Ciao Beer & Travel Lovers!
In our last article - Craft Brewery Crawling in Hawaii - we tasted our way through the craft breweries of Oahu. This month, we travel in the opposite direction to Italy where we spent several enjoyable days discovering what the Italians are up to when it comes to craft brewing.
Craft Brewing in Italy
When you think of Italy, what comes to mind – food, wine, romance, art, culture, la dolce vita? Now there's another thing to add to that list – beer!
As you might expect, most Italian craft breweries have taken that love of style and beauty and applied it to their beer making. And most Italian brewers don’t just copy existing beer styles. Instead, they create their own unique styles resulting in flavors that spring from local ingredients and, in some cases, centuries old winemaking methods. They also brew with food in mind, naturally assuming that like wine, good beer will be consumed with good food. The results are beers that are subtle and well balanced and generally not as intense as some American craft beers.
Piedmonte – Famous Italian wine region and home to many Italian craft breweries
Consider this description of “an oxidized barley wine” from one of the oldest Italian craft breweries, Birra Baladin, which in my mind epitomizes the Italian craft beer philosophy:
“Xyauyù is a living, top-fermented beer which – after being exposed to the air of the Langhe area and resting for a long period of time – becomes a new and unique product. When poured, it has no head and no gas; it has a clear, full amber, brownish color with copper reflections. When initially inhaled it is very intense, with aromas of dried and candied fruit and strong and harmonious notes which bring Madeira wines to mind.”
This may come as a surprise, but there are more than 800 craft breweries in Italy to explore including a few of my favorites – Birra Baladin, Birra Montegioco, Birra Karma, and, solely because of their name, LoverBeer! Most craft breweries are located in northern Italy, which also boasts several exceptional wine producing regions such as Piedmonte, Lombardia, and the Veneto. And the larger breweries have their own brewpubs in major Italian cities making it more convenient to check them out (such as Open Baladin Roma).
In this article, we’ll introduce one of the oldest craft breweries in Italy, winner of numerous beer awards, and one of our favorites, Birra Baladin.
Baladin Open Garden in Piozzo (brewery, visitor center, beer garden). Images © Selezione Baladin S.r.l
Birra Baladin was founded in 1996 in a small village (population 998 according to Wikipedia) in northwestern Italy named Piozzo by Teo Musso who still serves as brew master and chief innovator/spokesman. Piozzo is located in the heart of the Piedmonte region, not far from the town of Barolo, which you may recognize as one of several famous Piedmontese wine producing areas.
Being the son of a winemaker, Teo grew up understanding the link between the earth and wine, and he wanted to extend that to link another product of the earth, beer. Teo’s dream became a reality when opened his brewery, and extended even further with the creation of the “Baladin Cellar” series, which we’ll explore a little further on.
Teo Musso, founder of Birra Baladin. Image © Selezione Baladin S.r.l.
A Brief History
Teo got started when he opened Le Baladin Pub in Piozzo in 1986. He was especially drawn to Belgian beers and stocked the pub with 200+ beers from Belgium and other exceptional beer producing countries.
Ten years later, in 1996, the pub became an actual brewpub when he began brewing and serving his own beer. And in 1997 he released his first bottled beer, an amber ale called Super.
Also in 1997, Teo released the first of several spiced beers named after family members starting with Isaac, which is a Belgian inspired wheat beer dedicated to his son. In 2000, Wayan, a Saison dedicated to his newborn daughter was released. Also in 2000, Nora was released. Nora is an “Egyptian ale” that’s dedicated to the mother of Teo’s children.
Isaac; a Belgian-inspired wheat beer (on the left) and Wayan; a Saison. Images © Selezione Baladin S.r.l.
In 2004, Xyauyù was first released. Xyauyù is an oxidized barley wine that’s part of the Baladin Cellar – Teo Musso Reserve series. It’s fun to mention that Xyauyù was named after an imaginary friend of Teo’s daughter when she was a small child. It’s also fun to mention that this beer is off-the-charts exceptional!
Xyauyù 2014, Baladin Cellar – Teo Musso Reserve
Sort of Interesting Side Note
Teo, and Italian sensory analyst and beer expert, Lerenzo Dabove (who goes by the nickname Kuaska) designed a glass specifically for beer. It’s call the Teku 3.0 (first two letters from each of their names) and is manufactured by German glassmaker, Rastal, a high-end glassware manufacturer. As stated on the Rastal website:
“The angled bowl captures the aromatics for the nose and palate. The slim lip of the glass feels just right when imbibing and the stem creates an elegant visual presentation while keeping body temperature from warming the beer prematurely.”
According to one source, this glass is the official glass used in all Italian beer competitions. Might be the perfect Christmas gift idea for the beer lover in your life?
The Teku 3.0 Glass
Tasting at Open Baladin Roma
When in Rome, I highly recommend a visit to Open Baladin Roma. Not only do they have 35 taps serving their own creations, they also have a wall of other beers from top Italian producers. Note: You can purchase bottles to go, but if you’re interested in doing so, Italian law requires that you make your purchase before 10:00PM. Open Baladin also has a kitchen serving quality bar food ranging from hamburgers to salads and vegetarian options.
Easy-to-miss, non-descript entrance to Open Baladin Roma
What awaits you inside the Open Baladin Roma taproom
When we visited, Gabriele Galiffi and Dario Nigro very graciously talked us through our tasting of several Baladin beers. It was immediately obvious that their beer was flavorful, subtle, complex and delicious, but I believe the friendliness and helpfulness of Gabriele and Dario made our evening especially exceptional.
We only scratched the surface, but of the beers we tried, the ones that earned a “Wow!” in my tasting notes were:
Nora (Egyptian Ale)
“Nora tells of ancient history, nomadic people and pyramids, spices and Kamut®, which means “the soul of the earth” in ancient Egyptian. Its warm, orange-amber color is complemented by a tall head which releases notes of Eastern aromas, ginger and citrus fruit.” ABV 6.8%, IBU 10-12.
Nazionale (Italian Ale)
“The first 100% Italian beer made with Italian ingredients. An intentionally simple beer: Italian water, barley malt, hops, yeasts and two Italian spices (bergamot and coriander) which combine to create harmony and originality.” ABV 6.5%, IBU 30-32.
Note: At 30-32 IBU, this beer is part of Baladin’s “Hoppy Beer” series, which highlights a key difference between Italian and American craft brewing.
Open Amber (American Pale Ale)
“A beer which combines the features of caramel and amber malts with the aromas of American hops. The result is an explosion of well-balanced taste, where the biscuit flavor coming from cereals and the notes of dried fruit blend perfectly with the bitterness and aromatic scents of hops and of the orange peel from Calabria.” ABV 7.5%, IBU 43.
Xyauyù (Baladin Cellar – Teo Musso Reserve, 2014) (barley wine)
“Xyauyù is a living, top-fermented beer which – after being exposed to the air of the Langhe area and resting for a long period of time – becomes a new and unique product. When poured, it has no head and no gas; it has a clear, full amber, brownish color with copper reflections. When initially inhaled it is very intense, with aromas of dried and candied fruit and strong and harmonious notes which bring Madeira wines to mind.” ABV 14%, IBU 13.
Look for Gabriele (left) and Dario when you visit Open Baladin Roma
Original Gravity Tours
We hope this article inspires you to plan a trip to Italy next summer? We also hope you consider joining us on one of our Munich & Bamberg Brewery Tours before or after your time in Italy.
We’ll experience das süße leben, German style... plus we’ll tour the oldest breweries in the world, meet local craft brewers, enjoy the finest beer gardens, follow the Bamberg breweries trail, explore the 1,000 year-old cities of Munich & Bamberg, ferry the Danube River, and more!
Suggestion: Crack open your favorite German beer and check out our recently updated Photos & Reviews page for a virtual tour!
Until next time, Arrivaderci and Prost!
Aloha Beer & Travel Lovers!
In our last article - An American Woman at Braukraft - we caught up with Kirsten Rhein at the Braukraft Brauerei just outside of Munich. This month we head west about 7,500 miles to the Hawaiian island of Oahu to visit several of the craft breweries on the island.
Craft Brewing in Hawaii
In general, the craft-beer scene in Hawaii is a few years behind the mainland, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t several breweries worth checking out on each of the major islands. Last month we visited the island of Oahu and had the good fortune to stop in at the following local breweries:
My only regret is that we didn’t make it to Beer Lab Hawaii. As they say on their website, “The brewery was built on the idea of continual change, experimentation and small batch brews to provide beer lovers a unique experience with each visit.” This has my attention and they should be high on anyone’s list to check out.
