zwickel, an unfiltered cellar beer that was surprisingly good. Following the beer tasting we made our way to the gift shop where a variety of trinkets and all of their beers are available for purchase. Additionally, depending on your tour ticket the gift shop provides complimentary beer mugs for every member of the tour. For approximately 10 euro tour participants receive a guided tour, two beer samples, and a complimentary mug. Furthermore I purchase eight of their half liter bottles racking up a whopping 15 euro bill. The tour and the beer purchase combined were significantly less than the cost of our lunch! A bargain for an afternoon beer adventure.

While many, including myself, complain about the lack of German beer variety compared to the craft beer revolution in the States there is no substitute for the rich history that is German beer. If not for these early pioneers we wouldn’t have the privilege of enjoying the wide variety of beer available in the world today.
Until next time,


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