Windischeschenbach, Bayern (Bavaria):
Saturday 18th May 2013
Windischeschenbach is a village in the Oberpfalz province of Bavaria. In English this is known as the Upper Palatinate. Here in this far corner of Germany, sandwiched between the brewery-rich province of Ober Franken (Upper Franconia) and Böhmen (Bohemia, the major provincial constituent of the Czech Republic), one can also find a sizable number of commercial breweries dotted around the forested landscape. However it has a further beer-related attraction as it is the home of the Zoigl pub.
Zoigl brewing is centred on the Kommunbrauhaus, which is a commune brewery in the village. Once there were many to be found in the Oberpfalz. Go back a 150 years and there were at least 75. Now there are just five, with many lying unused in other communities.
In a particular village certain households have the ancient right to brew in the village brew house. As there are no less than ten in Windischeschenbach holding this privilege and sell beer to the public, they employ a brewer. However, he does brew to individual recipes.
I'm not sure about the following fact, but I have heard that after the last person with rights from the village has brewed a final beer, the brewery cannot be reactivated, although relatives can continue the practice but they must live in the same house. I think this is because of tax reasons as those with rights pay no tax as it is an ancient law that exempts them. It would be nice to have some confirmation of this.
When I first visited Windischeschenbach about twenty-five years ago Zoigl brewing was very low key. The only way to find a house that was open was to wander around looking for a hanging star sign or, in one case only, follow a hand-written sign tied to a lamppost. There is a timetable of openings and each individual house opens, normally from Friday to Monday, according to this.
The period between openings varies quite considerably with some having just three weeks between weekends and others up to two months. I noticed that this particular house opens about once a month from Friday to Mondays yet there were no openings scheduled for June of this year. Nowadays, with the wonder that is the internet, it is possible look up exactly where it can be found before visiting. In fact the village has its own website dedicated to the subject.
The result is, of course, the popularity of it has increased enormously, and most of the houses have developed into something that is more like a pub, whereas, in the past, it was not dissimilar to entering someone's front room. The ones visited on this trip all seem to have invested in modern equipment.
The beer is bottom-fermented at the Commune brewery and undergoes a ten day primary maturation period before being placed in a container for the secondary fermentation which is done in the cellar of the premises that will sell it. This part can last between two and four weeks, depending on the recipe of the house that commissioned it.
The beers are universally shades of brown; those in Windischeschenbach being a mid-brown. They taste a bit like an English bitter, being not too malty and having a medium bitter smack. Although I am advised they are unfiltered, all of the beers I have tried here are clear in aspect.
Zoiglstube Fiedlschneider, the subject of this beer visit, is located right in the centre of the village, and as I approached I noticed it was displaying a hanging sign, indicating it was open and selling beer. In this case it wasn't the well-known six-pointed star but a foaming beer mug super-imposed on to a Z for Zoigl. I turned right into the main room and there was just one couple consuming beer. This was hardly surprising as the house had only opened at 14.00, about thirty minutes earlier. The lady of the house, Silvia Köllner, served me with a beer. I know of her name because it was emblazoned on all of the menus and beer mats.
I had a look around the room and the rest of the house. The room was fairly sparsely decorated with pine wood panelling to mid height and a few rustic decorations and had a small bar area for service only. This was the first time I had visited this particular house and I noticed that it also had a large room to the rear with a vaulted ceiling. I wandered out the back to find a small outside drinking area in the garden with a larger undercover area, presumably used by smokers.
The menu offered a number of different sausages, cold meats and cheese plates and also smoked trout, along with freshly baked pretzels. This house is well worth visiting if you are in the village at a weekend but it probably won't be open, yet there will be another that is!
Zoiglstube Fiedlschneider, Stadtplatz 15, Windischeschenbach. 92670. Tel: 0152 2958 0271
Note: on opening days the house begins service at 14.00
Buses to Windischeschenbach are infrequent and usually run only Mondays to Fridays. They run from Regensburg to Marktredwitz via Schwandorf and Weiden station is served by trains of Vogtlandbahn railway company and operate about every hour Monday to Friday, and two-hourly on Saturday and Sunday.