Waikiki Brewing Company
Our first stop was at the Kaka’ako location of the Waikiki Brewing Company (their original location is in Waikiki, about 2 miles away). Kaka’ako is an industrial section of Honolulu that seems to be regentrifying, at least when it comes to beer as all three of the craft breweries we visited in Honolulu are located here.
Waikiki Brewing Company Kaka’ako location
Waikiki Brewing Co. has a very friendly and down to earth vibe, and it was one of my two favorites out of the five breweries we visited on Oahu. As depicted below, we tried several of their beers, all of which were excellent, but especially notable was the Black Strap Molasses Porter (ABV 6.48%, IBU 37). It’s no surprise because this beer earned a silver medal (out of a total of 7,923 entries) in the Robust Beer category at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival.
Sampler boards at Waikiki Brewing Co.
Everyone at Waikiki Brewing Co. seemed to go out of his or her way to make sure we were well taken care of. At one point, Adam Golish, manager of the Kaka’ako location, came by our table and after a friendly conversation offered to give us a tour of the brewery. It was on the ceiling of the brewery that we discovered how divine intervention seems to inspire their brewing activities!
Divine intervention above fermentation tanks at Waikiki Brewing Co.
Our next stop was just around the corner at Honolulu Beerworks, also located in the Kaka’ako district. These guys definitely offer some interesting beers, including two limited releases that were on tap when we visited – Pussy Grabs Back (Extra Pale Ale, ABV 6%, IBU 15) and Terminus Saturn (Barrel Aged Cassini (Stout), ABV 8.5%, IBU 35). The rest of the line-up offered enough variety to satisfy most beer lovers’ interests.
Honolulu Beerworks Taproom
That said, the vibe here was only so-so. I think it’s because the taproom was a bit over-commercialized with more merchandise on display than beer, and the people working that day didn’t seem too excited to be there. However, because of their beer quality and selection I’ll definitely give them a second shot if I find myself back in Honolulu... perhaps I just caught them on an off day?
Terminus Saturn and Maggie's Rose Tatoo Irish Red Ale
Aloha Beer Company
Aloha Beer Company was the smallest of the three breweries we visited in the Kaka’ako area and it offered a cool, urban kind of vibe. Everyone there was friendly and helpful and it definitely had the most unique feel versus any of the breweries we visited.
Taproom at Aloha Beer Company
They offer a broad line-up of beer styles that should satisfy most beer lovers’ interests. But the two that stood out for me were the Jefe-Weizen (Bavarian-style Hefeweizen brewed with blue agave syrup and lime, ABV 5.7%, IBU 12) and the Portlock Porter (ABV 6.2%, IBU 28). The other thing that makes Aloha Beer Co. unique is that they also have a full bar. This gave it a different feel from any craft brewery I’ve ever visited.
Brewery at Aloha Beer Company
Aloha Beer Company was the favorite stop for several people in our group and it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in Honolulu and looking to try some interesting beers. They also offer food that looked pretty tasty from an “in-house” food truck.
The front lanai at Aloha Beer Company
EAST SIDE OF THE ISLAND
Lanikai Brewing Company
On our second day of “crawling”, we headed over to the east side of Oahu and our first stop was in Kailua at the Lanikai Brewing Company. My first impression was that their specialty seems to be brewing sour and fruity beers. Of the 12 taps flowing that day, half of them were pouring sours or fruit-inspired beverages – four sours, one saison, plus one cider. So if you’re a fruit beer fan, you’ll probably really enjoy visiting this taproom.
Lanikai Brewing Company Taproom
On the positive side, for non-fruit beer fans like myself, the Lanikai Pillbox Porter (ABV 6.5%, IBU 45) and the Lanikai Momona Imperial Stout (ABV 10.8%, IBU 70) were both well balanced and quite enjoyable. These guys are definitely talented brewers; you just need to appreciate their sour tendencies if you plan to visit.
First round at Lanikai Brewing Co.
Inu Island Ales
Also located on the east side of the island in Kaneohe, Inu Island Ales was the smallest of all breweries we visited on Oahu and the other of my two favorites. In case you’re wondering, Inu is pronounced ‘Ē-nu’ and is Hawaiian for drink... so translated, their name would be “Drink Island Ales”. Pretty cool, huh?
Open for business at Inu Island Ales
Keaka is one of the founders of Inu, and when you visit, you’ll most likely find him behind the counter pouring beer and engaging with customers. In addition to Keaka, there’s a good chance you’ll run into Kyle, their master brewer. Regardless of who’s working that day, you’ll feel like you’re hanging out in a friend’s garage, as both Keaka and Kyle are happy to talk beer with you to your heart’s content!
Keaka and Kyle started assembling brewing equipment in late October 2017 and they officially opened the doors in January of this year. It’s hard to tell that the brewery is so new because they’re already producing some exceptional beers. Prior to joining Inu Island Ales, Kyle was brewing at Mraz Brewing Company just outside of Sacramento, California. His time there was obviously well spent because he’s brewing some very interesting beers at Inu.
Taproom at Inu Island Ales - Keaka pouring beer, and Kyle testing the finished product :-)
My two favorites were the Inu Island Punch (Island Sour w/peaches and apricots, ABV 4.2%, IBU 0) and the Inu Island Stout (Imperial Stout w/coconut), ABV 13.5%, IBU 51). I typically don’t like fruit/sour beers so it’s saying a lot that the Inu Island Punch was one of my favorites, but the flavors came together nicely and it was quite enjoyable. And the Inu Island Stout, in my humble opinion, is medal worthy should they ever decide to enter it into a beer competition.
"Steal Glass Catch Cracks"
If you’re ever on Oahu, I encourage you to take a drive over to Kaneohe to visit Inu Island Ales. But don’t even think about stealing the glasses unless you want to “catch cracks”. Ask Keaka or Kyle what that means and I think you’ll agree!
Original Gravity Tours
We hope this article gives you a reason to visit our 50th state? We also hope it makes you consider joining us for one of our Munich & Bamberg Brewery Tours. If so, we may not be sipping beers in paradise, but we will tour the world's oldest breweries, experience the finest beer gardens and halls, walk the Bamberg breweries trail, explore the 1,000 year-old cities of Munich & Bamberg, ferry the Danube River, and more!
Until next time, Mahalo and Prost!
Greetings Beer & Travel Lovers!
Last spring we published an article titled, An American Woman in Deutschland in which we introduced Kirsten Rhein, an American woman who was doing some impressive things in the German brewing industry. In that article, we wrote “No doubt you can expect to hear a lot more about Kirsten in the years ahead!”
As expected, Kirsten continues to charge ahead and a lot has happened in her life in just nine short months. So in this month’s article we’ll catch up with Kirsten again and we’ll introduce Braukraft, a Munich area craft brewery in which she has become a co-owner along with its founder, Mathias Lottes.
Catching Back Up
When we first met Kirsten, she was in the thick of a brewing credential program, which she hoped to complete last summer. At the same time, she was working full-time at the Tölzer Mühlfeldbräu brewery in Bad Tölz, Germany, helping them brew their impressive line of craft beers as well as helping them sell/distribute those beers.
Prior to that, she worked for the Schneider-Weisse brewery doing export sales. Schneider-Weisse is very highly regarded in Germany, as it was the first commercial brewery to be licensed to brew wheat beer back in 1872, and while there, Kirsten made some great connections throughout the industry.
The Braukraft Connection
Kirsten and Mathias’s relationship goes back 4 years to when they started brewing together in Mathias’s basement. Although Mathias started brewing as a side project (his day job is as a Lufthansa pilot) his long-term goal was to build Braukraft into a successful, independent brewery.
Kirsten (center) and Mathias (right) in Mathias' basement in 2013
In the ensuing years, Braukraft started to gain traction, but since Kirsten was still studying and had a paying job at another brewery, her and Mathias’ brewing activities tapered off. However, they were very close friends and thought there might come a day when their brewing paths would cross again.
As the months passed, Mathias occasionally approached Kirsten with the idea of coming to work at Braukraft. But Kirsten was no longer interested in working for someone else; she was looking for an opportunity that offered more potential for personal and professional growth.
