Friday, December 21, 2007

Bavarian Beer: Ah

In 1981/1982, I worked on a manufacturing plant for an American company in Pleinfeld, West Germany, and sometimes traveled there on business. In the fall of 1982, the president of my parent company called from Cleveland, Ohio to say that he wanted to visit the recently completed facility.

So in early November I flew to Munich from Amsterdam to meet him, planning to drive together with him to the plant, and have dinner with the plant manager, and another staff member. The moment he got into the car at the airport, the chief started to complain; the car, a 500 series BMW was too small, it was too cold, where was everyone?

Although, a light snow was falling the divided highway north from Munich was clear. It continued snowing the entire trip, and there was snow on the two lane road to Pleinfeld. We seemed to be the only car on the road, and it was quiet except for the soft thumping of the widow wipers, and the crunch of Bimmer's tires on the snow.

Off season the small hotel I had booked, with help from our German customer, looked closed, and its front door was locked. Answering my knock the proprietor opened the door, and we entered a cold foyer. Signing the register I glanced into the restaurant and it was likewise cold, and also dark. I wasn’t the only one who noticed, and the complaining continued.

As we walked to our rooms the hallway lights went on and off automatically. I put my bag in my room, and went to the restaurant. The owner had turned on the lights, and as I sat down the boss arrived. We each ordered a beer, nothing special just something they had on tap, and while we waited for our beer, the boss made use of the time to remind me that the hallway was dark when he left his room, and his room was near freezing.

Fortunately the beer arrived, served in tall beer glasses, and I took a long drink. Cool not cold, slightly bitter and effervescent, the flavor of hops unmistakable.

We sat quietly, and as we each enjoyed two glasses of wonderful Bavarian beer the boss started to smile. The proprietor started to do things in a now lighted kitchen, and our guests arrived. We talked through several more glasses of beer until our food arrived. Another glass of beer with our dinner, whatever it was, I can’t remember, but I do remember that it was good, very good. All, in all it was a really nice evening; great beer, good food, interesting people, and a smiling, pleasant boss; it had to be the beer.

I discovered later that the hotel was indeed closed, including the kitchen, and had been opened just for our visit.

During ski season I flew to this project via Nuremberg, not Munich, and drove south to Pleinfeld. The aircraft was nearly full of Dutch skiers in brightly colored winter sweaters, laughing, and looking forward to days on the Bavarian slopes. On the return flight to Amsterdam the plane’s seats were now arranged to hold litters, each with an injured skier, still in bright sweaters, now trying to look nonchalant, but still smiling.

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