The Cool Ship Express Part 1

Though I was always told it never hurts to ask, I’ve as often as not, not asked.  When recently returning to the Land of Zoigl to research hiking trails for my book Beer Hiking Bavaria , I’d done it yet again when it came to visiting the Kommunbräuhäuser (communal brew houses) in the five acknowledged Zoigl towns of the Upper Palatinate. It was something I’d wanted to do but collecting hiking trail data seemed more pressing this time around. Still, as the time grew close, I decided to test another cliche: it’s never too late to ask. So, I wrote the tourist information centers of the Zoigl towns and since I had left it to the last minute, I did it in English no less, expecting either no response or a negative one to my request for a tour of each of their very unique brewing facilities. When one by one, four of the five towns not only got back to me, but also said yes, I was surprised and a bit sorry for all the missed opportunities I’d surely passed up in a lifetime of not asking.

statuesometimes you just have to ask

Gabi Bleistein was my contact from Mitterteich and she explained I was more than welcome to tour the town’s communal brew house but that she unfortunately didn’t have anyone to do it in English on such short notice. I jumped at the chance nonetheless, figuring I knew enough German to do a brewery tour. I’d been to Mitterteich on three previous occasions and had already had the pleasure of sampling the Zoigl at all three of the town’s Zoiglstuben. Luggerts Boozhaus was my first and I think still my favorite Zoigl of the three. Zoiglstube Oppl was the most bustling and had perhaps the best atmosphere.  The Hartwich Zoiglstube had the best food due to its in-house butcher and I’d passed up their Schlachtshüssel the last time around so was happy that it was the one open on the weekend of my return. I was not only going to see where all this Zoigl was made but I’d get the prototypical Zoigl meal to boot.

Schlachtschüssel at Hartwich

Even with the long trip up from Munich, I had enough time to nip into the Hartwich Zoiglstube for my meal and a couple Zoigl before meeting Reiner Gottas at the communal brew house. I was not disappointed by the meal and I figured a couple Zoigl would surely help my understanding of the tour. Mr. Gottas turned out to be a great guide and his pronunciation was so clear that even I could follow most of what he was saying.

the communal brew house of Mitterteich & my great guide Reiner Gottas

I’d seen the atmospheric exterior every time in town but was not prepared for just how old world cool the interior would be. Of course, the cool ship is what stood out and with a 4000 liter capacity, it would be hard to miss even if it weren’t all shiny stainless steel. The coal fired oven was also worthy of attention, it being the only non-wood fired one of the five Zoigl towns. We then went over to a nearby keller so I could see where some private Zoigl makers stored their wares.

Click on images for slideshow:

The informative tour was over before I knew it, even with the Bierkeller excursion. I offered a tip but Mr. Gottas declined and even had a greeting gift from Gabi Bleistein at the tourist information office: a bag full of brochures, booklets and even some hiking maps. I thanked him and said he was very welcome to join me for a Zoigl but he was heading home for dinner. On that note, I went back to the Hartwich Zoiglstube. I wasn’t hungry enough for another big meal but in the Land of Zoigl, there’s always something tasty to snack on and after hearing about how Zoigl was made and seeing the Kommunbrauhaus, I was more than ready for a couple more.

Next up: The Tractor meets the Cool Ship in Falkenberg.

Details on Zoigl and hiking in the area available in my book Beer Hiking Bavaria.
beer hiking bavaria book cover

6 thoughts on “The Cool Ship Express Part 1

    1. Thanks for inspiring me to visit the Kommunbräuhäuser, Kevin. I was a bit lackadaisical about making arrangements but as you’ve already found out, the people up there are just so nice and accommodating.

  1. Though I’ve had a few commercial “Zoigl” beers, the communal Zoigl breweries themselves are still terra incognita for me. Interesting about the wood-fired kettles!

    1. I’d had some commercial Zoigl and it kept me from caring all that much about going to the area but so glad a friend from the US was hyped to do so. He backed out but I’d already made plans to head up there. I’ve now had some commercial beers from that area that call themselves Zoigl and while good beer, they taste nothing like the Echte Zoigl. The two second triangle of the Zoigl start is for the three elements, one of which is obviously fire so it must be used to produce the real McCoy.

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