AUGSBURG, HISTORIC BEER TOWN ON MUNICH’S DOORSTEP

Written by Franz Hofer for A Tempest in a Tankard

So many great beers and breweries, so little time. It’s no wonder cities like Augsburg get overlooked when you could easily spend an entire vacation sampling the liquid delights of Munich or Bamberg. But not only is Augsburg worth visiting for its cathedrals and cobblestoned lanes, it’s also a beer town rich in history. And you can make it there from Munich in as much time as it takes to reach beer pilgrimage sites like Kloster Andechs.

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BELGIAN BEER CAFÉ VIGNETTES: ’T BRUGS BEERTJE, BRUGES

Written by Franz Hofer

Bruges is Brussels’ alter ego. Swans floating languidly on canals, quiet cobblestone lanes, and magnificent Flemish architecture add up to a far cry from the gritty bustle of Brussels. But in things beer, the two cities are equals. Bruges boasts a few breweries and dozens of beer cafes, some of them world-class establishments like the ethereal Vlissinghe and the classy De Garre.

Aside from the buzz of conversation, one of the first things you’ll notice when you step inside the Beertje is the myriad glasses hanging above the bar like a forest of stalactites, a sure sign that the place takes the art of beer presentation seriously.

What started as a hundred-strong beer list when the “Little Bear” opened its doors in 1983 quickly evolved into a veritable compendium of beers some three hundred strong — one of the most well-rounded lists in Belgium. The selection runs the gamut from Belgian standards to plucky brewers who have taken a page out of the craft beer playbook.

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TRAUNSTEIN: BEER IN THE FOOTHILLS OF THE BAVARIAN ALPS

Written by Franz Hofer for A Tempest in a Tankard

I’d passed through Traunstein several times on trains between Vienna and Munich and had always been struck by the beauty of its surroundings. The picturesque region is a place of flower-bedecked meadows, old wooden farmhouses, and cows grazing languidly in emerald fields. Situated amid rolling hills in the heart of southeastern Bavaria’s Chiemgau region, Traunstein is also just a stone’s throw from the wild and majestic Alps towering up to the south. And then there’s the beer scene: a lively market square surrounded by taverns, three breweries, and one of the more pleasant beer gardens in Bavaria.

One day I happened upon some beers from Hofbräuhaus Traunstein at a bottle shop in Vienna. Tasty, those beers were, so much so that I resolved to take a day trip to Traunstein the next time I was in Salzburg.

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A PIVO PILGRIMAGE TO PILSEN

Written by Franz Hofer for A Tempest in a Tankard

Grab your favourite beer steins, folks! We’re heading to the source for a pilsener.

To many a beer drinker, the city of Plzeň (Pilsen) is virtually synonymous with its storied brewery and famous beer style. But beer in this western Bohemian town wasn’t always the kind of liquid sustenance that inspired pilgrimages.

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German Beer Vignettes: A Kölsch at Früh in Cologne

Written by Franz Hofer for A Tempest in a Tankard

Kölsch is part of the very fabric of Cologne, an element of the city’s cultural heritage as important as Carnival. Kölsch is a relatively young style, and it wasn’t until after WWII that Kölsch cemented its status as the premier beer in the city. Things developed quickly from there. By 1986, Cologne’s brewers had come together to sign the Kölsch Convention, an agreement that turned Kölsch into a protected appellation.

FRÜH AM DOM
Like any major city, Cologne is worth several days in its own right, but you’re also in luck if you’re just passing through. Not only is the Dom (cathedral) located just outside of the train station, so, too, are a handful of taverns serving up Kölsch. If you have an hour or so, stop off for a peek into the Dom followed by a Kölsch or three within half a kilometer of the train station.

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WEIHENSTEPHAN: ON THE CUTTING EDGE OF BREWING AT THE WORLD’S OLDEST BREWERY

Written by Franz Hofer for A Tempest in a Tankard

Weihenstephan is a brewing institution steeped in superlatives. The very name of this venerable old brewery north of Munich evokes associations with some of the most respected wheat beers in the world, beers like the style-defining Hefe-Weissbier, and Vitus, a lush Weizenbock. And not only is Weihenstephan home to one of the most famous brewing schools in the world, it’s also the world’s oldest existing brewery.

A MONASTERY BREWERY OVERLOOKING FREISING

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GIVE THE GIFT OF BEER TRAVEL THIS HOLIDAY SEASON

Written by Franz Hofer for A Tempest in a Tankard

I’m sure just about every one of us could do with a beercation right about now. It’s been a year like no other in recent memory. Virtual happy hours have largely replaced the comradery of the taproom, tavern, and beer garden. No Oktoberfest this year, no local brew fests either. And beer travel, a pastime that has grown in popularity with each passing year, has all but ceased.

But there’s light at the end of the tunnel. With the lightning-quick development of vaccines against Covid and their hopefully steady rollout, my optimistic bet is that we’ll be travelling again by summer or early autumn. And it just so happens to be the holiday season right now, which always lightens the mood.

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WELTENBURGER KLOSTER, THE WORLD’S OLDEST MONASTERY BREWERY

Written by Franz Hofer for A Tempest in a Tankard

The morning fog in Kelheim has just lifted as we walk down the ramp to board the boat. We set sail, passing the imposing Befreiungshalle, the neo-classical hall commemorating the battles that ejected Napoleon and his armies from the German states, on our way upstream. The channel begins to narrow and the banks on either side steepen into cliffs as we enter the Danube Gorge, a sublime wilderness of vertical rock slabs and outcroppings crowned by lush green woods. A few kilometers on, and there it is looming up in front of us: Kloster Weltenburg.

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BELGIAN BEER CAFÉ VIGNETTES: DE GARRE, BRUGES

Written by Franz Hofer for A Tempest in a Tankard

Clichés about hidden gems aside, there are hidden gems, and then there are true hidden gems. De Garre is a true hidden gem — literally. The address is simple enough: De Garre 1. But it’s a clue more than anything else. You have to look hard for this place tucked away to the southeast of the Grote Markt in an alley along the Breidelstraat in Bruges. The small passage, wide enough for two people, is a bit like an Edinburgh alley: blink and you’ll miss it.

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Off the Beaten Path Near Munich

Writteb by Franz Hofer for A Tempest in a Tankard

Munich has it all for the beer drinker. And if that’s not enough, breweries like Ayinger, Kloster Andechs, and Weihenstephan fan out at various points along Munich’s regional train network. But there’s even more beer bliss in store for the intrepid beer traveler willing to journey further afield. This cluster of historic beer towns, aristocratic breweries, and monastery beer gardens is a short trip away in Upper Bavaria. You can combine a few of these as day trips from Munich, or base yourself in Bad Tölz for some relaxing small-town charm in the foothills of the Alps.

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