Monday 7th April 2014
Falkenberg is the archetypal small south German Village sometimes shown on maps as Markt Falkenberg. It is extremely attractive to the eye with a brooding castle overlooking its former market place. What is more important to me is that it has one of five commune breweries left in the Oberpfalz (Upper Palatinate), one of the constituent principalities of the Bayerischer Freistadt (the Bavarian Free State).
These breweries are now to be found only in this area which is close to the Czech Republic border. Unlike some of the other towns and villages with them, Falkenberg has preserved the history of its example extremely well. So please allow me to provide a condensed version of that.
The story starts in 1467 when Abbot Nikolaus IV granted the citizens permission to brew beer. This was normally only normally given to towns that had a chartered market with their own laws. This did not apply to Falkenberg so it must be regarded as a special privilege. Eventually the market was chartered and the renewal of this in 1567 confirmed the brewing rights.
However something went wrong and brewing ceased in the town with beer being imported from Waldsassen. I think that back then, if they stopped brewing the right was lost, although that needs to be confirmed. This was rectified with the third renewal of the charter in 1672 when full brewing rights were restored.
It is not known exactly when the current brewery building was constructed but it has always to be found in the same place, alongside the river at the foot of the castle hill (see photo below). A new iron brew kettle was installed in 1870. The mash tun and the cool ship (Kühlschiff) were still made of wood at that time. All of the equipment was renewed in 1927 and a well was dug to supply brewing water instead of taking it from the river. Electric power was installed in 1930.
The equipment has always been heated from a wood-burning furnace. From 1959 municipal water was used but the brewery fell in to disuse in 1960. See below for the demographic reasons for this.
Back in September 1864 116 citizens were brewing or took beer from the Commune brewery. By 1880 it was down to 39 yet brewing was being done at least 60 times per annum. Generally two brewers combined to brew winter beers and for summer or lager beers there was just one.
The beer was often taken to a cellar that wasn't necessarily on the premises of the purveyor. The two main pubs in the town, the Sternwirt and Zum Roten Ochsen each brewed between five and seven times a year.
By 1930 the number of households using the brewery had declined to 12. But then, the Second World War took its toll and at the finish there were about five citizens exercising their rights. As mentioned above the last was in 1960 when Zoigl-Wirt Flaschner closed its doors.
Yet, eighteen years later in 1978, the brewery was back in business when Kramer opened his Zoigl outlet. This proved to be a catalyst and since then two more have re-opened, and the Roten Ochsen, an important pub in the village has started making its own beer again. It is possible more will follow, such is the current popularity of Zoigl beer. I find it fascinating that production ceased for a time before revival. Was it the same in other towns?
The resumption of communal brewing has meant that badly needed cash has come in to enable some modernisation of the brewery. In 1992 the cool ship was updated with a stainless steel version. Note that the old methods were being perpetuated, no modern cooling systems. During 1998 and 1999 the brewing equipment was replaced. In 1998 the local government listed the building as a historical artefact.
Well that brings us right up to the day of my visit.
After alighting from the bus, I went back to take a photograph of the brewery in Wiesauener Strasse. I then walked past the bus stop and the Marketplace along Tirschenreuther Strasse, past the other two Zoigl houses, which of course were closed on that day.
The three houses open on average every 3 to 4 weeks, normally Friday to Monday but not exclusively. Sometimes there are weekends when none are open. Please refer to websites as below.
I hadn't walked too far before I heard the sounds of laughter and the clinking of glasses and then my destination appeared on the left side of the road.
Wolfadl is approached up outside steps and on my left was the biergarten in front of the house and it was half full.
I went in and turned left in to the main room and it was empty! Nevertheless I was happy; I could take photographs and I am no sun lover and it was a hot day. I had a look around and noticed that there was another level above the main room with a sort of balcony reached by stairs and it was all made of varnished wood.
The main room with the bar area lead into another with wooden tables and chairs. The ceiling is decorated with dangling musical instruments.
The owner / waiter came in from conversation with his customers and served me a Zoigl beer. This was quite a change from the one I had drunk earlier in the day at Windischeschenbach. I thought it was much thinner in body yet malty. The aftertaste was very dry though with a slightly sour finish as well. I hope this description doesn't make it sound bad, just different.
I liked this pub and the man in charge was friendly even though he became very busy when the biergarten filled up. This is a very nice Zoigl house in a very beautiful village, highly recommended.
Wolfadl, Gumpener Weg 1, 95685 Falkenberg. Tel: 0157 7206 7495
The village was reached by using bus route 6267 from the front of Wiesau railway station.
It is quite infrequent and you need to consult the timetable which is available on line.
There are not many on Saturdays and none on Sundays. So it is down to Mondays and Fridays.
I caught the 11.15 from Wiesau, returning on the 13.20 from Falkenberg.