A tale of an epic trip
That started from this Schwabian port
At the Alps tiny tip
The mate was a mighty drinking man
The driver brave and sure
Two people set off that day
For a six-country tour….a six country tour
Every now and then friends propose something so radical you can’t help but jump on the beer wagon. Such was the case when my friend Peter proposed a one-day car trip visiting six countries. Because I eat sleep and breathe beer I thought “Hey, what if we visited or purchased beer from each of those countries?” Peters rationale was sound, “How many people can say they visited six countries in one day?” You had me at hello. Trip planning began in mid-April with Peter doing all the heavy lifting, identifying routes and brewery stops along the planned route. In Peters expert opinion the trip could be completed in 10 hours with no stops. We estimated 12 hours with our “Quick” brewery stops. As the launch date drew closer it became clear that many European breweries are inexplicably closed on weekends, forcing us to seek an alternative. Where breweries were closed we would purchase locally produced beer at stores near the brewery.
The route would have us driving from Germany through Austria into Northern Italy. From Italy we would backtrack into Austria crossing into Switzerland and on to Lichtenstein. From Lichtenstein back into Switzerland then into the Alsace region of France before finally returning to Germany. For those keeping track that’s six countries including Germany.
It’s a cold rainy morning when the navigator drops me off in front of Peters house. A little after 6:00 am on Saturday morning we strike off in eager anticipation of the adventure ahead of us. Travelling south through the Schwabian Alps the rain tapers off. Approaching the Austrian border the sun breaks through the clouds revealing the amazing snow-covered peaks of the Alps.
Entering Italy we opt for an unscheduled stop at Reschensee, the largest lake above 1000 m elevation in the Alps. Reshcensee is also manmade. Completed in 1950 a total of 163 homes were submerged during its creation. Only the steeple of a 14th century remains. A stark reminder of the houses that were destroyed.
Leaving Reschensee it takes only a few minutes to reach Malles Venosta, home of Forsterbrau -Forst and our first beer stop of the day. Forsterbrau is the largest brewery in South Tyrol. They are also closed on Saturdays. Forsterbrau-Forst is a restaurant serving, you guessed it, Forsterbrau. Entering the smallish restaurant we ask the hostess if she speaks English, she does not. We also strike out with French and German. Fortunately a local diner offers translation services, explaining we can’t purchase bottled beer there, but we can find some at the grocery store down the street. Twenty minutes and 14 bottles of beer later we strike off back the way we came, next stop, Lichtenstein.
The rain returns as Italian sprinklers shoot across fields of dandelions; we don’t know why. The second leg of our journey has us briefly back-tracking north to Austria, then west into Switzerland, with a scheduled beer stop in Lichtenstein. Much like the first leg the second leg takes us through amazing scenery, not the least of which is the Arlberg tunnel. The Arlberg Road Tunnel is Austria’s longest at 13.9 kilometers long. At the time of its opening in 1978 it was the longest tunnel in the world.
Since our return route took us through Austria and Switzerland we decide to make our beer purchases on our return. Both Austrian and Swiss beer are heavily influenced by Germany, sharing many of the same styles. The same can be said of at least one brewery in Lichtenstein. The Lichtenstein town of Balzers is home to Prinzenbrau. Founded in 2010 Prinzenbrau adheres to the German Purity Law of 1516. They are also closed on weekends, which is why we found ourselves in a small locally owned liquor store. While the store contained all sorts of liquor there were only a few bottles of Swiss beer on the shelf. Inquiring about beer we are once again directed to a grocery store around the corner. Here not only did we find various styles of Prinzenbrau but also a wide variety of craft beer brewed by Lichtensteiner Brauhaus. Exiting the store with two large bags of beer we hit the road again. Next stop France.
The Third Leg
Leaving Lichtenstein we struck off northwest for France. The Alsace region of France is well known for its vineyards and wine. What most people don’t know is that the Alsace region is also home to many French Craft Breweries. In the Colmar region alone there are more than six breweries. Just northwest of Colmar is Brasserie du Vignoble, a nano brewery with a quaint tasting room. Unlike the rest of Europe French breweries are open on the weekend. Entering the tasting room I immediately order their BDA (Belgian Dark Ale). Unlike traditional Belgian beers BDA is stout-like with hints of coffee. Color me impressed. We leave Brasserie du Vignoble with a variety of bottles, tossing them in with the dozens of other beers we have purchased throughout the day.
|Brasserie du Vignoble|
As we drive from France back to Stuttgart we reflect on the days adventures. Mountains, tunnels, vineyards, and yes, let’s not forget the beer. SO much beer. So much so that it takes Peter and I a full 20 minutes to sort out. “One for you, one for me. Two for you, one for me”. While most people don’t understand the intrigue and impetus for this trip I can some it up in one word, memorable. Not many people can say they travelled 15 hours, 650 miles, visiting six countries while buying beer along the way. Good friends+good beer=great memories. Next year, seven countries!
Until next time,