Beer Without the Bruises
When it comes to German beer, I have some experience--and the scars to prove it. I once received a dozen stitches in my scalp from a misunderstanding with a car door after a long day at Oktoberfest. I have had my hand stomped on by an elderly woman in a drunken crowd of revelers while downing Kölsch at Karneval in Cologne. At the oldest bier hall in Munich, I pulled a back muscle while tapping a massive wooden beer keg (in only two strokes!) with a 20-pound wooden mallet.
What I have not done, however, is roam the hillsides of Bavaria in search of the finest Noble Hallertau Mittelfrueh hops, or watch how the artisans at Bamberg’s Schlenkerla Brewery concoct their wondrous smoked beer, or explore the history and artifacts at the German Hops Museum in Wolnzach. I confess I have never witnessed the malting process.
It’s enough to make you weep.
But that’s easily corrected on the seven-day Samuel Adams Hopfenpflücken (“hop-picking”) Adventure, organized by the high-end tour company Abercrombie & Kent.
Jim Koch is the chairman and founder of the Boston Beer Co., makers of Samuel Adams beers. For nearly 25 years Koch has been traveling to Bavaria to choose the hops used in the many varieties of “Sam.” On the A&K itinerary, guests will visit the sources of Sam Adams’ malt and hops, as well as many sources of beer-making inspiration, like the Augustiner Keller, one of Munich’s most revered beer halls. A Sam Adams brewer will join the tour and add his insights during a visit to Bavaria’s Stanglmair farm for a guided tour of the hops fields and a beer tasting.
On a somber note, there will also be plenty of non-beer-related activities: walking the streets of preserved medieval cities, visiting the BMW Museum, and riding a cable car to the top of Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze.
The tour dates are July 31-August 6. Price: $2,970 per person, double, plus airfare. Single supplement surcharge: $805.
Mark Orwoll is Travel + Leisure's international editor.