Riding bikes and drinking beers go hand in hand – they’re simply made for each other. Is there anything more satisfying than opening up a chilled beer after a day in the saddle? This was exactly the plan we had in mind when we set up a date in Forcheim with the guys from YT Industries, who just happen to live and work in the region with the world’s highest density of breweries. Although, in retrospect, perhaps our plan was always destined to take a screwball turn…

„Good Times“ ist nicht nur YT’s Mission, sondern war an diesem Tag auch unsere.
„Good Times“ is not only YT’s mission, at that day we followed the same.

It’s Thursday morning, and Daniel and I are running a little late as we make our way to YT Industries in Forchheim. Breakfast fell by the wayside and we reason that we’ll grab something on the way. We’ve arranged to meet the YT crew for an easy ride through the region, finishing up at Annafest, the mecca for any beer lover. Home to twenty-five beer cellars, linked with one street, the Annaberg is Forcheim’s local mountain and less than 45 km from the YT office. As it only climbs 1,200 metres on the route, we figure that the absence of breakfast won’t have any serious repercussions.

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Kühl und extrem süffig, das dunkle Bier ist die perfekte Erfrischung.
Chilled and extremely palatable, dark beer is the perfect refreshment.

It’s a relaxed start from the office of the Franconian direct-order company. The first few kilometres are ridden under the sun, taking bike paths and side roads to the next village. It’s almost 1 PM and as we haven’t packed enough to drink, a refreshment stop seems justified. At the end of a street of traditional half-timbered houses we spot the Gasthaus zum Schwarzen Adler, and the beer that awaits us (a dark Winkler Bräu) is as black as the bird on the roof. It goes down well – exactly what we needed given the 25° C outside temperature. The clock is running the whole time, so we gulp down the rest of our drink to get back on schedule. Yet, as we stand up, we realize that the beer is already making itself known on our empty stomachs.

Viel Bier ist nicht grade fördernd für die Balance - Wheelie fahren war trotzdem noch drin!
A lot of beer is not the best thing for our balance – Wheelies were still possible and a fun thing.

One beer – one crash

Heading on regardless, we tackle the first climb with slightly fuzzy heads and a notably more relaxed vibe. The climb starts gently but rapidly steepens so that I reach the top drenched in sweat, my legs unwilling to respond to my brain. Interestingly, people always say that even back in the medieval times, monks recognized beer’s boost to energy – but I’m starting to doubt this theory. While I mutate into a human sprinkler, any effects from the beer gradually wane away. Our stomachs start to grumble and so we enthusiastically start the descent, full of motivation – after all, the end of the trail marks our first meal of the day. A few minutes later it turns out that our motivation was perhaps overly high; on a wide, loose left corner Philipp, the marketing manager at YT, skids off the trail at 35 km/h and comes to a dramatic halt by a tree. Boom! Other than a few scratches on the bike and himself, Philipp comes away remarkably unscathed, thank goodness. It could have been a lot worse…

Im Schnitt liefert Bier rund 50 kcal pro 100 ml – fast doppelt so viel wie eine Apfelschorle.
On average beer contains 50 kcal per 100 ml – almost double as much as a fizzy apple juice.

Seven beers make a Schnitzel

“Food is only served until 1:30pm, and now it’s 1:50pm. All you can get is beer!” explains the hearty-looking waitress with a strong Franconian dialect. As timekeeping and periods of rest are highly regarded in this Catholic region of Franconia, it appeared we’d be imbibing more liquid-based calories. But as my granddad always said: “Seven beers make a Schnitzel, and one still won’t have eaten anything,” so who am I to question his life-long wisdom? Unlike the falsely promised effects of a well-known energy drink, the now-empty beer glass in the paved beer garden appears to have lent me wings, and I manage to pedal like a pro up the next climb. I don’t feel drunk in the slightest, and the rest of the group expresses the same – perhaps we’ve discovered the recipe for success, we exclaim. In the name of science you should always try new things and be open to local peculiarities, so we settled on ‘Up, down, beer,’ as our theory. And it’s going well. We take on another climb before we finally spot the words ‘Kitchen open all day’ scribbled on the sun-bleached Coca Cola chalkboard, a huge relief given the starvation we’re all complaining of by now.

Nicht nur das Bier war gut, auch die Trails ließen keine Wünsche offen!
Not only the beer was superb, the trails were too!

The downfall

With four beers already streaming through our veins, spirits are naturally high during our meal and we work on maintaining the level of alcohol in our bodies – all in the name of science and local culture, of course. Polite and well brought-up young people, we’ve all reached the conclusion that ordering a soft drink in such a renowned brewing region would verge on impolite. Accordingly, more beers and schnapps are ordered for good measure. Then, completely out of the blue, Philipp pulls out a breathalyzer, which suggests we have around 0.5% blood alcohol levels. The guys from YT promise us that we’re just two trails away from our destination, the Annafest – although they fail to mention there are two more climbs within these trails. When we reach them, they’re as welcome as a smack in the face. Are they seriously expecting me to pedal? Impossible! Dessert has replaced the muscle in our calves, and the climbs aren’t easy. Fortunately, each of our incessant piss-stops means we can enjoy several breaks. We don’t really feel drunk, we decide, it’s more a case that we’ve ended up in a spinning class rather than the Old Age Pensioner water aerobics: powerless and out of our depth. The inebriating effect of the alcohol must have been sweated out, which is a shame as the trail is never-ending and we could really do with a boost. The thought of our next meal at the end of the ride does its best to inspire us to move (well, that and the thought of more beer) – plus the knowledge that we won’t have to ride any farther once we get there. The final trail through a dense forest is fast and dusty. Like a tunnel, it would offer huge flow on a regular day, and would definitely be one of the day’s highlights. Unfortunately, today isn’t that day. The constantly changing light conditions as the sun breaks through the trees combined with my now far slower reaction speed is stressful and I risk injuring myself. I sensibly slow down.

Yew! Mit viel Bier ist viel gute Laune fast immer garantiert.
Yew! With some beer good times and a lot of smiles are often guaranteed.

The perfect end

We round off the final kilometres in a trance. Then, out of nowhere, there’s a fairground wheel in front of us. We’ve made it! We’re in the Promised Land! There’s a definite festival atmosphere at the foot of the Annaberg, with drinks tents, culinary delights, and music blaring out. It takes a while for me to work out that it isn’t a dream, it’s reality. Higher up from the festival site, the line of twenty-five beer cellars looks like a huge beer garden – the perfect cure for the torture we’ve been through. We make our way there, ordering another beer. Safe in the knowledge that the climbs are all behind us, this one tastes far better. Riding and beer, we conclude, are definitely made for each other. Although perhaps in a more chronological order… Cheers!

What happens on the Annafest, stays on the Annafest.
What happens on the Annafest, stays on the Annafest.

Words & Photos: Christoph Bayer

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