Andechs Abbey, Dießen and Herrsching in Southern Bavaria, Germany

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Throwback Tuesday Post (TBTP): Every Tuesday, I re-post a past post that I think is relevant and that you’ll enjoy.

This post was originally published on April 22, 2015 and updated on April 2, 2019.

Seems the theme of this spring’s outings have been waterfront-related. A few weeks before my trip to Chiemsee, we visited the famous Andechs Abbey, situated between two lakes just about an hour southwest of Munich by car.

The abbey is occupied now by Benedictine monks, but it started out about a thousand years ago as a castle for the Andechs-Meranian family. Apparently a certain Count Rosso, progenitor of the that family, brought back pieces of Jesus’ crown of thorns, cross and other artifacts from the Holy Land.

Although the original castle and chapel have been destroyed and the church rebuilt a couple of times, the relic treasure resides at the church today. The church and monastery stand on top the high hill known as the Holy Mountain, tended by the Benedictines. The church is the oldest pilgrimage destination in Bavaria, which means devotees make an annual pilgrimage through the countryside on foot here on a certain date each year.

The Holy Mountain lies between two lakes, Ammersee and Starnbergersee. It was in the Starnbergersee that King Ludwig II was drowned – he was the one who built Herrenchiemsee that I blogged about last week.

My husband and I have had the famous Andechser beer in Munich on a few occasions, and we’d been wanting to visit the monastery for some time now. The traveling options were threefold: bus tour, driving by car, or a trip by public transport train to a station about three kilometers (almost two miles) from which we’d have to hike a trail uphill to the monastery.

The bus tour didn’t appeal and driving was iffy because, well, beer. We were mentally preparing ourselves for that three-kilometer hike, but then we mentioned the trip to our good friends Christiane and Dean. You’ll remember Christiane as the one who taught me how to make Spätzle. To our delight, Christiane offered to drive, so we all set out on a road trip one Saturday.

The advantage of having a local show you around is that you get to see places you don’t know about. Since Christiane is from the area, she took us to the little town of Dießen on the Ammersee before we visited Andechs. Her family used to visit there every summer when she was a child.

First stop was this extraordinarily beautiful church, Marienmünster, a baroque marvel dating from the 1700s.

We moved onto a little district near the water with charming little cafes and fishmongers:


Then we visited a waterside rec area:

You could see Andechs on the Holy Mountain across the water from here. Although we were temped to spend all day in Dießen, we tore ourselves away and drove to the abbey.

It was quite the tourist area, with a large parking lot with bus parking. We walked the short distance uphill from the car, passing the requisite beer garden and other curiosities on the way.

 

We reached the top of the hill and found the very crowded, official Andechs watering hole. We stopped there for much-needed refreshment:

That tall Australian in the gray hat is Dean. Notice our view!

Presently we made our way up the hill to the abbey church:

I love the sundials painted on buildings in Europe:

Andechs Abbey was much smaller than Marienmünster, but possibly more ornate. There was a choir practicing in the loft. This was Palm Sunday weekend, so all the holy things were draped in purple in observance of Lent.

Here’s the view from atop the Holy Mountain:
And here’s the trail we would have travelled to come to the abbey had we taken Option 3 I mentioned earlier (an almost-two-mile hike from a train station):
I think we made the right choice!
After perusing the Holy Mountain, it was time to be on our way. Again, Christiane came through with her local knowledge and took us to another little lakeside village called Herrsching. Since we still had some of that beautiful sunshine left, we strolled the waterside and sat in the golden light for a while, watching the people enjoy the nice weather.
 There was a little castle there which you could rent for parties or weddings, I think.

As the sun sank, so did the temperatures. Christiane and I fled into the Seehof restaurant you see here (also my future hotel, if I get my wish)…
…while the guys toughed it out by the water to finish their drinks before joining us.

The meal was delicious. For dessert we had one of my favorite specialties, Kaiserschmarrn, a kind of chopped pancake with raisins, eaten with apple sauce or vanilla sauce. This place served it flambe’ style! (Yes, the table cloth is on fire, too.)

After dinner we had to make our way back home, tired but happy. It was a great outing on a wonderful day with good friends. It just doesn’t get any better than that!

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Starkbierfest, Munich, Germany

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Throwback Tuesday Post (TBTP): Every Tuesday, I re-post a past post that I think is relevant and that you’ll enjoy.

This post was originally published on March 26, 2013 and updated on March 19, 2019.

Now that Lent is in full swing here in Bavaria, I’ve discovered that the Germans long ago found a way to cope with the self-denial that is, or was, typical of this time of year.

Keep in mind that many beers were invented by monks in these parts. Also keep in mind that said monks also drank that beer as part of their diet, and many people still believe that beer is a nutritious part of a balanced diet.

