Though sitting a few tables away, my new “neighbor” couldn’t resist striking up a conversation. It was a gloriously sunny summer Sunday morning and we were the only two people sitting outside at the local Gaststätte Ochsen enjoying an early beer from the local Spall Brauerei out back. It had just opened at 11:00 and as with most places on a Sunday, the average visitor was coming for lunch. We were beating the crowd so shared some affinity. Of course, when a local person sees someone taking photos of a beer they probably drink every day, it surely piques their interest. I was pretty obviously not from there but I don’t think he was expecting me to say I was from Munich, which is about three and a half hours away by car.
an early beer at the Ochsen
I’d actually come from Forchheim, where I’d done a Bierkeller tour the previous day and had used public transportation which involved three trains and a bus. It had taken three hours, about twice as long as by car. We were speaking in German and I try to keep things simple due to my limited vocabulary. To be honest, even if my German were perfect the explanation would have sounded pretty crazy to a guy from Ballenberg. I’ll have to say, just writing it sounds pretty crazy to me now. Thanks to a middle Franconian friend who waxes eloquently about all things Franken, this was part of my quest to check out some breweries technically in Baden-Württemberg, which is generally out of my wheelhouse but are historically part of Franconia. I’d been to quite a few in the previous weeks and they varied in size, regional notoriety and most importantly just how Franconian the beer was. One constant though had been that the people I came into contact with had felt at least a little Franconian.
historical Franconia & one of its breweries
When I explained this to my new drinking buddy, he studied me warily to say the least with a look that said “if you say so” before more or less saying he felt like he was in Baden-Württemberg, which was hard to argue over since we were very much in that state. I don’t know if better German skills would have helped my case and I certainly wasn’t there to tell a local where he lived. Still, the Keller Pils I was drinking tasted nothing like my general experience of beers from Germany’s second biggest state. Admittedly, it was in a .4l tulip glass, a vessel you don’t see in Franconia. You don’t see it in Bavaria either, or anywhere else in Germany to my knowledge, outside of hipster Craft Beer bars and this was definitely not one of those. I asked him about their other beer, a dark Doppelbock, and he almost winched when saying it was sweet. This isn’t an uncommon reaction or statement from a large segment of the non-Franconian German population who kind of stick to their regular beer. His friends arrived and aside from the occasional nod, we went our own ways to enjoy our lunch.
a tasty Ochsenmausalat & Spallator
I perused the menu and noticed a lack of Franconian dishes, not even Schäuferla, which many of my other Franconian Baden-Württemberg breweries had featured. I noticed Ochsenmausalat, a Schwäbisch specialty and decided to finally give it a try. This is thinly sliced meat from the mouth of an ox which is tossed with raw onions, oil and white vinegar. Though it sounds odd, it was perfect for the warm weather and went well with the hoppy Keller Pils, which I’d ordered another of. I moved onto their Spallator and I had to admit, it did taste a tad sweet. I guess most anything would after the hoppy flagship. It grew on me and I decided to have another since I’d already done a small walk around the tiny village as my bus had arrived well before opening time. The second one looked much better and it’s not unlikely I’d been the first one to have one that day and the beer may have been in the line for awhile. If my new acquaintance was typical, not many drank it often and I had to admit it sure wasn’t Doppelbockwetter. That said, this one tasted pretty damn good and since I’d gone inside to pay up and get this last beer, I sat out back in the shade with a view of the old redbrick brewery.
the old Spall Brauerei
I’d seen five liter party kegs of both beers to go at the bar inside but as much as I’d have liked to get one of each, I didn’t fancy the idea of carting them back on my rather convoluted trip home. It was time to catch that bus to the train, to the train back to Munich. Some five and a half hours later, courtesy of the 9€ Ticket and a lot of patience on my part, I was home and another Franconian brewery had been visited. Just don’t tell that to the guy who lives there. He’ll look at you like you’re some funny foreigner and of course, that’s exactly what you are.
downtown Ballenberg & beer to go
When looking for information on the Spall Brauerei, I found some photos of the copper kettles within the brewery and it’s made me want to return but who knows if or when that will ever happen. I also found some images of old ceramic mugs and glasses from their glory days. I’ll have to say, I’d have enjoyed the beer more from one of them rather than the tulip glass, though you can see how they got there from the Pils glass used at one time.
some of Spall Brauerei glasses & mug
While it’s unlikely I’ll be back at the Ochsen anytime soon due to it being a long way from home, I’m glad I went and if you are thinking of visiting, there is more information in the links below. There’s not a lot out there so hopefully it’s helpful. For the record, the bus was punctual and I had no problem making my connecting train in Osterbrucken. The sign outside insinuates they have overnight accommodation but I’d work that out before arriving as many such places no longer offer rooms.
Where to eat and drink Spall Bier:
The actual brewery just out back:
In the mood for more off the beaten path Baden-Württemberg? How about Schwäbisch Hall?
Find breweries all over Franconia: Where the Brews are
Learn about beer styles in Franconia: ABeerC.
Food is half the fun in Franconia but what should you try? The ABCs of Franconian Food
Heading to Bamberg? Don’t leave home without The Pocket Guide to Bamberg’s Best Beer.
Don’t want to go it along, I’d love to show you the way: Guided Tours.