Then in late 2017, Mathias approached her once again as he had recently acquired space to build his own physical brewing facility and needed help to take the company to the next level. But Kirsten stood firm in her need for an ownership stake and eventually Mathias agreed. As she puts it, “I wanted to invest in my future and to tell you the truth, once I saw the brewery with my own eyes, I fell in love immediately. Owning your own brewery is very difficult and exceptionally rare in Munich, and I knew this opportunity wouldn't likely come again!”
So the two of them worked out a deal for Kirsten to invest in Braukraft and they’re back in business again! And they’re pretty confident in this partnership because, as Kirsten puts it, “We know each other very well, and we both recognize the strengths each of us brings to the partnership.”
Kirsten and Mathias in January 2018
Initially, Kirsten will be the only person working full-time at the brewery and will be involved in all aspects of the business including brewing, operations and sales/marketing. It’s going to be busy, as they need to finish building out the brewery, tasting room and beer garden, all of which should be completed in the spring. At the same time, Kirsten will be marketing to create demand at both the brewery as well as thru retail distribution.
It’s worth noting that the German brewing industry is male-dominated and it’s not easy for a woman to advance herself. But Kirsten is, if nothing else, strong-willed and has persevered to become one of the very few female brewery owners in Germany and the world.
How to Find Braukraft
The brewery is located about 30 minutes west of Munich at Münchener Strasse 20, 82205 Gilching, and is easy to reach from the center of Munich using the S-Bahn system. Take the S8 train towards Herrsching (name of the final stop that appears on the signs and train) and get off at the Geisenbrunn station.
If you’d like to visit the brewery, reach out to Kirsten at firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll find a time to meet you and introduce you to all things Braukraft. FYI, she’s originally from Cincinnati so she definitely speaks your language!
Lautering and boiling tanks in place as the brewery gets built out
Mathias and Kirsten are steadfast in their goal of building Braukraft into a successful and independent brewery; so don’t expect them to be selling out to Heineken or AB InBev anytime soon.
They intend to offer an interesting assortment of beers ranging from traditional styles to some that your grandparents definitely never tried. And whereas some favorites may be available year-round, Kirsten has considerable experience creating new and interesting recipes as well as brewing collaboratively with other breweries. So you can always expect to find an interesting assortment of beers on tap at Braukraft.
Braukraft P.Oter (left) and Max-Q logos (right)
Speaking to the traditional aspect, Kirsten hopes to someday install open-air fermentation equipment that will allow them to ferment the way it’s been done for hundreds of years at award-winning breweries like Schneider Weisse, and Weihenstephan which has been brewing since the year 1040.
On the flip side, two of their recent creations are a New England Style IPA (cloudy, hazy, juicy) and an ale called “Strawberry Shortcake Cream Ale with Pink Pepper”. You may wonder how they get around the Reinheitsgebot (German Purity Law of 1516) and produce a beer that includes and/or tastes like strawberries and pink peppers. All I can say is that they came up with a way of doing it, and you’ll have to ask Kirsten when you visit the brewery!
Five (out of 700 and counting) members of “The Beer Tasting Social Club: Life is too Short for Bad Beer” at Braunkunst 2018
Original Gravity Tours
We hope this article whetted your appetite for a trip to Germany? We also hope you’ll join us on one of our Munich & Bamberg Brewery Tours. If so, you’ll definitely get to meet Kirsten and the rest of the folks at Braukraft. You’ll also tour the world's oldest breweries, experience the finest beer gardens and halls, walk the Bamberg breweries trail, explore the 1,000 year-old cities of Munich & Bamberg, ferry the Danube River, and more!
AHA Members: As a reminder, members of the American Homebrewers Association are entitled to a discount on our 2018 tours. Please look for the Feb. 6th “New AHA Member Deal Near You” email in your inbox for details. And please visit us at Munich & Bamberg Brewery Tours for more information about our tours.
Until next time, thank you and Prost!
Greetings Beer & Travel Lovers!
Now that the holidays are behind us, do you have those old back-to-work blues? If so, there’s nothing better to lose those blues like planning your next summer vacation. So to help spark your imagination, read on to learn about our exciting Munich & Bamberg Brewery Tours summer tours!
2018 Munich & Bamberg Brewery Tours
What exactly do we do on our tours? Well, our Munich & Bamberg Brewery Tours include 2 full days in Munich, 1 day in Kelheim, and 2 more days in Bamberg. Along the way we take in 3 brewery tours plus 1 malting plant tour, visit several other breweries, beer halls and beer gardens, small and large, old and craft, and we take a ferry up the Danube River to visit the world’s oldest monastery brewery. If that wets your appetite, keep reading for day-by-day details.
Weihenstephan Brewery Tour
We start the day with a short trip to the oldest brewery in the world –
Weihenstephan – where we’ll tour the brewery, learn about its history, taste their award-winning line-up, and have a relaxing lunch in their Bräustüberl (brewery restaurant).
Officially known as the Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan, it is the official brewery of the State of Bavaria. Its origins date back to the year 725, but in the year 1040, the monastery’s abbot obtained a license from the city of Freising to brew beer, and the Weihenstephan Brewery was officially founded. Today, they produce several award-winning beers including my two of my favorites, Vitus and Korbinian.
Entrance to Weihenstephan (left) and on tour (right)
Historical Munich Walking Tour
Back in Munich in the afternoon, we’ll meet one of our local partner guides for a historical walking tour of central Munich. We’ll learn about the city’s 900-year history and get a great feel for the city center in case you want to go out later and explore on your own.
The Munich Town Hall (right) and the Viktualienmarkt beer garden (right)
Later we’ll wrap up the day with dinner at one of the many historic brewery restaurants within walking distance of our hotel, including Augustiner, Hackerhaus, Hofbräuhaus Munich, Schneider Bräuhaus, and Wirtshaus Ayingers.
Common scene outside the Hofbräuhaus Munich
Lunch at Kloster Andechs
Late Tuesday morning we'll head out to visit the Kloster Andechs monastery brewery – founded in 1455 – for lunch and beer on the terrace which offers a panoramic view of the surrounding Alp foothills. In addition, the pilgrimage Church of St. Nicholas and St. Elizabeth, built in the Rococo style in 1427, is definitely worth a peak while at the monastery.
Two views of Kloster Andechs
Bräukraft Craft Brewery Tour
After lunch, we’ll travel back towards Munich and stop in the town of Gilching for a tour and tasting at the Bräukraft craft beer brewery (founded in 2013). This will be an opportunity to get a taste for what the German craft beer industry is brewing while staying within the confines of the Reinheitsgebot, the German Purity Law of 1516.
Co-founder and brew master, Kirsten Rhein, in the Braukraft Beer Garden
Back in Munich late afternoon, you’ll have some time to explore the city center on your own and/or relax back in your hotel room. We’ll then wrap up our stay in Munich with dinner at another one of the historic brewery restaurants.
After an early checkout, we'll take a 90-minute trip up to the town of Kelheim, our destination for the day’s activities.
Schneider Weisse Brewery Tour
Our first stop is Bavaria’s oldest wheat beer brewery – Schneider Weisse – founded in 1607. Even if you don’t normally like wheat beer, you’ll be impressed with Schneider Weisse because you’ll see and taste how wheat beer is supposed to be made!
Their styles range from a traditional, unfiltered and unpasteurized wheat beer (Schneider Original, 5.4% ABV, 14 IBU), to one of the granddaddies of all double bock beers (Aventinus, 8.2% ABV, 16 IBU).
After our tour, we’ll have a hearty lunch in the beer garden or bräustüberl while being led through a tasting of the entire Schneider Weisse beer line-up.
Entrance to Schneider Weisse (left) and on tour (right)
After our tasting, we’ll take a short stroll to the Kelheim docks to catch one of the ferries that take us up the Danube River to Weltenburger Kloster. This scenic ferry ride takes about 40 minutes and provides plenty of photo ops including when we pass thru the Danube Gorge, which is formed by cliffs that rise up to 400 feet above the river.
Passing through the Danube Gorge
Weltenburger Kloster Brewery
Our ferry ride ends at the world’s oldest monastery brewery – Weltenburger Kloster – founded in the year 1050. The monastery itself dates back to the year 617 and is beautifully situated on the banks of the Danube. Our time there is fairly unstructured so we’ll grab a table in the beer garden and tour members are free to explore as they wish, by:
The Weltenburger Abby situated on the Danube River
After a couple hours at Weltenburger, we’ll continue on to Bamberg, arriving early evening. After settling into our hotel, we’ll take a short walk to one of the literally dozens of brewery restaurants available to us in Bamberg, such as Schlenkerla, Spezial Keller, or Mahrs Bräu.
