Monday, December 15, 2008

What's the Deal, Glockenspiel?

Wow, you should have seen the incredible photos I took in Stuttgart, Munich, at Neuschwanstein, and in the Austrian Alps. Beautiful stuff. Really it was.

Too bad the camera got buggy in the mountains at the end of our trip. As a result all photos disappeared from our SD card without explanation. This sad little number to the right was taken soon afterward. This is frustrating and dangerous stuff, since I often promise photos to accompany freelance articles. Time to get a new camera.

Meanwhile, I'll paint you a picture.

The best moment had nothing to do with beer: chilly evening in Munich, strolling through the Englischer Garten, and emerging from dark trees to find the festival of light that was the Christmas Market at the Chinese Tower. Yeah, you should have seen the photos.

If you've visited the country at this time of year you know the Germans beat pretty much destroy everyone else when it comes to creating holiday ambiance. Atmospheric markets can be found in most towns and villages, with lights and angels aplenty and wafting scents of sausages, hot spiced wine, and butter cookies. Something like that. And even if all these markets are eerily similar they do a killer job instilling in you that certain Christmas spirit.

Naturally the Gluehwein helps.

Best meal of the trip: Schneider's Weisses Brauhaus, probably my favorite spot in Munich, chowing on braised pork basted in Aventinus with sauerkraut and potato pancakes. Partnered with a glass of Aventinus. I suppose those old quaffers who have their Stammtisches there must be the happiest bastards on the planet. Possibly the venerable frauleins who work there have a soft spot for them too, and treat them nicely, maybe. I don't know. But by our reckoning these are the rudest, meanest old beer witches in all of Germany. It's exasperating, and then... gulp, gulp... awww, Schneider, I can't stay mad at you.

And I realize that Schneider Weisse is relatively common in Bavaria, but I couldn't help but be thrilled to find a doner kebab joint that served the stuff. It's called Montana and it's just south of the Hauptbahnhof main entrance, at Bayerstrasse 33. If you want to hunt for it. Characterful hefeweizen and spicy kebab make a happy combo.

Best beer of the trip: The Helles at the tiny Sudhaus brewpub in Ludwisgsburg, near Stuttgart. Unfiltered, cloudy yellow-gold, with a serious grass-hoppiness and refreshing bitterness. The place itself is neither special nor famous, but they're making some serious lager and the locals seem to love it.

Back in Belgium. Back to work. More on that soon.


  1. Joe, it sounds like you hit a couple of my favorite spots in Munich, including the Schneider Weiss brauhaus and the Englisher Gardens.
    We were a big fan of the Helles when we were in Bavaria. How come we can never find it in the U.S.? Does it not get shipped over here, or does it go by another name?

    Sorry you lost your photos. Your word pictures were great though. Just one more reason why I want to go back to Germany

  2. Howdy Tom!

    I'd welcome input from those more knowledgeable, but here's my swing.

    Helles is not a very specific term, unless you're entering an American homebrew competition. It basically means pale lager. A lot of breweries across Germany make a beer they call Helles, and the only common denominators are bottom-fermentation and the fact that they're not dark.

    Sometimes they're really bland. Other times they're bitter or otherwise characterful. Some are filtered, some not ("Naturtruub").

    Bottles versions that reach the US often lose something. Yet even the dull ones can taste pretty good fresh on tap. Especially if you're thirsty. Like I am right now.

    That there'd be my two cents.

  3. I like the idea of nasty beer witches :D

    Sounds like you had a great time. I love the sound of pork braised in Aventinus! I have a leg of a wild boar from a hunter friend, and am still wondering what to do with it!