Even though Lent, for monks, meant fasting and other acts of deprivation, it seems that doing without beer was not part of that deprivation. In fact, apparently to make up for the food they weren’t eating, so the story goes, they invented even stouter beer to keep them going through these rough times.

And so still today many Munich area breweries produce a seasonal beer this time of year that is typically about 25% stronger than the regular fare (7.5% alcohol vs. 5.4%). The German word for this is Starkbier, which literally means “strong beer.”

It’s not enough that they produce this seasonal beer. The Munich area goes one step farther and conducts a Starkbierfest, or Strong Beer Fest. I’ve read a description of this Fest as “Oktoberfest without the tourists.” However, there is an important difference between the two.

You probably know that, at Oktoberfest, many breweries haul barrels of beer, chairs, tables and kitchen equipment to the Theresienwiese, which is the fairgrounds for the fest and other events, set up a huge tent, and serve the visitors therein. For Starkbierfest, on the other hand, visitors must visit the individual breweries; there are no beer tents from multiple breweries all in the same location.

If you want to be present at the the tapping of the beer barrel at any of the breweries, I’ve learned you should make reservations in January or so. However, there is usually room enough in the restaurants or beer gardens at each brewery to find a place on the spur of the moment.

My husband and I stumbled upon this Starkbier and the Starkbierfest information when we went to dinner at the Paulaner Bräuhaus (Paulaner Brewery) in Munich in the past couple of weeks.

It’s the original brewery for Paulaner beer, one of our favorites in Munich, and an absolutely beautiful place with great service. Although I don’t have a photo of the beer there since I didn’t take my camera that night, I have a couple of iPhone shots of our meals. Here’s the veal roll my husband had:

And the veal schnitzel I had:

See the schnitzel recipe in one of my previous posts if you want to know how this is made.

Last week we visited the Augustiner Keller (Augustiner Cellar), which is operated by the people who make the wonderful Augustiner beer. Notice the name is not brewery, but cellar. Beer cellars are different from breweries and beer gardens. Beer cellars started out as actual cellars dug into
the hillside where brewers kept their beer during the winter for summer consumption. In the summer, most beer cellars had a small outdoor area nearby where they sold beer and cold food while the weather was nice.

Storage and refrigeration have come a long way from underground cellars, so places like Augustiner Keller operate essentially as beer gardens and may even have indoor restaurant space. In addition, Augustiner Keller’s location has been absorbed by the city growth, so it’s now centrally located in Munich. In fact, it’s only a few blocks from the train station.

Behind this restaurant building is a HUGE beer garden!


The third place we have tried the strong beer this year is at Airbräu, which admittedly isn’t one of the big breweries in Munich. It’s a big restaurant and beer garden for travelers at the airport that makes its own beer. A great place to hang if you are at the airport, but it’s more like a microbrewery than an institution.


You’ll notice the name of Airbräu’s strong beer is Aviator, which is appropriate. But it follows an apparent tradition of naming the strong beers with the ending -ator. Here is a list I pulled from the  Destination Munich website where you can see some of the names of the strong beers in Munich and other parts of Bavaria. I’m sure some of these were named under the influence of the beer in question:

Salvator – Paulaner-Brauerei
▪ Trimphator – Löwenbräu / Spaten-Brauerei, Munich
▪ Maximator – Augustiner-Brauerei, Munich
▪ Unimator – Unionsbräu Haidhausen, Munich
▪ Delicator – Hofbräuhaus, Munich
▪ Aviator – Airbräu, Munich Airport
▪ Multiplikator – Edelweißbrauerei, Odelzhausen
▪ Spekulator – Weissbräu Jodlbauer, Rotthalmünster
▪ Kulminator – EKU Actienbrauerei, Kulmbach
▪ Bambergator – Brauerei Fäßla, Bamberg
▪ Celebrator – Franz Inselkammer, Aying
▪ Rhönator – Rother-Bräu, Rothenberg ob der Tauber
▪ Suffikator – Bürgerbräu Röhm &Söhne, Bad Reichenhall
▪ Speziator – Brauerei S. Riegele
▪ Rariator – Münzbräu, Günzurg
▪ Honorator – Ingobräu, Ingolstadt
▪ Bavariator – Mülerbräu, Pfaffenhofen

More notes about German beer:
German brewers have to follow strict regulations about what goes into the beer. These regulations started out in 1516 and were called the Reinheitsgebot, which translates as “the purity laws”. Basically, the only ingredients allowed in German beer were barley, hops and water. Note that the brewers could use only naturally occurring yeast.

Therefore, the location where the beer was brewed became very important as to what kind of yeast ended up fermenting the beer. It is not only the geographical location but the specific location at the individual brewery that becomes important. For example, lager beer was made in the Lager, or outdoor storage room or cellar. And different yeasts ferment at different levels in the vats. With our lager example, the yeast lives at the bottom of the vat, whereas ale yeast ferments at the top.

