On Saturday morning I'm flying to Germany for a five day tour of Franconia, a region with the highest concentration of breweries in the world. The trip has been organised by Andy Neil of Bier Mania. Fellow beer writer Ron Pattinson will also be joining the group. In total, we'll visit as many as 30 breweries and brewpubs. Here are just a few of the highlights I'm looking forward to:
On day one of the tour, we'll be visiting the famous weissbier producer. The brewery's founder, Georg I. Schneider, is credited with saving the style from decline and extinction. His great-great-great grandson Georg VI. works in the brewery today, and is poised to take over the family business when his father Georg V. retires. After taking a look at their open fermentation vessels, we'll have the chance to sample the whole range.
It's a world away from the huge beer tents of the Munich Octoberfest. The Annafest at Forchheim is a traditional celebration, held in the forest. Barrels of beer lagered in hillside caves are tapped for the first time, and served by the entrance to the cellars. We'll be getting involved on Sunday evening.
The oldest monastic brewery in the world isn't Belgian, and it isn't Trappist. The Benedictine monks of Weltenburg have been brewing since 1050. The abbey and brewery are beautifully situated on the banks of the Danube, deep in the Black Forest. In 2004 their dunkel (dark lager) was named best of its style in the world. The mighty Asam Bock is also well regarded. Drinking them in this magnificent setting will be an unforgettable experience.
The "Rome of Franconia" has eleven breweries for just 70,000 inhabitants, and is home to rauchbier (smoked beer). Bamberg is also renowned for its unspoilt historic centre, a medieval and renaissance paradise spared from wartime damage. The town is built on seven hills, each crowned with a church. On day five, we'll be visiting all of the breweries, including the legendary Schlenkerla and Spezial taverns. To drink some of my favourite beers direct from the source in such beautiful surroundings will be a dream come true. I can't wait.
A trip abroad doesn't mean a hiatus in writing. I'll be sharing our experiences with you in frequent posts, thanks to the wonders of mobile blogging. You'll have to wait until Friday for the photos. Prost!