Something was missing but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I surveyed the room and all was in Ordnung right down to the green Kachelofen. My wife was busy holding an animated conversation with her dining neighbor. She says she hates such things but she’s so damned good at it that she never gets out of it once it’s begun. Besides, I think she secretly likes it. She could have been talking to her aunt and we could have been at my grandmother’s kitchen table on her Delaware farm on Thanksgiving. My grandmother passed away in the 70s but even she wasn’t missing in spirit as she’s embodied in the owner of this time relic gem in Spielbach. The grand old dame runs a tight ship and more importantly collects the money at the end of your stay, the cash carefully placed in a small metal box. She hadn’t been there the last time we’d been and my wife sighed relief on seeing her. We’d feared she joined my grand mom. My wife was here for that ritual as much as the beer. Actually, she was even here for the Grääsda Ebbiern more than the beer. This is a local variation of Bratkartoffeln or roasted potatoes, really more pan-fried. These ones are heading towards mashed potatoes in consistency and this buttery concoction has had my wife’s attention since I showed her a photo of them from my first visit, obviously without her. Then it dawned on me: Jürgen was what was missing, or I guess I should say who. He’s the one who introduced me to this whole experience, from the potatoes which were just like his grandmother used to make to the beer which tastes like the “countryside it’s brewed in.” He’s a proud Franconian who has not only painstakingly explained the complex nature of the real Franconia to me, a place without borders but is pretty much responsible for Spielbach being so widely revered by the English speaking beer Illuminati.
a timeless gem in Spielbach: the Gold-Ochsen
Jürgen has driven us here for their amazing Festbock a couple of times but I’ll always remember most fondly the first time he’d driven just me through the countryside he explained was the Hohenlohe, an area not only historically Franconia but culturally as well, as evidenced by their dialect. As we drove through the rolling hills, I’d wanted to jump out and walk. I’d vowed to do just that from Rothenburg ob der Tauber one day. It had just taken me more years to do it than planned.
the hike to Spielbach
The walk out was as expected, a lovely countryside stroll, aided by glorious spring weather. We rose first through a lush forest and soon left it behind to meander on country roads through small villages, all lacking only one thing our destination had: a brewery.
country roads, take me home to Spielbach
Strolling into Spielbach gave me more satisfaction than I’d imagine it would. It was great to finally get there under my own steam. That I had my lovely wife at my side was the icing on the cake. She’d made a reservation, the fourth time she’d done so and she said the owner seemed to recognize her this time, or at least the name Carbonara from Munich. She always asks where you’re coming from, just like my Dad interrogated first time would be customers at our family motel in NJ. As far a world away as Spielbach is from my hometown, it does have a feeling of home but I think I’m far from the only person to feel this way.
there’s no place like home, well maybe Spielbach
Seated at our table, and I’m using “our” loosely since we had two other couples at the long ones there, we excitedly ordered. Our table mates looked enviously at our Grääsda Ebbiern, just as I’d done at Jürgen’s ounce upon a time. It was a conversation starter and after we explained what they were, they quickly ordered some. Of course, once we said we were from Munich, they wanted to know why we’d come so far. I gave them my card and my love of Franconia was easily seen when they checked out my website Beerwanderers. I also showed them my book and since we were in Baden-Württemburg, they asked how this fit into Beer Hiking Bavaria. Well, it led to a great discussion and they were impressed with my knowledge of not only the breweries and beer but of the culture. Of course, this latter part was largely imparted to me by our missing Jürgen. It felt odd that he wasn’t there but I probably did more talking with our neighbors than I might have if he’d driven. You see, he’s quite a talker too.
first beer in the farm courtyard
We bid farewell to our potato comrades and headed out into the bright sunlight. When I looked out at the farm courtyard and then back at my wife, she knew what I wanted to do. We soon found ourselves sitting at another long table with new friends, a golden beer in front of us. It tasted like the “countryside it’s brewed in” I kept hearing, so even though Jürgen wasn’t there, he still was. His spirit is part of Spielbach. His words lodged in my psyche. Nothing was missing. I’d finally walked out to the Gold-Ochsenbrauerei as I’d promised myself. I was sitting in the courtyard, another secret goal not even thought about on cool weather visits when the coziest of gem pubs is 20 feet way.
the hike back always has different views & my wife gets her cake too
Sounds pretty dreamy but of course we still had to hike six miles back to town. Even though it was the same route, things look different when walking in the opposite direction. Things look different after a few beers too. The term rose colored glasses perhaps gets overused so let’s just say beer goggles were firmly in place. At any rate, the world looked particularly beautiful and as we approached Rothenburg ob der Tauber, it felt nice to know we were spending the night there rather than rushing back home to Munich. Besides, where is home but where your heart is. Mine was at my side and we’re halves of a whole who have found homes in quite a few places. This in turn leads to a feeling that you never can truly go home. For us, that’s what “there’s no place like home” has come to mean. Well, there’s always Spielbach.
Contact information for Gold-Ochsen.
Read about Franconian Baden-Wüttemburg: Beers without Borders
Read about their Bock: Fishing for a Bock without borders.
More Baden-Württemberg Franconia: Brauerei Spall
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