The Mahrs Bräu beer garden (left) and the crowd in front of Schlenkerla (right)
Historical Bamberg Walking Tour
Mid-morning we meet another one of our partner tour guides for a historical walking tour of Bamberg. We’ll visit several historical sites within the city center such as the Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus), the Old Royal Residence, Michaelsberg Abbey and more. Then, after working up an appetite, we’ll grab lunch at another one of the brewery restaurants in the city center.
Saint Michael's Abbey (left) and the Old Town Hall (right)
Weyermann Specialty Malts Tour
After lunch, we’ll head over to the Weyermann Specialty Malts processing plant. Malt is one of the four basic ingredients in beer and we'll see how Weyermann, founded in 1879, produces it from raw grain (barley, wheat, etc.). We’ll also learn how they make smoked malt, which is used by Schlenkerla and other breweries to brew their famous Rauchbier (smoked beer). Weyermann also has an experimental brewery and we'll finish our tour by tasting a few beers that highlight their different malt products.
Weyermann germination box (left) and roasting machines (right)
After some free time in the afternoon, we’ll wrap up the day over dinner at another one of the many brewery restaurants available to us in Bamberg.
The Franconia Brewery Path
Late morning we set out for a true bucket-list experience – a day-trip through the Upper Franconia countryside, home to more breweries per capita than anywhere in the world!
We'll stop in several small villages such as Aufseß (population 1,300, 4 breweries), Waischenfeld (population 3,200), and Buttenheim (population 3,400) to enjoy the locally made, small-batch beer. We’ll have lunch at one of the breweries, and weather permitting, we’ll trek part(s) of the Franconia Brewery Path with short hikes from one town/brewery to the next!
We’ll return to our hotel late afternoon and later get together one last time for dinner and to talk about our experiences from the week!
The town of Aufsess (left) and the Will Brewery in Stadelhofen (right)
Original Gravity Tours
We hope this article sparked your imagination and helps you lose your back-to-work blues. We also hope you’ll join us on one of our Munich & Bamberg Brewery Tours this summer. If so, we’re confident you’ll have a great time, learn a lot about German beer, and come home with a trunk full of memories. But if you’re still on the fence remember, you’ll never be this young again!
Please visit us at Munich & Bamberg Brewery Tours for more information about us, and our tours.
Until next time, thank you and Prost!
Greetings Beer & Travel Lovers!
In our last blog post we introduced the goings on at Maui Brewing Company in Brewed with Aloha! In this article we travel back to the Bay Area to introduce you to the top three places to go for beer in San Francisco.
A Brief Word from Our Sponsor
Before we talk about beer in San Francisco, we’d like to mention that we recently published our 2018 Munich & Bamberg Brewery Tours dates.
If you’re interested in touring the world's oldest breweries, exploring the 1,000 year-old cities of Munich & Bamberg, meeting local craft brewers, enjoying the finest beer gardens and beer halls, ferrying the Danube River and more, please visit us at Munich & Bamberg Brewery Tours.
Now Back to San Francisco
It’s well known that San Francisco is a top vacation destination for travelers from around the world. What’s lesser known is that Northern California is the birthplace of the worldwide craft beer movement. With this in mind, here’s a brief history of craft beer in SF and NorCal, followed by an introduction to a few of our favorite taprooms in and around San Francisco that you’ll want to check out the next time you visit.
In the Beginning
First Modern Era Craft Brewery
In 1980, in a small town in California’s northern central valley that was best known for having one of the nation’s top party schools, the first of the modern era craft breweries – Sierra Nevada Brewing Company – was founded by Ken Grossman.
Ken and his partner recognized that people wanted more from their beer than the uninspiring lagers that large companies like Budweiser were pumping out. As stated on the Sierra Nevada website, they “set out with a simple goal: brew the beers we wanted to drink.”
A full history can be found here, but it’s fair to say that Sierra Nevada was the country’s first modern era craft brewery, and that their Pale Ale changed the industry and American taste buds forever.
Top 3 Beer Places in San Francisco
Admittedly, any “Top X” list is subjective and based on personal taste, interests, etc. Regardless, even if there are “better” breweries or brewpubs in SF, we’re confident you won’t be disappointed if you decide to check out any of the three on our list. That said, we settled on our Top 3 Beer Places for a couple reasons:
1. Variety. Our Top 3 Beer Places brew and/or serve a lot more styles than just IPAs which many breweries and brewpubs tend to focus on. Whereas I can appreciate a well-made IPA or DIPA, I prefer a diverse selection of beers that, in some cases, are a little more subtle on the palate.
2. Quality & Creativity. We focused on places that brew and/or serve quality and complex beers produced using a variety of ingredients that come together in unique and interesting flavors. In other words, beer that you’re not going to easily find elsewhere.
3. Independence. When a brewery is purchased by one of the industry behemoths, like ABV Inbev, profit eventually becomes the key business driver and they tend to lose touch with the creativity that made them good to begin with. All three of our Top 3 Beer Places (plus the two on our Honorable Mention list) are independent.
So without further ado, here are what we consider to be the Top 3 Beer Places in San Francisco. Important note, these spots are listed in alphabetic order and their positioning does not reflect our preference for one over another.
1. Cellarmaker Brewing Company
Founded in 2013 and located just outside the city’s “high-tech jungle” at 1150 Howard Street, Cellarmaker made the list because of the creativity and quality of their beer plus the range of styles they produce. Co-founders, Connor Casey and Tim Sciascia, describe it best on their website:
“We are a San Francisco brewery producing our beers in small batches one beer at a time. It is our goal to keep your taste buds intrigued by constantly producing different flavors. To us, making the same 3-4 beers all the time would be boring. We hope you feel the same way.”
On the day I visited, they had 14 taps pouring styles that ranged from a slightly bitter “Saazel Tov!” Pilsner (5.6% ABV / 42 IBU) to a Coconut Imperial Stout “Blammo!” (13.5% ABV / 70 IBU). Although I enjoyed several of their beers, I was particularly impressed with the Blammo! because the alcohol was not the predominant flavor. In fact I couldn’t even taste it. This is a sign of a brewery that knows what it’s doing!
Other beers of note included the “Quadruple Dobis” Quad IPA (12.8% / 106 IBU), “Tim’s Brown” Brown Ale (6.8% ABV / 24 IBU), and perhaps their most famous brew, “Coffee and Cigarettes” Coffee Porter (8.5% ABV / 45 IBU)... don’t let the name dissuade you from trying it!
Cellarmaker is located in an industrial area not far from downtown that has yet to gentrify, and their tasting room, although modern, reflects that industrial spirit. Co-founder, Kelly Caveney, manages the tasting room and if you’re lucky enough to have her serve you, not only will you be greeted by a friendly face, but you can learn a lot about the brewery and brewing from her.
Final note, the tasting room is relatively small and filled up quickly the day I visited. So if you plan on going, you’re best off visiting as soon as your internal clock strikes “beer-thirty”.
2. Laughing Monk Brewing
Have you ever walked into a friend or neighbor’s garage when they’re home brewing? That’s what it’s like to walk into Laughing Monk, and an experience you’re not going to get at many other breweries. The first thing that will hit you is the smell of boiling wort, and the friendly folks behind the bar will make you feel right at home.
Besides the welcoming experience, Laughing Monk makes our list because of their unique focus on producing complex and flavorful beers that blend styles from Belgium and California. The inspiration comes from founders Andrew Casteel and Jeff Moakler (also the brew master) who each had memorable beer experiences visiting Belgium. Laughing Monk is located about 5 miles south of downtown (10-15 minutes by car) at 1439A Egbert Avenue but it’s definitely worth the effort to get there.
Laughing Monk brews in small batches (15 to 30 barrels) keeps 15 taps pouring and their most popular beers are “Mango Gose” (Sour Gose, 4.8% ABV / 7 IBU), “Holy Ghost” (Pilsner, 4.8% ABV / 25 IBU), and “Evening Vespers” (Belgian Dubbel, 7.1% ABV / 15 IBU).
I didn’t taste a bad beer, but the two that really tickled my taste buds were the “Third Circle” (Belgian Tripel, 8.7% ABV / 28 IBU), and the “Blackberry Pulpit” (Black Tripel, 7.6% ABV / 15 IBU). I’m generally not a fruit beer fan, but the subtle blackberry flavor blended nicely with the chocolate flavor.
