Brauerei Schwarzes Kreuz
Founded in 1524 and stopped brewing in 2012 after 488 years. I was there back in 2003 and sadly returned a few months too late in 2012, not realizing that brewing had ceased. The first time was with my then new German girlfriend (now wife) who was nice enough to drive me around to many small village brewpubs. Often times, she would be the only woman in the place. I was certainly the only American on many a cold, dark night in the smaller ones. I’d become interested in this quite esoteric aspect of the brewing world quite by chance, having bought a Bavarian beer guide at a CAMRA beer festival in England. It was a bit out of date but along with a lot of closed breweries, there were some real gems.
I always like to joke that I came for the beer but stayed for the girl, and I guess there’s some truth to it. The writer, Graham Lees, certainly had a strong influence on me and though I’d sometimes find beers not living up to his descriptions, there were plenty that did. I do know that it’s unlikely I’d have found many of them. My wife probably cursed him for the same reason many times. At any rate, the Schwarzes Kreuz was one such place that didn’t quite live up to all the hype. Certainly, the cold, dark night and unhappy girlfriend may have colored my impression somewhat but it wasn’t quite as dry and hoppy as expected. It was also dispensed from a regular tap rather than a wooden barrel, gravity dispense as he’d described. I’d run into that a few times on my travels, his book being a few years old and some of his forays likely older. It was only recently I found out just how important that factor can be. It really does change not only a beer’s body but also its flavor.
Many breweries and many years later, I was (and still am) married to that very girl and over the years we’d become more used to such adventures and the oddity of such things as no women or non-locals aside from us being there. Still, getting my lovely wife to return to a place that was disappointing isn’t an easy task. There are, after all, many others to check out and why go back to another disappointment? Well, sometimes it just happens. In 2012, on the way to the Kellerberg area near Hallerndorf for the weekend, we found ourselves at a bus stop with no bus. It was before I’d learned about school buses. They don’t run their routes on school holidays. While it’s perfectly normal to ride them (they are just public buses catering to students at those times), they obviously don’t need to run if there is no school. Seems simple enough now but how was I to know. My wife was none too happy. It just so happened we were not too far from the Schwarzes Kreuz. I’d always wanted to go back and with some cajoling, we made our way there. We had a couple hours to kill for the real bus anyway.
The Schwarzes Kreuz is sadly no longer brewing
It was hot and a longer walk than we probably wanted to do, especially since it was in the opposite direction of our destination. Still, once in the small village, it was a lot more charming than either of us remembered. Even my wife was pleasantly surprised. Of course, it was a gorgeous day; the sun and a blue sky does make a difference. The small pub looked a lot more inviting than it did on the dark winter night long ago. We stood outside for a few moments, checking out the very limited food menu and an old man walked past us into the pub. Shades of the past haunted me but we had little choice but to go in. The old man sat at a table, reading the paper and we sat down and waited for someone to take our order. After a few minutes, the old timer got up and asked us what we wanted. We got a couple beers and since he seemed to be there alone, didn’t even ask about food. The beer was certainly good but not exactly worth going out of your way for, especially if you are on foot! After some time, the owner explained he was closing up and that he would open the Keller, which made us happy as the current prospect of spending the afternoon in the pub on a sunny day didn’t seem too promising. While I was using the toilet, the old man explained his dilemma to my wife. It seemed a water pump had broken and he was no longer able to brew his own beer due to a water infestation. His children, now surely very much grown adults, were not interested in taking over his business that was likely in the same family for a few hundred years, maybe longer since it was founded in 1524.
The Schwarzes Kreuz Bierkeller now has Greif beer from Forchheim
When my wife told me all this en route to the Keller, it made the change in beers at the outdoor venue more understandable. It was not only now Greif’s beer there, but also at the small one-time brewpub. We stopped in for a beer and, in fact, the woman was just tapping the keg as I went in to get a couple beers. It was a gravity poured beer, even if from a plastic keg. We had bought some beer garden supplies at the local butcher’s on our way. We sat down in the sun and tried to enjoy the situation as best we could. The truth was, the place was a bit run down and obviously not being used all that much. He had probably opened it just for us. We had just the one beer before heading back towards the bus. While walking there, the old man walked by on his way to the Keller, probably disappointed to see us having already left his place. We unfortunately were just passing through, to other villages with other beers to be discovered. He was from a different time, when locals drank only the beer from their town. He was the one brewing it and it made us sad to think it would likely never be the case again.
As of 2020, the Schwarzes Kreuz is still not brewing. I often wonder if the old man is still there.
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