Of course these regulations have evolved over the years somewhat, but the only three additional ingredients allowed now are wheat, yeast and sugar — and only then under specific circumstances. So German beer is so good partly because no preservatives, carbonation, extra coloring or artificial flavoring is allowed. It’s amazing, in the face of that, to realize how much variety can be achieved through location and methodology. A brief rundown on the German beer types can be found on the so-called German Beer Institute website.

So lift your glass of strong beer to get you through Lent til Easter! Prost!

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Organic Beer at Asher Brewing Company in Boulder, CO

Hey, ‘member when I wrote about the Avery Brewing Company in Gunbarrel, Colorado? Well, if you zig left instead of zagging right just before Avery, you’ll find another brewery just around the corner. Asher Brewing Company is, of course, also in Gunbarrel, which is part of Boulder County.

I was interested in Asher because they make organic beer there. So, my husband and I made the 20-minute ride to the place a week or so ago to try it out. It’s much smaller than Avery, and a much newer business. When we rolled up to the storefront of Asher in a strip-mall type building, we saw a few picnic tables outside in a chained-off area of the parking lot.

It smelled really good because someone was grilling burgers on a Weber. We stepped inside to a small taproom that was fairly crowded with young people. There was a very busy bartender who was wearing the coolest vintage, pearl-adorned hat. Her whole ensemble reminded me of a pinup girl from WWII era.

Just beyond the taproom was the barrel room, which doubled as a game room:

I was just in there long enough to shoot a couple of pix, then it was back to the bar to order some brew.

They only had eight beers on offer, as opposed to the couple of dozen over at Avery. But it was a small enough selection that we were able to try all eight of them in one flight:

The beer was definitely fresh. My favorite was the Ginger Bomb, kind of a ginger-beer-mixed-with-beer taste, which I love. My second fave was the Maceo Barker Oatmeal Stout, named after the owners’ dog Maceo, whom we also met – a lanky black dog with white chest and graying muzzle. The rest of the beer was good, but I don’t really like IPAs much, so they got ruled out rather quickly. As a third fave, if I had to pick one, was the Hempin’ Ain’t Easy, which contains some (non-psychotropic) hemp hearts. Interesting was the Sour Stout, a really sour beer that might be fun for a taste adventure.

A lot of the people filed out after a while and I was able to get a shot from the opposite side of the room from the bar. You can see how small it is:

Eventually we made our way outside to enjoy the fabulous weather that day. It seemed to us that Asher is neighborhood joint, with many small groups making their way across the road from a nearby apartment complex. We met lots of friendly residents and their equally friendly dogs.

I really like the organic aspect of their products – ingredients are certified organic and are locally sourced when possible. They try to minimize their carbon footprint, too, by recycling, using wind energy, etc. This mindset is prevalent in Colorado, especially in the Boulder area, and these guys seem to have gotten it right while producing respectably competent beers in the process. They’re also involved in community support via donations and local events. You can also request a brewery tour while you’re there.

Speaking of tours, as we sat outdoors that afternoon, the Brewhop bus came by and gave us flyers. This bus tour is a hop-on/hop-off (no pun intended) affair that makes the pub rounds in three or four small area towns. I’d heard of it and now I have details, so look for a post on that in the future. If a beer-lover comes to visit us, it may be sooner rather than later!

Asher is a pleasant little place, and a nice way to pass an afternoon in a quiet neighborhood sipping pleasant brews and petting local dogs. Cheers!

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Tour New Belgium Brewery in Ft. Collins, Colorado, and Drink Fat Tire Beer

At the suggestion of pretty much everybody we’ve met since moving to Colorado, we drove an hour north of Denver to Ft. Collins to visit the New Belgium Brewery and take the free tour there. You probably have heard of Fat Tire beer, which is New Belgium’s flagship craft brew. If you want to know the difference between a craft brewery and a larger one, check out my Coors Brewery Tour post.

We really should have signed up for the New Belgium tour online, which the website encourages visitors to do. But we happened to be more or less in the neighborhood and showed up before opening on a Sunday morning. I love going places to photograph on Sunday mornings because generally there are very few people around to get in my shots. Same was true that day, and the weather was perfect to boot!

There couldn’t be a more inviting outdoor area at this place.

There were games and tables, even fire pits for cold weather. We’ve been back when it was very cold outside, and the fire pits were very useful!

That first Sunday, though, the very friendly staff welcomed us onto the tour without any hesitation. The free tour lasts about 90 minutes and, during that time, a knowledgeable staff member walks you through and around the complex. Best part: you get four free beers, although one of them is sort of undrinkable. More on that later.

Anyway, inside the taproom are two very large rooms and the bar, of course.

The company is employee-owned and, therefore, you are not allowed to tip!

