Annafest Forchheim

Holy shit that was fun! Annafest Forchheim has got to be the most attractive German beer festival I can imagine. It’s about two kilometers outside of Forchheim in the kellerwald, literally a collection of beer cellars (kellers) dug into forested hills. So basically it’s a beer festival in the woods. It is an incredible atmosphere, being amid towering trees and seeing the beer actually being stored inside caves the way it has been done for centuries. The caves offer a stable temperature for lagering and storing beer all year round, and are now used with a few modern attachments such as conveyor belts to carry out the beers from inside the bowels of the earth. The tall trees turned out to be valuable umbrellas for when there were no seats inside the manmade tents. We got rained on periodically throughout the day but no one was complaining.

At first I was surprised at all the American G.I.s from the nearby bases. Even the train on the way down to Forchheim was crawling with them. We heard their familiar accent wherever we went during the first few hours of the Annafest. As the fest filled in, the din swelled with the equally familiar sound of German.

In many respects it is a typical German beer festival with rides, food, bad cover bands, and good beer. The main difference (besides the splendid setting) is the history of Annafest. It commemorates the patron saint of Forchheim, St. Anna, each year on July 26. Supposedly pilgrims on their way back from the Anna-church in Unterweilersbach would stop at the kellerwald on their way home and hence started the tradition of holding an annual beer festival.

One of the surprises of the festival was the shotgun fire that accompanied the opening ceremonies and band procession. Later I found out from this Web site that since 1840 an annual meeting of riflemen took place at the kellerwald on July 26, St. Anna’s day so this was a long tradition too.

I can’t wait to go back! We definitely will this week, because all the beers are served in a mass (1 liter) and it makes it hard to try all the different Annafest beers. We did pretty well but left at least 2 on the table. Plus, several like the St. Georgian Bräu and the Grief festbiers were extraordinarily delicious and alone worthy of a return visit.

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