Mozart comes but once a year

We’ve mentioned Alte Mainmuehle before. We love it so much that, when we’re on our hols, we now always try to stop off for lunch in Wuerzburg if it’s on the way. It has  great food, beautiful views and fabulous beer — the full range from local brewery Distelhäuser.

Breaking the journey back from Passau, we remarked to ourselves as we pulled into the station that only one thing could make it better — a new beer. We laughed. German breweries don’t introduce new beers, except to make them ‘Gold’ or add cola. But, what do you know, the beer gods seemed to have delivered, with Mozartbier being proudly advertised across town.

We didn’t realise how lucky we were, though, until we got home and researched it a little: it’s not a new beer, but is only available on or around the 5 June each year. How jammy are we?

It’s a cracker, too. Golden rather than yellow, conditioned rather than fizzy, it has an incredible depth of malt flavour — rye bread with added cereal — without being at all cloying. We wondered, with its name and slightly darker colour, if it was a nod to a Vienna-style lager, but it also struck as what we’d been looking for in a festbier all these years.

Five great beer gardens in Würzburg

A pint of Wuerzburger Hofbrau Pils

1. Würzburger Hofbräukeller, Höchberger Straße 28

Where better to drink the stuff than at the brewery tap?  It’s a little walk out of the centre (about 10-15 minutes from the old bridge), but well worth it for the enormous garden.  This place inspired our latest trip — we thought about where we would most like to be in the world and planned the excursion around it.

2. Würzburger Hofbräu, Talaveraschlosschen

Another huge, leafy beer garden, next to a funny little building off the Mainausstrasse, in between the Friedensbrücke and the Brücke der Deutschen Einheit.

3. Biergarten an der Residenz (Würzburger Hofbräu)

This is basically a little scrap of wasteland next to the world-famous Residenz, but it shows how all you need is a couple of trees and a wooden shed to set up a beer garden. Not at all posh but nonetheless lovely.

4. Nikolashof and 5. Schutzenhof

These are both situated in the woods behind the Festung Marienburg, and have fabulous views across town.  Schutzenhof offers cheap and trashy schnitzels for all the family, whereas Nikolashof fancies itself a bit more, with a Japanese garden and rhubarb brulee on the menu.

The ticker may be particularly interested in Schutzenhof as it offers products from Wernecker, including Laurentius, an unfiltered Märzen beer brewed specially for the garden.  We didn’t care for it that much, but it’s nice to know it’s there.

To get to both places on foot, do not follow the signs, which are for road traffic and take you the long way round.  Instead, head for the Käppele from Nikolausstrasse, go up the steps behind it and you’ll find yourself on a little path that takes you first past the Nikolashof and then to the Schutzenhof (they’re about a five minute walk apart).

The perfect beer garden

biergartensign1

We’ve been to Würzburg before, so our recent trip wasn’t really an opportunity for trying new beers. Instead, we set out to enjoy some old favourites in the most beautiful beer gardens we could find, taking advantage of the sunny weather we always seem to find in Franconia.

In five days, we made our way round quite a few, and came to a couple of conclusions about what makes a really nice beer garden so good for the soul.

First, it must have a canopy. Parasols are one thing, but tall, old trees are best. It should feel like a forest — going back to nature, but with a comfy chair, a pork dinner and waitress service. All that green is so calming.

Secondly, it has to be reasonably sized. Two tables crammed into a back yard does not a beer garden make (we visited one in nearby Ochsenfurt that was, despite the sign,  exactly that). You need room to stretch your legs.

And finally, there must be other people there. A beer garden is nothing without the hum of conversation. A good beer garden is social, but also somehow private. You can hear people talking, but it’s hard to eavesdrop on the particulars.

Sadly, those are things which we’ve yet to find anywhere handy in the UK. No-one in London can afford the land to do it properly, and trees take a long time to grow.

Wuerzburg part 2 – Wuerzburger Hofbrau

Wuerzburger Hofbrau dominate the town. Their logo is all over the place, and is one of the first things you see when you get out of the station. They also have three beers in Michael Jackson’s “Great Beer Guide” (aka The 500).

Their Ausschank is over the river, on the Marienburg side, in an enormous beer garden. The pub and garden combined probably has the capacity for several thousand people.

We wonder whether Michael Jackson may have been (overly) influenced by the wonderful surroundings, because although his selections from the Wuerzburger offerings are very nice, they’re not that special, in our humble opinion. For example, the Schwarzbier was better than say, Koestritzer, but still tasted mostly like fizzy watered-down treacle. The dunkleweiss was also not that exciting – rather sweet and unbalanced.

However, there are loads of other offerings at the Ausschank. The Zwickl lives up to potential, being a nice fruity, partially cloudy lager. It’s refreshing, with a long aftertaste. And once again, the pils did well – it’s very bitter and aromatic. It’s nice having all these great pils – it can be such a boring style.

Finally, we had “Werner Alt-Fraenkischer Dunkel”. Werner were taken over by Wuerburger in 1999, according to their website. This was a luvverly drop, toasty, nutty and ale-like.

All in all, worth the walk as it’s a delightful beer garden with lovely beer.

PS – if you’re going from Heidelberg to Wuerzburg, you can do it for just eight euros by getting a couple of local trains and going via Osterburken. It only takes a little longer than going via Frankfurt, and is 36 euros cheaper, plus it goes up the Neckar valley and is much more picturesque. Just thought this information should be somewhere on the web in English.

Wuerzburg part 1 – Distelhaeuser @ Alte Mainzmuehle Gasthof

We’ve been to Wuerzburg before, and thoroughly enjoyed the place, so we scheduled a stopover this time round. We’ve drunk in most of the places in Ron’s guide but we had a couple of aims this time. Firstly, to visit the Wuerzburger Hof brewery tap, and secondly to revisit one of our favourite restaurant-pubs, the Alte Mainzmuehle.

This is situated right on the old bridge, overlooking the Main. It’s more of a restaurant than a pub, but it’s not stuffy or formal. It’s worth mentioning because the food is a cut above what you normally get in pubs, without being pricy or pretentious. You can get hearty German food or lighter alternatives.

They have a full range from Distelhaeuser on tap. The Landbier is extremely refreshing – it’s not very carbonated, and has hints of liquorice, despite being pale. The “dinkel” is golden-brown, with a thick body and hints of chocolate. We think it’s a bit stronger than the rest, possibly slightly bock-y, and they only serve it in 0.5l krugs. We’d assumed that “Dinkel” was a funny regional variation on “Dunkel”, but in fact it’s German for “spelt”, and is indeed made from that grain. It’s lovely, complex stuff.

The Weizen is wonderful – as well as the usual banana and clove, there a hints of pineapple and peach, with more hops than usual. Not sweet either, which is great.

The pils was a pleasant surprise – we were expecting this to be more boring, but it had a good sulphurous nose, a fruity-spicy-malt flavour (peach, fennel) and a lovely bitter finish. Clean, yet complex, with a long aftertaste.

We’re intrigued by Distelhaeuser. They’ve obviously moved beyond the quaint village Hausbrauerei stage, given they have a number of outlets in Wuerzburg, but they’re clearly keen to maintain Franconian traditions (having a Landbier, for example) and rant against mass production on their beer mats. The Dinkel beer shows a willingness to innovate as well.