In addition to brewing great beer, Laughing Monk also organizes various activities at the tasting room and one gets the sense that they strive to support the community around them. Check out their home page for a current list of activities, and if you really feel motivated, join them for one of their yoga and beer sessions on Sunday mornings from 10:00 – 12:00 which are advertised as “90 Minute Bhakti Yoga & A Pint Afterwards”.
3. Mikkeller Bar
Mikkeller is located just off Market Street at 34 Mason Street on the edge of the Tenderloin district. The brewery itself was founded in 2006 in Copenhagen, Denmark and last year they opened their first U.S. brewery in San Diego. While much larger than the first two breweries on our list, Mikkeller is still a relatively small, independent brewery that operates more than 30 “bars” around the world that pour their own beer plus many other unique and interesting beers.
Mikkeller Bar SF is as close to beer heaven as you’re going to find anywhere. They have 44 taps and they pour the widest variety of beer styles that I could find. I asked Josh Carney, general manager of the SF location, what key factors he considers in determining what to pour. He responded, “Quality and freshness, new local beers and an always rotating list. Quality as subjective as that is, would be the biggest determining factor.” He added, “We try to have a diverse and balanced list. We have 44 total taps in house so we can have obscure styles as well.”
There are so many choices at Mikkeller that it can be hard to choose, but it’s also hard to not find several that you like. When I visited, I tried eight beers across a range of styles including the following that turned out to be my favorites:
1. Mikkeller “Beer Geek Brunch” (Imperial Oatmeal Stout w/Vietnamese “Weasel” Coffee, 10.9% ABV). The only note I made for this beer was the word “delicious”.
2. Mikkeller “Sort Gul” (Black IPA, 7.3% ABV). A very complex beer that had a subtle bitterness and had a very smooth finish.
3. Mikkeller “Spontansourcherry” (Spontaneous (fermentation) Sour w/Tart Cherries, 7.7% ABV). This beer had a tart start but a very smooth finish. It would be easy to drink more than one of these in a single sitting.
4. Oskar Blues “Ten Fidy” (Russian Imperial Stout, 9.4% ABV). Very smooth and easy to drink for a 9.4% beer.
Depending on your tolerance for “diversity”, the only thing I might recommend for visiting the Mikkeller Bar is to use a ride hailing service to get there. They’re located at the edge of a neighborhood that can be a bit sketchy, but once you’re there, you’ll be glad you made the pilgrimage.
Honorable Mention List
We decided to include an “honorable mention” list because there are a couple places outside of SF proper that deserve to be recognized. It’s safe to say that if either of these two places were located in SF, we would have expanded the list to a “Top 5”.
Fieldwork Brewing: Fieldwork Brewing Company is a craft brewery founded in 2015 and located just across the bay at 1160 Sixth Street in Berkeley (you can take BART from downtown). They also have locations in Monterey, Napa, Sacramento and San Mateo in case your travels bring you to one of those places.
Fieldwork’s website states that they “focus on exceptional, honest beer-making” and I fully agree that they live up to this claim. Check out their Beer Archive and you’ll understand why we felt inclined to create an Honorable Mention List to accommodate them.
The Tourist Club: The Tourist Club is about as real as is it gets, and a place that you really have to want to visit. The Tourist Club is the San Francisco branch of Die Naturfreunde (The Nature Friends), which was founded in Vienna in 1895. If you’re fortunate enough to visit, you’ll definitely get a taste of what it’s like to be nestled somewhere in the Alps sipping a beer.
The Tourist Club is a 30-45 minute drive north of downtown San Francisco, and once you get to the parking lot, you have to walk a half-mile to get to the club itself. For adventure seekers, you can hike there using one of three trails, the hardest of which is the 7-mile (+/-) Dipsea Trail that starts over the hill at Stinson Beach and climbs more than 2,000 vertical feet to the summit before dipping down towards the Tourist Club.
However, if you make the effort to get there, you’ll find them pouring some pretty interesting German beers including one of our favorites from Weltenburger Kloster. Weltenburger is a monastery and brewery that was founded in the year 1050 and is located on the banks of the Danube River.
Warning: Now that we got you interested in the Tourist Club, unless you’re a member, the days you can visit as a guest are limited to one or two per month. These days are marked as a “Guest Day” on their Guest Days Calendar so plan ahead.
Original Gravity Tours
If you’re able to join one of our Munich & Bamberg Brewery Tours next summer, you may not be exploring breweries on the streets of San Francisco... but you will tour the world's oldest breweries, explore the 1,000 year-old cities of Munich & Bamberg, meet local craft brewers, enjoy the finest beer gardens and beer halls, ferry the Danube River and more.
As a reminder, we recently posted our 2018 tour dates so please visit us at Munich & Bamberg Brewery Tours for details.
We hope you enjoyed this newsletter and if so, please consider sharing it with your beer-lover friends.
Until next time, thank you and Prost!
Greetings Beer & Travel Lovers!
In our last blog post we shared a few Oktoberfest Survival Tips. This month we travel in the opposite direction to the island of Maui to catch up with Garrett Marrero, founder and CEO of the Maui Brewing Company, the largest independent craft brewery in Hawaii.
Paradise in the Pacific:
Maui is one of eight main islands that make up our 50th state. In addition to being home to an active volcano (Haleakalā) and fantastic beaches, Maui is also home to a world-class brewery – Maui Brewing Company. Maui Brewing Company is an innovative, independent, and environmentally conscious brewery that produces a slew of well-crafted beers guaranteed to keep any beer lover happy during his or her time on the island.
If that weren’t enough, the brewery is lead by the most accommodating and genuine CEO I’ve ever met. It quickly became apparent that Garrett is a firm believer in treating people and the environment right, and his approach explains at least a bit of how Maui Brewing Company has enjoyed the success it has. If you have the chance to visit the brewery, I’m confident you’ll pick up on this aloha spirit in everyone you meet.
Garrett Marrero, Founder and CEO of Maui Brewing Company
Maui Brewing Company:
Most people who visit Hawaii fall in love at first site, and Garrett was no exception. Garrett first visited Maui in 2001 on a break from his financial services job in San Francisco and immediately contracted a case of “Maui Fever”. Over the next few years Garrett made it back several times and eventually decided he needed to make Maui his home and to open a brewery on the island.
Just one of the things Garrett fell in love with on Maui
Interestingly, brewing wasn’t Garrett’s passion – he’d only brewed twice before starting the brewery – but he liked good beer and he liked the idea of creating a local brewery that operated in harmony with the environment and with other local businesses. So in 2004, at the age of 26, he quit his day-job and moved to Maui to set up shop.
Soon after, with the help of their families and a few private loans, Garrett and his then girlfriend Melanie Oxley took over a small brewpub in Kahana (just north of Lahaina Town) which had a full line of brewing equipment along with a brew master who was ready to join them. And on Friday, January 28, 2005 Maui Brewing Company officially opened its doors!
Garrett working the canning line in the early days
In that first year, Maui Brewing Company produced around 300 barrels and Garrett and Melanie were both actively involved in all aspects of the company. For perspective, 300 barrels is equivalent to about 74,000 U.S. pints.
Fast-forward to 2017 and you’ll find them in Kihei on the southern part of the island in a gleaming 42,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility. With 12 fermentation tanks working around the clock (and 6 more on order) they expect to produce more than 50,000 barrels this year, so it appears that Garrett’s vision has manifested itself in a spectacular way!
Maui Brewing Company's state-of-the-art operations in Kihei
Maui Brewing Company’s best selling beer is Bikini Blonde (ABV 5.2%, IBU 18) followed by Big Swell IPA (ABV 6.8%, IBU 82), both of which you’ll find in stores and bars on the island as well as in their taprooms in Kahana and Kihei.
And if you visit the brewery, you’ll find as many as 24 beers on tap with names such as:
The brewery's year-round line-up
Garrett clearly enjoys his life at the helm of Maui Brewing Company and, unlike some other craft breweries, he has no intention of selling his company to one of the global mega-brewery companies like AB InBev or Heineken. He likened the concept to selling your soul to the devil and stated, “When you trade your independence for a check, and your ownership for a job, things are going to change. That’s OK but it’s just not a choice for us.”
I asked Garrett about his favorite beers by framing the discussion around being stranded in different locations for a few days and having to pick one beer to bring with him.
On a South Pacific Island - Garrett would choose Bikini Blonde (5.1% ABV, 18 IBU) or Pau Hana Pilsner (5.5% ABV, 25 IBU) because they’re both relatively light and would provide much needed hydration in the heat.
