BEER WITH A SOCIALIST: That time in 2003 when we rode bicycles to Schneider Weisse.

The return to Schneider by bus in 2004.

In the summer of 2003, I packed my bicycle in the hard shell case and flew to Germany, arriving in Frankfurt and eventually riding all the way to Vienna. That’s more than 500 miles. Friends joined me at various points along the way, and it was a blast. A couple of us then took the train back through Salzburg to Munich, and north to Bamberg for a few more days of riding, beer and pork — not necessarily in that order.

The whole story lies far beyond my limited aims today, although in retrospect, it strikes me as curious that the tale is one I’ve seldom told, at least in writing.

Perhaps it should be noted that the stated pretext for these five weeks abroad — my longest continuous time in Europe since the 1991-92 teaching gig in Czechoslovakia — was to mark my divorce. Maybe that’s why I’ve given it short shrift, although the ride was intended to be about thinking and reflecting, and this is the way it played out.

Beats me.

But: probably far more than all the psychobabble, the bicycling journey in 2003 was something I just had to do, all for myself, melding my love of travel with what, at the time, was a blossoming appreciation of the bicycle’s awesomeness as a vehicle of discovery. Bikes, beer and Europe … even 15 years later, it’s hard to improve on this combination.

As an aside, in those days I didn’t yet own a digital camera. Somewhere are photos waiting to be scanned. Maybe they’ll reveal more.

Anyway … at Pints&union, we’ll be carrying bottled Schneider Weisse and Aventinus, two world classic wheat ales. Back in 2003 at the Public House, we’d been carrying the Schneider brewery’s line since it first became available via the B. United wholesale house, and naturally it was to B. United that I directed a pre-trip inquiry: might my friends and I get a tour of Schneider while cycling?

I’d planned a route through the beautiful valley of the Altmühl River, and Kelheim marks the confluence of the Altmühl and the Danube. Just a few miles away is the Kloster Weltenberg, itself an amazing and picturesque monastery and brewery.

The brewery was amenable — and would we like them to make reservations for us at an affiliated hostelry in Kelheim?

Summer arrived, and the three of us (Tim and Craig had merged with me at Gunzenhausen) came pedaling into Kelheim a day early, but the hotel booked by the brewery had available rooms, which meant we’d be staying three nights instead of two. The brewery tour was wonderful, and we made to Kloster Weltenberg, which was accessible by foot, bike, boat or bus.

When it came time to move on to Regensburg, there was a surprise waiting at the front desk. The bill for the three of us was zero. Null. Schneider picked up the rooms for us. I think there may have been a meal or two and some beers included.

Yes, I sold the brewery’s beer in Indiana, but after three days of hospitality in Kelheim, Schneider probably lost money on the account. But I’ve never forgotten it, and never will.

I’m a Schneider loyalist for life. Alworth’s a great writer; time to learn about German-style wheat ale.

Schneider Weisse: Wheat Beer’s Last Stand, by Jeff Alworth (All About Beer)

The village of Kelheim, smack dab in the center of Bavaria, does not appear to be hallowed ground. It has the same tidy, charming appearance of so many little towns that dot the Bavarian countryside. True, there’s a larger-than-average brewery just to the east of the town square and, true, it does announce itself as a maker of wheat ales—unexpected in lager country. But wheat beer (known variously as weizen or weissbier) is available at every beer hall in Bavaria; surely this isn’t that special?

To the contrary; G. Schneider & Sohn is where wheat beer made its last stand, and the flagship brewed there, Schneider Weisse, is one of the most interesting and important beers still made in the world.

The history, the style, and the beer are so interesting, in fact, one hardly knows where to begin.