Not that I needed a 96-degree day in late September to remind me, but a visit to the Bavarian village of Aying, nestled in the foothills of the Alps and only a 40-minute suburban rail trip south of Munich, is delightful any time of the year, and never more so than in autumn.
With the harvest winding down, there is ample leisure time to kick at Aying’s cobblestones amid rustling leaves and a slightly chilly breeze presaging the arrival of winter, before pausing to admire the charming silhouette of the onion-domed church in the square.
From that spot, it’s only a few yards to the Ayinger brewery’s prominent hostelry and blessed brewery tap for a half-liter of Oktober-Fest lager ... and if you’re as lucky as I was the last time we occupied a table there, you may find yourself devouring an elk steak from the presiding Inselkammer family’s private hunting preserve.
In fact, when I escorted a group to Aying in September of 2004, the Inselkammers personally greeted us upon our return from the late afternoon brewery tour and stayed close by until we were seated and enjoying the amazing dinner.
The brewery that occupies such an important place in this bucolic setting is thoroughly modern in terms of production technique and marketing savvy, and yet scrupulously traditional when it comes to the makeup of the beer in your glass. It’s a graceful balancing act that seems almost effortless in its efficiency.
However, make no mistake about it: It’s hard work, and the Inselkammers’ business model is just as impressive as its beer. The family has invested upward of 13 million Euros since the mid 1980’s, first constructing a new distribution and packaging center, then adding a state-of-the-art, extremely green, fully computerized brewery, and finally completely renovating their hotel and restaurant.
Ayinger’s beers, which still taste as though they were crafted by lederhosen-clad villagers in the Alps foothills, are aggressively exported around the world, and are routinely rated in the upper reaches whenever the Bavarian brewing art is quantified.
As such, they’re a perfect accompaniment to our forthcoming Ayinger Oktober-Fest beer dinner at Bistro New Albany, which will commence at 6:00 p.m. on Monday, October 1.
My enduring affection for Ayinger’s excellent line of Bavarian beers has prompted me to pair them with another authentic and stellar menu concocted by Chef Dave Clancy, owner of Bistro New Albany. There’ll be fewer (and less alcoholic) beers than offered during previous beer dinners, but larger portions, as befits generally lower alcohol contents and the expansiveness of traditional German drinking and dining.
Pray to your particular Gods for crisp fall weather and a chance to dine outdoors in the friendly confines of Bistro New Albany's patio.
Here is the menu and the pairings. The price per person (excluding tax and gratuity) is $45, which includes a complimentaryAyinger glass, 1/2 liter of Oktober-Fest, and 4 x 5-oz bottled beer samples. Contact Bistro New Albany at 812-949-5227 for reservations and further details.
-Opening toast/Brotzeit (beer snack)
Ayinger’s Oktober-Fest Marzen, a tawny golden/amber autumn seasonal lager, will be on tap throughout the evening, and we’ll begin the meal with an Oktoberfest toast in an Ayinger signature glass that is yours to keep.
-Gurkensalat (cucumber salad)
-Brau-Weisse … traditional unfiltered golden wheat ale
-Gulaschsuppe (goulash soup)
-Jahrhundert-Bier … golden “export” style lager
-Sauerbraten with Kartoffelpuffer (brined and roasted beef with potato cakes)
-Altbairisch Dunkel … “Old Bavarian” dark lager
-Schwarzwalderkirschtorte (black forest cake)
-Celebrator Doppelbock … rich, dark Double Bock
Photo credit: Ayinger's web site