In Siberia - He would choose one of two limited releases – Imperial Coconut Porter brewed with toasted coconut chips (9.4% ABV, 30 IBU) or Black Pearl Imperial Coconut Porter which is also brewed with toasted coconut chips but then aged in local rum barrels (12% ABV, 30 IBU). Either one would make a great “liquor jacket” in any cold climate.
Maui Brewing Company Imperial Coconut Porter
For more information on Maui Brewing Company limited releases and specialty beers, please visit: http://mauibrewingco.com/limited-release-sales-sheets/
What’s Brewing Today?:
Garrett indicated they’re having fun with their limited release program and toward that end they’re building a 2,000 square foot barrel aging room. If that weren’t enough, they’re also:
The Hawaii Craft Beer Scene:
So you might ask... are there any other Hawaiian craft breweries worth checking out when you’re over there? The answer is yes! Although Maui Brewing Company is by far the largest independent brewery in Hawaii, you can find other great breweries on each of the major islands, such as:
Maui: Kohola Brewery. Located in Lahaina, Kohola welcomes you in an industrial style taproom with 10 taps pouring their year-round and limited release beers. Kohola is conveniently located for anyone staying on the northwest part of the island near Lahaina.
1. Lanikai Brewing Company in Kailua
2. Honolulu BeerWorks in (you guessed it) Honolulu
3. Stewbum & Stonewall Brewing Co. in Kaneohe
4. Waikiki Brewing Company in Honolulu
1. Kauai Island Brewing in Port Allen
2. Kauai Beer Company in Lihue
Hawaii (the big island):
1. Hawai’i Nui Brewing in Hilo
2. Big Island Brewhaus in Waimea
The Maui Brewing Company tap room in Kihei
Garrett – Up Close & Personal:
To finish up our time together, I asked Garrett a few personal questions to help our readers get a feel for him as a person versus the businessman.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about living on Maui?
A: “Maui is a great place... your soul can rest here. As soon as I land after being away and I step outside and see the palm trees, it’s like “ahhh, OK I’m home again. I felt that way on my first trip here, this is where I need to be, my soul wants to be here.”
“I live right up the hill here, it has such a beautiful view and it’s quiet in the country. I got to spend time in the water this weekend with some friends and it’s great to just sit on the beach with a six-pack of beer, or go paddle boarding, or whatever.”
Q: Where were you born/raised?
A: “I was born and raised in San Diego, went to UC Davis and graduated with a degree in finance. I got my first job in San Francisco in investment consulting and was the youngest licensed consultant in the firm. But being fresh out college it was hard to sit across from someone older than me and tell that person how to manage their money, so I mostly sold the expertise of the firm and did very little investing.”
Q: What do most people not know about you?
A: “Most people don’t know that I love to cook. I don’t do it as much as I used to but it was definitely an influence on building the restaurant here (in Kihei). Food is such a part of my life. One of the reasons I started the brewery was to identify and learn about a culture thru food and beverage. I’m a big fan of Anthony Bourdain (popular chef, author and TV personality) and I agree with his philosophy that when you travel to other places, the best way to learn about a culture is to experience what they eat and drink. I think that’s absolutely true. I also love adrenaline but that’s probably not a secret.”
Side Note: Until their restaurant opens, Maui Brewing Company relies on food trucks to meet the demand for food. When I visited them, I tried the Liliko’i pizza which I ate in the tap room. It was delicious and true to Garrett’s philosophy on food and culture, it had Hawaiian style pork and passion fruit toppings, both local staples.
Q: What’s your favorite thing in life besides your family and MBC?
A: “Travel, definitely. I have lists upon lists of where to eat and where to drink in different cities. It’s like Chicago, it’s not just go see the bean in the park, it’s where to eat and where to drink. So my wife does all the planning on where we’re going to go, and I say OK we’re going to hit this winery, this brewery, and this restaurant. I think that’s my favorite part, just seeing how the rest of the world does it. You come back with recharged batteries and hopefully some new ideas. You get reminded that you’re part of something much bigger than just the small world you live in.”
Side Note: Two days after this interview, Garrett and his wife left for a month in Africa.
Q: Hobbies or passions outside of beer and MBC?
A: “I enjoy scuba diving, paddle boarding, or anything related to the water. I also shoot. I love to shoot targets, but I don’t hunt. Although I have thought about learning to hunt deer and pigs because there are so many of them here and they’re causing problems for local agriculture. So they’re hurting farmers, and we're big supporters of local agriculture. Plus the meat is fantastic.”
Q: What are you most proud of in your life?
A: “Outside of personal accomplishments, it’s the team we’ve built here at Maui Brewing Company. Ten years ago my wife and I were doing everything. Today there are 400 people that make Maui Brewing Company work. Many of them have adopted the same passion that me and my wife have, and many are proud to work here.”
Q: Do you believe in Mana and if so, how have you been impacted by it since being on Maui?
A: "I do believe in Mana which basically means courage, spirituality, soulfulness, etc. If we didn’t have the Mana, Maui Brewing Company wouldn’t be what it is today. The reason we started the brewery was to give Hawaii, specifically Maui, a beer of its own and to celebrate the idea of Hawaiian craft beer instead of just profiteering from the name Hawaii."
"How do we give back and pay respects to the county of Maui and to the people by doing them proud, and making beers of the highest quality, and winning awards all over the world and remaining true to our principals of local production and supporting the environment. So Mana has to be in everything we do. Our original motto was “handcrafted ales and lagers brewed with Aloha”. The Aloha Spirit is alive in everything we do. I’ve never been very religious, but I’ve always been very spiritual, more so in the last 10 or 15 years... as I’ve gotten older maybe?”
Livin' the life on Maui!
Original Gravity Tours
If you’re able to join one of our Munich & Bamberg Tours next summer, you may not be sipping beer and watching beautiful sunsets on the shores of Maui... but you will be able to 1) tour the oldest brewery in the world, 2) visit an award-winning Bavarian craft brewery, 3) sample beers from a 1,000 year old monastery brewery on the banks of the Danube, and much more! We just added our 2018 tour dates on our site so please visit our Munich & Bamberg Tour page for details.
We hope you enjoyed this newsletter and if so, please consider sharing it with your beer-lover friends.
Until next time, and as always, thank you and Aloha!
Greetings Beer & Travel Lovers!
Last month we introduced An American Woman in Deutschland. This month we look ahead to the granddaddy of all Oktoberfests and offer a few tips for surviving a night in the tents.
Oktoberfest Munich 2017
It’s only June, so why are we talking about Oktoberfest already? Because if you’re going, it’s time to start thinking about your trip as you’ll be visiting Munich at the same time 6 – 7 million other people make their way to the Theresienwiese to celebrate Oktoberfest!
History: Oktoberfest dates back to October 1810 when Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen at the site of today’s event. The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the old city gates, and were entertained with horse racing, food, beer, and wine. The celebration was so successful that Ludwig decided to make it into an annual event.
Today, Oktoberfest traditionally starts on the third Saturday of September and ends on or shortly after the first Sunday of October. The Oktoberfest grounds, called Theresienwiese, or "Theresa's Meadow" gets its name from the Princess, but today most locals simply refer to it as the Wiesn (“vee-zin”).
Imagine being in a tent with thousands of other people, each feeling absolutely no pain, who are standing on their benches with their Maß in the air singing “Take Me Home Country Road” along with the “oompah” band. It’s impossible to not have a crazy fun time... it’s also pretty easy to have too good of a time!
For those of you who may be interested, Oktoberfest attracts its fair share of celebrities. Past years’ attendees include Katy Perry, Richard Branson, Usain Bolt, Samuel L. Jackson, Paris Hilton, assorted Kardashians, and a regular favorite, Arnold Schwarzenegger. In case you’re hoping to catch a glimpse, they tend to hang out in the Hippodrome and Winzerer Fähndl tents.
Speaking of California’s former “Governator”, Arnie knows how to have a good time. Last year, the police stopped him for “weaving” his bike thru the Munich train station. According to the police, Schwarzenegger accepted the warning but explained, "that he couldn't walk well"!
It’s worth repeating that if you’re going to Oktoberfest this year, it’s important to get your plans sorted out soon, particularly if you have large group of people. Other than that, here are some tips for enjoying and surviving a day/evening at Oktoberfest.
