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FEB/MAR 2005 | REGIONAL | INTERNATIONAL

Visiting The Private Brewery-Guesthouses Of Germany
By Don Scheidt

As people have become more beer-savvy over the years, they’ve learned to appreciate the great heartlands of beer and brewing. Beer-drinking travelers come back with tales of British pubs, Czech taverns and Belgian cafés. Amidst these bastions of beer culture is Germany, a country where brewing traditions have come under pressure in recent years, but also a country that still has so much to offer the visitor in search of some of the world’s greatest lagers, wheat beers and other specialties unique to that country.

The task of finding the best of Germany’s pubs and beer halls can be daunting. The country has over 1,200 breweries making around 5,000 beers, and a correspondingly huge number of pubs and restaurants serve these brews.

Visit Düsseldorf, and chances are good that Zum Uerige will be on the itinerary. The ancient and beautiful city of Bamberg, where beer and brewing play a significant role, is a destination not to be missed. Bamberg is a proud malting and brewing center where great beers are to be found and enjoyed at numerous venues, among them the city’s Spezial, Greifenklau, Keesman, and Mahr’s brewery-pubs. Visitors seeking lodgings can even make arrangements for accommodations provided by the Spezial, which has guest rooms upstairs, and the Greifenklau, in its nearby Altenburgblick hotel. I’ve stayed and dined in Straub’s Drei Kronen Braugasthof, combining a brewery, comfortable rooms and a restaurant in the town of Memmelsdorf, just a couple of miles east of Bamberg.

Elsewhere in Germany, I’ve also enjoyed the hospitality at the old-fashioned Felsenkeller Rupp in Lauenau, not far from Hannover. I’ve stopped in for lunch at the Häffner Bräu Brewery-Hotel-Guesthouse in the spa resort of Bad Rappenau. I’ve enjoyed superb cuisine, classic Bavarian lagers and a comfortable night’s rest at the Landwehr-Bräu in Reichelshofen, a small village just a few minutes’ drive north of the classic medieval walled city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. I’ve celebrated Bavarian beer at the Brauerei Gasthof Hotel Aying, just south of Munich; imported-beer fans will recognize this as the home of the Ayinger beers imported into the United States by Merchant du Vin.

These wonderful small and medium-sized brewery-guesthouses are members of a cooperative trade association in Germany called “Private Braugasthöfe,” or “Private Brewery Guesthouses.” According to the association, all of its members have three things in common: “They are all small to medium-size family concerns. They all run their own brewery, and, closely connected to this, the Braugasthof, or brewery inn.” More important, the association “exists to revive and preserve this historical unity of brewer and innkeeper.” The association includes 56 brewery-guesthouses, scattered from the northern coast of Germany to the southernmost part of the country, with the biggest concentration in the south.

Over the years, breweries have come and gone in the association’s membership list; some have elected to drop out of membership, while others have made the difficult decision to exit the brewing industry, even as others were added to the roster. Many of the Private Braugasthöfe members have long histories and have been members of the association for years.

The Private Braugasthöfe association was started in 1979 and issued a German-language book by Rudolf Stuiber, Gern Gast im Privaten Brauereigasthof, in 1986, with stories and histories of some of the association’s member breweries. All of these breweries feature on-premises pubs and restaurants, with good, hearty food of their respective German regions. The majority of the association’s members also feature guest rooms, giving excellent value for good-quality, comfortable accommodations.

For modern-day beer hunters, though, ease of use and easy access to the association’s information is important. For most American visitors, “ease of use” translates to “Is it in English?” and “easy access” means “Is it on the Internet?” The answer to both questions is yes. The association’s Web site is braugasthoefe.com; visitors have a choice of a German- or English-language version of the site. It features maps and links to individual brewery Web sites, and it’s pretty easy to put together a personal tour book from the site’s excellent information. While planning recent visits to Germany, this site proved to be an excellent resource. Private Braugasthöfe also publishes a booklet every year, available at all member brewery-guesthouses, with updated listings and descriptions.

For visitors wanting to see even more about the beer-rich Franconian region centered around Bamberg, another excellent Web resource is Fred Waltman’s superb Franconia Beer Guide, at franconiabeerguide.com, which features a searchable database of breweries and their pubs in Franconia, one of the world’s most rewarding brewing regions.

Together, these are excellent resources for planning a tour of Germany, still one of the world’s greatest brewing countries. Enjoy your next visit. Prost!

Don Scheidt is the author of the Northwest BrewPage at nwbrewpage.com. He also edits BeerWeek. He can also be reached via e-mail.

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