Monday, April 19, 2004

A Good Time at the Augustiner Brewery

Saturday afternoon, we took Henry to the Fruhlingsfest (Springfest) in the Theresienwiese, which is the home of Munich’s famous Oktoberfest. I went to the massive flea market with Chris’ friends Brian, Trina and Nicola while Chris and Henry went to the beer tent with Gavin and Andy. I cannot resist a flea market and this one was as junky as any I have ever been to, gave Berlin Farmer’s Market a good run for its money in the seediness department. But I was in my glory, after all this was European junk. Strolled up and down the aisles just looking at all the crap. Chris’ gang all have great senses of humor and are always up for a laugh. The stall that elicited the most response from us was selling braids of human hair. It was odd, to put it lightly.

After the hair I decided I needed a drink and joined the gang in the tent where we had a seat dead in front of the band. It was too loud and half the gang decided they wanted to go home, however Chris, Henry, Brian, Trina and I headed over to the Augustiner Brauerei, an amazing place where beer has been brewing since 1328. The building is loaded to the gills with atmosphere and charm. There are long tables and benches and more often than not you end up sitting with an absolute stranger. I think I have finally found the answer; beer lubricates these people socially. We sat down and the gruff waitress took our orders, but very sweetly set down a bowl of water for Henry. We drank the Helles, an astoundingly good beer, brewed according to the strict standards of the German Purity Law of 1516 which states that the only ingredients in German beer may be water, hops, malt and yeast. They are onto something here as this stuff is incredible. Brian kept stressing how we would not have hangovers because of the purity of the beer. Brian was, I’m sorry to report, dead wrong. The person next to me was eating this rather medieval looking piece of meat, with a huge bone and skin attached to it. Those of you who know me well know that I will nearly always go for the oddball item on the menu. This looked fascinating, like something a serving wench would give you just before you contracted the plague from a tick brought into the tavern by a sailor. I must’ve looked really interested because Trina exclaimed how much she loved schweinehaxe, which is roasted knuckle of pig. Of course I had to order it right there and then and it lived up to my expectations. It was falling off the bone delicious, served in a beer sauce. As promised the skin was still attached. Gasps went around the table when I fed the crackling to Henry. “But that’s the best part!” everyone exclaimed.

Something which aroused my curiosity was the group of school kids who could have been no older than 14. They were knocking back huge glasses of beer together with their chaperones! I felt like a puritan as I watched them.

As night began to fall, more people came into the brewery and as more pints of helles were consumed, many people started singing football songs and pounding on the tables. Brian told me that these folks were fans of TSV 1860, the football team of the people, the more traditional team. Brian ribbed Chris because he supports Bayern Munchen, the yuppie team, the rich team which can afford all the best players. It was a lot of fun even though I didn’t know what the hell they were singing about.

We stayed much too long, talking and laughing for hours. Brian and Trina are both Irish and really warm and open, a great antidote to the icy Bavarians I’d been faced with all week. Sometime during our stay, the chef came out and gave Henry some bones. He also refilled his water bowl. The place was jumping and they were catering to my dog! It was absolutely sweet as can be.

After way too many beers, we decided that we would meet the rest of the crew at another pub. We piled onto a tram with a bunch of other beery people and went to the next pub, but were so tired that we went home after one drink.

Sunday was spent laughing at Saturday night’s exploits. My first crazy night here and it was a good one.


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