At the invitation of the Bavarian Brewers Federation, a group of American beer journalists toured Bavaria last December. Here's excerpt two of our travels.
Kloster Andechs is actually in reach of the Munich by train and is an incredibly popular weekend destination. It is considered bad luck not to walk to the top the hill to the chapel before descending to the modern cafeteria-style restaurant to partake of the wonderful, malty triple decoctioned brews. The dunkel was fabulous and the doublebock out of this world. We were also lucky enough to try the malty Jublams, the festive, seasonal beer.
We were afforded entry into the chapel, even into the room of relics — a piece of Christ’s crown of thorns is said to be there on one of the shelves, but too small to spot from behind the bars. Following a tour of the brewery we were treated to a sampler of half a dozen beer styles in the monastery restaurant, which is a little more sophisticated than the cafe/pub. The comfort of visitors has always been important for the Benedictine monks. Likewise, their rococco, almost garish chapels are in contrast to the austere monasteries of Belgium’s Trappist monks.
In the summertime the spacious beer gardens are packed and on a clear day you can see the Alps. The monastery is obviously doing well in terms of tourists, the beer is spectacular, but the population of monks has dwindled to seven.
The monks of Weltenberg, on the other hand, seem to be thriving. The monastery is currently home to 18 of them with the oldest being only 46 years old. This must have been Father Leopold, who joined us for a lunch of soup and dumplings. As we did our usual round of introductions, the Father took the time to ask each one of us a question. A variety of bottles were strewn on the table for tasting. Bottles of Weissebier, Pils, Barock Dunkel, a World Beer Cup gold medal winner in 2004, Asam Bock and the seasonal Winter Traum.
Built on the banks of the Danube in the 700s, Weltenburg claims to have been brewing since 1050, making it the oldest monastery brewery in the world. Two years ago catastrophe threatened as the floodwaters of the Danube coursed through the brewhouse, but both monastery and brewery survived intact. Since 1973, the brewery and marketing efforts have been run by the Bischofshof brewery in nearby Regensburg. Father Leopold gave us a tour, which included a rather obvious stop in the gift shop (we coined the term "monketing") and a visit to the almost gaudy, Rococco chapel, where he treated us to some singing prayer. Maybe it was his dulcet tones, the peace of the chapel, the pace of the trip or the effects of the latest zwickel, but more than one journalist had a nodding head.