First up on the tour, a trip up the stairs to some of the brewing vats and the first of the free beers (there are elevators for those who can’t navigate the stairs, btw). Here you can see the upstairs bar and jars with samples of malt and hops used during the tour:

I snapped this shot of one of the labs through a locked door on our way down a hallway:

One warehouse area is devoted to brewing sour beer, which is aged in wooden barrels. The sour taste actually comes from the wood of the barrels:

Sour beer was one of the four free beers on the tour. Can’t say I fell in love with it, but it was interesting. I’d never heard of it before, despite the tour guide saying it was a big health thing in Europe. Maybe in Belgium. Most of the tour participants left their sour beer behind as we made our way to the next area.

Here are more shots of the tour:

The artwork inside the buildings was very interesting, too. Here are some examples:

Also, there was a room which seemed to me like a rental hall or conference room in which there was a big art exhibit on display. All the artwork was made from skateboards:

New Belgium was founded by Jeff Lebesch, an American who studied beer brewing in Belgium then began making beer in his basement. It became so popular that he and his wife went commercial. New Belgium now ships their beer nationwide and they’ve recently opened a second brewery in Ashville, NC.

The founders are bicycle enthusiasts, which is where the name Fat Tire came from. In fact, each employee-owner receives their very own fat tire bike on their one-year workiversary. There was a rack of them behind the brewery, the telltale sign that the employee-owners actually ride them to work. You could see that each year has its own special model. Here are a few of them:

Out back was a small garden of hops, much like the German hops fields I posted for you a couple of years ago:

A very interesting item outside, too, was a demo of solar power, which the brewery uses as much as it can. They are very green and contribute to environmental causes. This solar artwork was made of circular metal disks that rotated using solar energy. The guide stood one of the tour members in front of the piece, thus blocking the light, and it stopped rotating.

We toured lots more of the complex than I can post here. They even have a new, on-site health center with full-time healthcare professionals on duty.

Back inside, the guide explained that it was a tradition to slide down their spiral slide at the end of the tour. I think the guide said it was a European thing, but I’d never heard of it. I did find some pictures online of brewery slides in Los Angeles and Plano, TX, plus one in New Belgium’s new place in Ashville. The mention of some slides in Germany were at grain mills, which makes sense that they could slide bags of grain down it better than schlepping them downstairs. In any case, I slid. After four beers, what else would I do?

Make no mistake, that is NOT me in the photo above!

After our tour, we bought a couple more beers and snacked on some delicious food from one of the food trucks on site that day: Corn Doggies. Especially good were the beet fries, for which I got the recipe from the nice lady. Also, the corn dogs are house-made and organic!

Another big feature of New Belgium is that they are very dog-friendly, as is common in Colorado. I met several people there with their dogs. And people seem to make pilgrimages to the place. Not only is the beer excellent, but the atmosphere is great, too. Reminds me of a German Biergarten in that regard. They even have a gift shop with branded t-shirts, mugs, hoodies and growlers.

So, if you can’t tell, you have my highest recommendation about this place! Maybe we should move closer to it. I’ll keep you posted.

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Denver’s German Christkindl (Christmas) Market 2017

You know, from past posts, that I LOVE German Christmas markets! I’ve posted in the past about Nuremberg’s famous Markt, as well as the five (yes, five) in Bamberg while I lived there. So imagine my delight when I discovered that Denver has a German-style Christmas market! Of course I made a special trip downtown to check it out. If you saw my previous post about the Christmas parade, well, the market was my ramp-up to the parade.

The market is located in the heart of downtown Denver in Skyline Park. It’s easily accessible via the free Sixteenth-Street Mall bus. Sixteenth Street is the pedestrian shopping and restaurant district. When I hopped off the free bus, I saw an approximately-German-style market sign:

Actually, to split hairs, a truly German sign would read Christkindlmarkt, but who’s counting? However, I was surprised to find that the market looked fairly similar to the Christmas markets in Germany, including the wooden stalls. Even some of the vendors were the same! Here’s a gallery of some of the scenes:

One factor I was surprised to see was the enclosed Festival Hall:

If you recall my Denver Oktoberfest post, you’ll know that the beer tent there was not totally authentic. However, here at the Christkindl Market, they had a sort-of-proper German one, complete with a beer stand at one end serving real Paulaner beer from Munich:

They also had a stage and, at the time, tap dancers.

While tap dancers aren’t particularly German, later there was a Lederhosen-clad oompah band and slap dancers as well.

It’s been warmer than usual here in Colorado this December, but the Christkindl Market sure helped set the holiday mood. So much so, that, as my holiday gift to you, I’m including a recipe here for authentic German Gluhwein – a hot, spiced wine that’s a perfect winter drink:

[ultimate-recipe id=10440]

Leave me a comment below if you try the recipe and let me know what you think. Happy Holidays!

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