Report on a German brewery hotel.

By Bob Bestor

Twice in the past two years we had been unsuccessful in securing on short notice a reservation at the Brauereigasthof Aying. Located in the quiet village of Aying, 29 kilometers (18 miles) southeast of Munich, the vine-covered, two story stone building that houses a 28-room hotel and restaurant has become an increasingly popular destination for beer lovers from all over the world, including lots of Americans.

The third attempt at a booking, however, was the charm. We phoned from Lausanne and were quoted a rate of 250 DM ($139) for a double room for the following night. We would train to Zürich, change for Munich and once there board the S-Bahn line #1 (direction Kreuzstrasse and about 45 minutes from the Hauptbahnhof). The hotel said to call on arrival in Aying and we would be picked up.

All went well. The S-Bahn lines, which reach deep into the countryside from the heart of the city, are part of Munich's marvelous public transit system and our Europass was good for the fare. Arriving at Aying station, which is simply a platform with a phone booth nearby, we were in a slight fix because we had no marks or pfennigs to make the necessary call. The restaurant across the road, however, volunteered their phone and within a few minutes we were met by a young woman who said she was driving the cook's car.

The hotel is owned by the brewery and located just across the street from it. Brewery tours are possible but must be arranged in advance.

The hotel's reception area is small and unimpressive. From it a door leads to the restaurant, a corridor wanders away in another direction and there is a stairwell to the first floor, no lift. We carried our own bags up.

Our room, #14, though pictured in the hotel's brochure, is showing some wear. The room is simply furnished. The bed has night tables and at one end of the room a solitary and not very comfortable couch folds out as an extra bed. There are no end or coffee tables. On a minibar sits a small TV set which receives only local channels. The room's few bits of unfinished wood furniture bear the dings and marks of several years of use.

The forest green carpet needs replacing and the couch and bed spread are a drab green and burgundy plaid. Two windows look out to the street fronting the hotel.

On the plus side of the ledger, there is a walk-in closet and in the tiled bathroom the toilet is separated from sink and tub/shower by a sliding door.

But we came mainly for the fresh beer and the food (the hotel's kitchen gets the Michelin red "Menu" for "good food at moderate prices") and on those counts we can be more positive.

The cozy, low-ceilinged dining room is very attractive and appears to have been recently redone. Naturally, it features many wood beams and light wood furnishings. There are wide, orangish floor tiles, blue tablecloths, plus candles and fresh flowers - daffodils and yellow tulips the night we were there - at each table, and a large, hooded fireplace near the entrance. The large tables are well-spaced and the low-voltage halogen light fixtures are recessed in the paneled ceiling.

First, of course, we ordered a Helles, the light brew that fuels Bavaria. Aying calls theirs Jahrhundert, in recognition of the brewery's centenary in 1978. With the beer we divided an appetizer of Carpaccio (razor thin slices of raw beef) with oil, capers and shavings of fresh horseradish which made for an extraordinary dish rather than just a good one. Also scattered over the plate were tiny squares of crunchy, pickled pumpkin which added yet another dimension of unusual taste.

Geschnetzeltes (chopped veal in a cream sauce) with slices of mushrooms and bits of red bell pepper came up a little bland. The Rösti served with it was thin and oily, more like a potato pancake; good, but the Swiss variety is much better.

Zwiebelrostbraten at Brauereigasthof Aying is a thin but juicy piece of beef the size of a New York or ribeye steak and comes heaped with thin slices of deep fried onions. The latter were a bit soggy but the meat was tender and not overdone. Accompanying cheese Spätzle sprinkled with a few of the onions was outstanding.

Mixed salads were the usual shredded portions of carrots, celery root, cucumbers, and two or three varieties of fresh greens in a nice oil and vinegar dressing.

Though not on the menu, a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream with a boat of hot Schokolade was cheerfully provided with two spoons.

Service was friendly but a little inattentive. Dinner for two including four beers was 107.50 DM ($59).

Afterwards, we crossed the street to Liebhard's, another operation of the Aying brewery, where we sampled mild wheat beer and pilsner. At 10pm the big open room was full of locals. We found no fault with either of the beers.

Next morning, after a good breakfast from a decently-stocked buffet, the young woman on duty volunteered to take us back to the "station" where we caught a train to the Munich Hauptbahnhof.

While the Brauereigasthof Aying has some charm, as a hotel it seems overpriced. The somewhat offhand welcome was friendly but with no more warmth than at a busy airport hotel: your-room-is-up-the-stairs-here's-the-key-let-us-know-if-you-need-anything. It is the brewery connection that no doubt keeps the prices high; similar rooms in most ordinary German towns of this size would rent for half the price.

The restaurant, however, serves good food and beer at reasonable prices.

Contact: Brauereigasthof Hotel Aying, Zornedinger Strasse 2, D-85653 Aying, tel. +49/08095/705, fax 2053. Proprietor: Franz Inselkammer.
Daily Rates: Singles 160 to 200 DM ($89-$111), doubles 250 to 300 DM ($139-$167).
Hotel Rating: Quality 9/20, Value 7/20
Rest. Rating: Quality 14/20, Value 15/20

(Ed. Note: There is a guide detailing 43 of these German brewery hotels. Contact: Geschäftsstelle "Private Brauereigasthöfe," Hauptstrasse 19, D-96117 Memmeldorf, tel. +49/0951/944330, fax 9443 366.)

April 1998