Getting into the Tents:
Other Suggestions & Survival Tips:
Broaden Your Oktoberfest Experience
Tent Owners and Breweries Parade:
Starting at 10:45am on the first day of Oktoberfest, the tent owners and breweries conduct a parade that winds its way through Munich and into the Theresienwiese to officially kick-off the celebration. It’s free and I highly recommend it. Just find a spot along the parade route and enjoy the spectacle.
The Traditional Costume Parade:
The traditional costume parade happens on the second day, starting at 10:00am. To me this isn’t as fun as the tent owners and breweries parade, but it’s certainly worth checking out if this type of thing interests or if you’re staying near the parade route.
Original Gravity Tours
If you’re able to join one of our Munich & Bamberg Tours this summer, you may not attend Oktoberfest, but we should be able to get a taste of it at one of the many Munich beer halls and gardens. We’ll also introduce you to the the Munich “Big 6” breweries along with a few up-and-coming craft breweries.
We hope you enjoyed this blog post and as always, thank you and Prost!
Greetings Beer & Travel Lovers!
Last month we introduced a few up-and-coming Munich breweries in the Munich Craft Beer Scene. This month we continue our journey and introduce, quite likely, the only professional female American brewer in Germany, as well as her “home” brewery, Tölzer Mühlfeldbräu.
Meet Kirsten Rhein
Kirsten Rhein had a typical mid-west childhood growing up in the suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio. However, her life after leaving home is anything but typical.
After high school Kirsten moved to Washington DC to attend George Washington University (GWU). While at GWU, she took advantage of an opportunity to study abroad at the Albert Ludwigs University in Freiberg, located in the Black Forest area of Germany. Upon returning to the U.S., she finished her studies at GWU and in 2003 graduated with degrees in International Economics, German Language Literature and French.
While in DC, Kirsten worked in a bar that is renowned for its very large beer selection and it was there she developed a serious appreciation for well-crafted beer. And since Kirsten spoke fluent German, after graduating she decided her future was back in Germany. So in 2006 she moved back over and found work in different breweries, including as an export consultant for Schneider Weisse.
Then in 2016, she met Achim Bürklin, founder of the Tölzer Mühlfeldbräu brewery in Bad Tölz, and talked her way into a job. Part of her pitch to Achim was that being an American woman who spoke fluent German, she would be unique in the German beer industry and thus able to open doors for the brewery. She was right, as she was instrumental in helping increase the brewery’s distribution throughout Germany and into the Netherlands and Czech Republic.
Kirsten then decided, because she enjoyed brewing so much, to enroll in the Master Brewer Program at the Doemens Akademie in Gräfelfing, Germany. She’ll graduate in July and, as a Master Brewer, intends to apply her knowledge at Tölzer Mühlfeldbräu focused mainly on brewing innovation and collaborative brewing.
In case you’re thinking, “that sounds like fun, I want to do that”, you should know that Kirsten spends 8 hours a day with her schooling, and another 8 hours on the job. So what she’s doing is hard, is exceptional, and is not for the average person who likes to sleep.
If that wasn’t enough, she’s worked her way up at Tölzer Mühlfeldbräu and is now the Managing Director, reporting directly to Achim. No doubt you can expect to hear a lot more about Kirsten in the years ahead!
Dating back several centuries, Bad Tölz is a typical Bavarian countryside, small town (pop. 18,000) located about 35 miles south of Munich in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps. Years ago it was home to 22 breweries, but over the years those breweries began to shut down until finally, in 2005, the last one, Grüner Brewery, closed its doors.
With that, the brewing tradition in Bad Tölz might have ended once and for all. However, shortly thereafter, Achim Bürklin, a local developer who wanted to keep that tradition alive, acquired the Grüner buildings. And in 2008 he opened a completely renovated craft brewery called Tölzer Mühlfeldbräu. Next door to that, and with the help of Claus Hühnlein and Tino Kellner, he also opened the Tölzer Gasthaus.
Both the brewery and the Gasthaus are exceptional in their own ways. The brewery is exceptional in the innovation it brings to the German brewing world, all within the constraints of the Reinheitsgebot. And the Gasthaus is exceptional in using only high-quality ingredients sourced from local and regional growers, with dishes prepared by a 5-star chef. Quality, not quantity is the guiding mantra for both.
Tölzer Mühlfeldbräu can boast having 10 lager tanks in a 500 year-old lager cellar, using traditional open tank fermentation techniques, and being one of the few craft breweries to own its brewing facilities. They brew strictly in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot under the direction of Brew Master, Sebastian Heuschneider, and today their beer is available in Berlin, Bamberg, Nuremberg, Munich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Hamburg, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands.
Tölzer Mühlfeldbräu currently offers three year-round beers – an unfiltered Helles, a filtered Helles, and a wheat beer. However, where things get really interesting is with their monthly specialty beers:
Wheat beer produced thru a method that involves freezing the fermented beer and removing the resulting ice (“eis”) to increase density and potency. 5.8% ABV
India Pale Ale
A stronger cousin of the Pale Ale, brewed to withstand long transport, style dates back to the British colonial days. 6.2% ABV
Tor des Monats
Starkbier (strong, dark beer) traditionally brewed for the period of Lent. 6.8% ABV
Wheat Bock beer, a stronger wheat beer brewed with additional malt, which results in a stronger, more flavorful beer. 6.7% ABV
Unfiltered Pilsner, generally more flavorful than a filtered pilsner. 4.9% ABV
Ale brewed with light or “pale” malts, lighter in flavor and alcohol than India Pale Ale. 4.8% ABV
Summer Wheat, a light wheat beer brewed for consumption in the warmer months. 4.1% ABV
Ale brewed with darker malts to produce an amber color. 5.6% ABV
Märzen, a medium colored ale typically brewed for the Oktoberfest season. 5.8% ABV
Autumn Wheat beer, a little stronger and spicier than the Summer Wheat. 5.4% ABV
Wheat beer brewed in commemoration of the annual Leonardifest event, in honor of St. Leonhard, the patron saint of farm animals. 5.6% ABV
Very strong, dark Bock Ale brewed for Christmas season. 17.6%ABV
Tölzer Mühlfeldbräu doesn’t disclose information about its annual output, but it’s safe to say they are one of the largest craft breweries in Bavaria. And Bad Tölz is only about an hour from central Munich by train or car; so if you’re ever in Munich looking for a fun, easy day-trip, think about dropping in and saying “hallo” to the folks at Tölzer Mühlfeldbräu and at Tölzer Gasthaus.
Original Gravity Tours
If you’re able to join one of our Munich & Bamberg Tours this summer, there’s a good chance we’ll introduce you to Kirsten and/or to the folks at the brewery and Gasthaus. But if that’s not possible, please keep an eye out for them here in the U.S., and please consider sharing this newsletter with your beer-lover friends.
As always, thank you and Prost!
Greetings Beer & Travel Lovers!
Last month we took a look at Day 3 of our Munich & Bamberg Tour when we visit two breweries and ferry the Danube in Kelheim, Germany. This month we head in a different direction and take a look at Munich’s emerging craft beer scene.
Déjà Vu All Over Again?
Americans tend to take our craft beers for granted. After all, the U.S. craft beer industry has been around for more than 35 years since Sierra Nevada Brewing opened its doors in 1980. Today there are said to be more than 5,000 craft breweries in the U.S.
And creativity knows few bounds in the U.S. with all sorts of ingredients being added to craft beers to produce a variety of complimentary flavors. The result is offerings such as “Coffee & Cigarettes Smoked Porter” (Cellarmaker), “Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout” (Great Divide), and “Electric Peel Grapefruit IPA” (Magic Hat).
In Germany, however, it’s a very different story. Due to the Reinheitsgebot of 1516 (the Purity Law which originated in Bavaria) beer has been brewed pretty much the same way for the past 500 years. The Purity Law states that only water, hops, malt and yeast can be used to brew beer. However, the Germans are taking a page from our book as evidenced by the emerging craft beer scene over there.
According to Bloomberg News, “the number of micro-breweries in Germany has increased by 37% in the past decade (2005-2015)”, but “their output represents less than 1 percent of Germany’s total beer production.” By contrast, according to the U.S. Brewers Association, in the U.S. craft beer represented 16% of all beer sales in 2015 (see chart below).
But the writing is on the wall, and while the large German breweries haven’t publicly shown much interest to-date, some American craft brewers are getting into this nascent market while it’s still young. Stone Brewing, for example, opened a brewery in Berlin in June 2106 reflecting the perceived growth opportunity for craft beer in Germany (and the rest of the EU).
