2011-11-14

Let’s go clubbing!


Germany is a country with a very complex history, but nowadays things seem to have settled down quite nicely. Everything works, perhaps not quite as predictably as in Switzerland, but there are very few aspects of life in Germany that gives me a reason to complain. Therefore, I find myself occasionally getting annoyed about what I can only call “luxury problems” such as the queue at the post office or the general reluctance to accept payment by credit card. Therefore, to avoid becoming a grumpy old fart, I decided to avoid the queue at the post office and sign up for the fantastic-sounding “Packstation” service, which is basically an automatic post office where you can deliver and collect parcels 24 hours a day by swiping a card and entering your pin number. The flaw in the plan was that approximately 100% of Germans as well as some suspect foreigners were already using this service, which meant that this thing is always, erm, packed, and my parcels get re-routed to..... the post office. You may at this point wonder why I’m telling you this less-than-enthralling story. The reason, of course, is that the parcels I’m trying to receive contain beer.

Still space for a few breweries in the Germany selection..
There are more than 1200 breweries in Germany still brewing, and the vast majority of these are traditional and family-owned with a portfolio of perhaps half a dozen different beers that they distribute locally. There are some national brands, of course, but the loyalty to the local beers, especially in Bavaria, is still very strong. I like this quite a lot. I may sound like a grumpy old burp, and it is perhaps one of the aforementioned luxury problems, but it makes me sad when I go to a new town or city with its own history and culture, but find that the local brewery shut down a few years ago and all you can drink in the pubs is Heineken or Carlsberg.

I have therefore decided to spend my beer Euros wisely and I generally refuse to buy beers from the big multinational mega-conglomerates which worry more about the design of their labels and logos than the taste of their beer. Instead, I joined the Bierclub – a great little club which sends you a nice clunking parcel once a month containing a selection of beer from a brewery you’ve never heard of, situated in a town you had no idea existed. Christmas, in other words, happens every month nowadays (and twice in December!!), even if I have to grumpily queue for 12 or 13 minutes in the post office to retrieve my presents.

A wonderful ex-Bock in front of a package sadly not containing beer

A few days ago I received the November box, from the Schwarzbr√§u brewery in Zusmarshausen in Bavaria. Not exactly the most famous place in Germany I should think, yet this brewery manages to supply 118 local pubs and brew a respectable 130,000 hectolitres every year, according to the invaluable Good Beer Guide to Germany by Steve Thomas. The selection was excellent – a helles, a dunkles, a pils intriguingly named Schwedenpils, two bocks, a dunkleweizen, a helles weizen and one just called “spezial”. Needless to say, I wasted no time putting these lovely bottles in the fridge to await consumption.

Later in the evening, having emptied four of the bottles, I concluded with some satisfaction that Germany remains the best country in the world in which to drink beer. I started with the helles, which was light and straightforward, ideal for quenching the thirst after a long run. I had, coincidentally, just been for a long run. Then, I tried the spezial – this had plenty of hops in it and was therefore tasty and complex, yet not too demanding – ideal to whet the appetite. This was, coincidentally, just before dinner. After dinner, I deliberately chose the bock as my dessert and what a very good choice it was: a rich, malty full-bodied beer which invited me to take small sips to prolong the pleasure. I think I had one more, but as I was busy trying to beat my wife at Trivial Pursuit at the time, I cannot remember what it was like. I do, however, give it the credit for my astonishing victory where I came from way behind to record perhaps the most stunning win in the history of TP.

Anyway, to wrap up this rambling blog post, I guess I’ll just say that being a member of a club that sends you beer is great fun, especially if you happen to like beer or being a member of a club, or both. Variety is the spice of life, they say, and I can only nod approvingly. The main problem is that I get only one box per month, and that the box usually is so interesting it doesn’t take many hours before the box weighs less and I more. Another luxury problem then quickly arises – what on earth should I drink whilst waiting for the next one? That’ll be the topic for a future blog post when I have run out of other ideas in a decade or two. See ya!