If Only It Was That Simple
Craft brewing in Bavaria is different than the rest of Germany in that Bavaria rigorously enforces the Reinheitsgebot. Bavarian authorities allow zero leeway for craft brewers in Bavaria to add anything to their beer besides the 4 basic ingredients stipulated in the law.
By contrast, in most other German states a brewer can request permission from the Reinheitsgebot authorities to brew and market beer with ingredients other than just water, hops, malt and yeast. While permission is generally granted, the resulting product cannot be labeled “beer”.
On top of that, being part of the European Union, Germany and must follow its conventions regarding cross-border trade. Therefore, if a beer is brewed in another country where its allowed to be called beer, regardless of the ingredients, then it can be imported and sold as "beer" in all German states, including in Bavaria.
Most German brewers, including craft brewers support the Reinheitsgebot, but the craft brewing industry would like to see a change in the law to allow for natural ingredients to be used in brewing. They can point to their neighbors in Belgium as a country with a proud tradition of producing natural, yet very creative, interesting and popular beers.
Introducing Munich’s “Gypsy Brewers”
To get a feel for the Munich craft beer scene, we spoke with four small craft brewers to learn how they see things on the ground. And when we say “small”, we mean small:
The cool thing about these craft/gypsy brewers is that they represent the cutting edge of Munich craft brewing, much like Sierra Nevada did in the U.S. back in the 80’s. So speaking with these brewers is like traveling back time!
Located in Munich, Hopfmeister was founded by Marc Gallo in 2014 and is a bit unique in that Marc doesn’t have a traditional brewing background. Instead, he was a graphic designer by trade who enjoyed craft beer and wanted to apply his creative skills to brewing and marketing his own beer.
Marc currently bottles four “Always” beers (available year-round):
Marc also produces seasonal beers most of which are collaboratively brewed outside of Bavaria to skirt the Reinheitsgebot. His current seasonal selection includes two that would be right at home in the U.S.:
Located about 20 miles northeast of Munich in Freising, Isarkindl was founded in 2014 by Simon Klur and Xaver Amler, ages 27 and 29. Simon and Xaver both graduated from the Brewing and Beverage Technology program at the renowned Weihenstephan Technical University, which is also in Freising.
Isarkindl currently bottles two year-round beers:
We asked Simon if the large German breweries (e.g., Bitburger, Paulaner, Spaten, etc.) have shown any interest in the craft beer market and he echoed the sentiment of others saying that they haven’t shown much interest to-date.
One of the few “large” breweries being creative is Schneider Weisse in Kelheim, which, in collaboration with the Brooklyn Brewery, and in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot, created Meine Hopfenweisse. Meine Hopfenweisse is a relatively hoppy, strong wheat beer (8.2% ABV, 40 IBU) that is a creative departure from traditional Bavarian wheat beers.
MUNICH BREW MAFIA
Located in Munich and founded in 2016 by Dario Stieren and Niklas Zerhoch, Munich Brew Mafia has come on the scene very quickly. They currently offer two year-round beers, both of which are made in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot.
Dario, age 27, is also graduate of the Weihenstephan Technical University, and he and Niklas both find plenty to keep them busy. When they’re not brewing, bottling, marketing, or any one of the many things associated with their business they also work at the Tap-House which is one of the best places in Munich to find a very wide selection of domestic and imported craft beers.
Dario and Niklas have two additional year-round beers coming – a Porter and a Pale Ale. And like others, they’ve brewed collaboration beers outside of Bavaria including a Belgian-style Kölsch brewed in Naples, Italy that included lavender (definitely not Reinheitsgebot-friendly!). They have plans to open a tasting room, but for the time being you can find Munich Brew Mafia in select bars and restaurants throughout Munich and Germany, including the Tap-House.
Located in Munich, Tilmans Biere was founded in 2014 by Tilman Ludwig and he sold his first beer that same year. Like several of the others, Tilman is also a graduate of the Weihenstephan Technical University and he became interested in craft beer while studying at the TU through a couple student friends from America.
Today, Tilmans Bier offers 4 year-round beers:
To give you a sense for the seriousness with which the Reinheitsgebot authorities take their responsibilities, earlier this year Tilman brewed and bottled a couple specialty beers (including an oyster Stout) and printed on the label “Not a Beer”. Within 24 hours, he was contacted by the authorities who ordered him to pull the beer from the shelves. He was fortunate that he wasn’t also fined.
Original Gravity Tours
We think you’ll agree that Munich’s craft beer scene would be fun to explore. And one of the beauties of visiting Munich is that on the same day you can visit the oldest brewery in the world (Weihenstephaner, founded 1040) as well as one of the newest breweries!
If you’re able to join one of our Munich & Bamberg Tours this summer, we’ll introduce you to the old and new beer scenes and you’ll come home with some great experiences under your belt. But if that’s not possible, please consider sharing this newsletter with your beer-lover friends and following us on Facebook.
Greetings Beer & Travel Lovers!
Last month we introduced that nectar of the winter beer gods - Starkbier. This month, we offer a peak into Day 3 of our Munich & Bamberg Tour when we tour one brewery, ferry the Danube, and drop into another brewery for a relaxing afternoon.
Kelheim, Germany is a small town of 16,000 people that’s located about 70 miles north of Munich. Although small, it definitely packs a punch when it comes to brewing as it’s home to “Bavaria’s Oldest Wheat Beer Brewery” and to the “Oldest Monastery Brewery in the World”!
Located at the confluence of the Danube and Main Rivers, Kelheim was first settled by the Celts around 500 BC and the town’s name translates to “Big Celt Ship”. Fast-forward to the 11th century AD when the town passed into the hands of the Wittelsbach dynasty, the ruling family of Bavaria.
Strategically located, Kelheim was attractive to the Wittelsbachs for three reasons:
Schneider Weisse – Bavaria’s Oldest Wheat Beer Brewery
Our first stop in Kelheim is at the Schneider Weisse brewery. Also mentioned in our January Blog Post, Schneider Weisse was founded in 1872 by Georg Schneider I after he became the first non-royal to obtain wheat beer brewing privileges from King Ludwig II of Bavaria.
Georg I began brewing in Munich at the old Weisses Bräuhaus location and continued there until 1928 when the need to expand saw him purchase the current brewery in Kelheim. The Kelheim brewery was originally built by Duke Maximilian I when he opened his first wheat beer brewery outside of Munich in 1607, and wheat beer has been brewed here continuously since then.
The Schneider Weisse tour is my favorite as it combines the ability to view the brewing process, along with informative displays and very accommodating tour guides who walk you thru the brewing steps and are happy to take the time to answer all questions.
Of course, no tour would be complete without tasting some of what you’ve just watched being produced. So we conclude our time at Schneider Weisse with a hearty and relaxing lunch in the Bräustüberl restaurant or beer garden with a beer sommelier who will “taste” us through their beer line-up including popular favorites, Mein Original (Tap 7) and Mein Aventinus (Tap 6).
On The Danube
After Schneider Weisse, we board a ferry for a relaxing and scenic 40-minute ride up the Danube River to our next brewery.
Along the way we’ll have a commanding view of the "Befreiungshalle" (Liberation Hall), which is a Kelheim landmark located atop Michelsberg Hill. King Ludwig I erected this monument in the mid-1800s to commemorate the German states victories against Napoleon during the War of Liberation in 1813.
We then pass thru the Danube Gorge, which is formed by cliffs that rise as high as 400 feet above the river, and come to our next stop – Weltenburger Kloster.
Weltenburger Kloster – The Oldest Monastery Brewery in the World
Weltenburger Kloster is located on the banks of the Danube and is thought to be the oldest monastery in Germany. Celtic monks who came to spread Christianity throughout the area founded the monastery in 617 AD. The brewery was then opened in 1050 which allows Weltenburger to also claim to be the oldest monastery brewery in the world!
Our time at Weltenburger is fairly unstructured as the abbey is a great place for relaxing regardless of what you choose to do. We’ll grab a table in the beer garden but tour members are free to explore as they wish. Things to do include:
We think you’ll agree that Kelheim does indeed “punch above its weight” when it comes to beer and we hope you’ll consider joining one of our Munich & Bamberg Tours this summer. If that’s not possible, please consider sharing this newsletter with your beer-lover friends and following us on Facebook.
Greetings! I'm a passionate beer and international travel lover. Other than craft beer, I mostly go for German & Belgian beers and if you share the same interests, you may enjoy my blog. Prost and Proost!