Sometimes, especially if you’re a natural blonde like myself, you find yourself making dumb mistake after dumb mistake. I say dumb mistake because some mistakes are justified: thinking you can pull off bangs (Zooey Deschanel can; why can’t you!?); going over your credit card limit because JetBlue was having a two-for-one sale (robot voice: “I. am. powerless. to. resist. beep boop beep.”); or burning dinner because someone just got away with murder on How To Get Away With Murder. GASP! I never saw it coming!
On the other hand, for some mistakes there are just no excuse. You just weren’t thinking and there’s no one to blame but yourself. You don’t even try to place blame, you just stare blankly into the abyss that is your own idiocy trying to figure out at what point it all went wrong. I could’ve blamed it on my cat Fatty. He likes to lay across the computer a lot. There’s a chance he had something to do with this…
And that’s how my husband and I ended up trapped inside the Spaten Brewery in Munich, Germany. And don’t look at me like I’m some scoundrel who doesn’t appreciate a good escape game–it was just a lot more miserable than it sounds. Trust me.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND
Touring breweries is a hobby of mine. Thanks in large part to my parents who started me down this path at a young age–despite the fact that they don’t drink beer. It’s like they knew I was destined for greatness in the matter and took the proper steps to prepare me. They’re like the anti-Dursleys.
I like to think I’ve made good on my upbringing by continuing this tradition well into pseudo-adulthood–I’ve visited and toured breweries all over the United States afterall. So on my first visit to Munich back in 2012 I made it my mission to get inside the mothership–the Spaten brewery.
My husband, a big fan of the Spaten beers, and I stumbled upon the Spaten brewery while wandering around downtown Munich, mere hours after arriving. But if I know my husband at all it was probably just like that time I “stumbled” upon the Hello Kitty department store in Taipei and again spent all the money. I’m not even sorry.
We had hoped to get in for a tour but… nothing. No information. No people. No action. No crazy man in a purple velvet suit and orange hat beckoning us into his magical factory. It’s like they’re just not as eager as we Americans are to invite strangers into our homes for drinks. What gives, Germany??
And what happens when someone says you can’t do something? You want it even more, right Veruca? Or, you trespass. Lucky for me my husband is vaguely adult-ish or I may have more than one breaking and entering charge on my record.
What is that crap people say all the time? That insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? Well, I like to think of it not as insanity but as ambition. Hope, even. Also, up theirs.
At least this time we found a door… that led to an office… that looked somewhat beer related… where again there was NO ONE. No employees. No brochures. No tiny, busy orange people. We began to wonder if this place was even functional. We left before we set off any alarms.
Clearly, getting into the Spaten brewery is challenging. It’s like remembering to floss… or getting gum out of your hair. But for your liver.
**FYI: After three attempts, we finally found the entrance to the Spaten Brewery and it’s shown below for your future reference. I promise the only reason we found this door was because of my husband’s aptitude for video games.
While preparing for our upcoming trip to Munich for Oktoberfest, I decided to do a little more digging and see what I could find on touring the Spaten brewery. I know, I know… I MUST BE INSANE!!!
Well, punks, one page led to another, that led to another, that led to the YouTube page for the Finnish metal band Hevisaurus that produces heavy metal for children, that eventually led to the booking page for tours at Munich’s Spaten brewery!
Tours are available only on Saturdays and the first Friday of each month–and we’d be there on a Saturday. BUT, was it as simple as filling out the form and booking our spots? Oooof course not.
For starters, I had to get them to CHANGE THEIR WEBSITE. Spaten–a company that has successfully run itself since the year 1397. THIRTEEN FREAKING NINETY SEVEN. Leave it to me.
When I tried filling out the straightforward-looking booking form, I discovered the only options under Title were “Lord” and “Miss.” 🚩 Umm, huh? Is this actually 1397?
It didn’t really matter that I was neither of those options really. I could pass for a Lord if I really wanted to. The problem I incurred was the fact that the United States of America wasn’t listed as an option for Country. 🚩 How is the USofA not an option? I should have seen this not just as a complete lack of geographical understanding, but for the red flag that it was.
A few days after emailing Spaten’s fearless leader, the booking form was updated to the more 21st century-appropriate “Mr” and “Ms” and to include the United States as a country. It’s been so for 240 years guys.
Fatty, clear my schedule! WE’RE GOING TO TOUR THE SPATEN BREWERY!
WELL, TECHNICALLY, YES.
There are some things in life you can only learn the hard way–like why dating the “bad boy” or getting any sort of cosmetic procedure at a discount are bad ideas. This is one of those things.
I let my excitement for finally booking a Spaten brewery tour overshadow some fundamental facts about traveling internationally. Actually, I think I have a habit of being blinded by excitement. This is not unlike that time I scored cheap tickets to The Book of Mormon without realizing I’d accidentally snagged the last of the ASL (American Sign Language, I later learned) tickets reserved for deaf people and that I was actually a horrible human being who was still going to see The Book of Mormon. With a sign language interpreter. Whatever, I’m pretty sure not only seeing The Book of Mormon but also thinking it’s the most hilarious thing ever created on the planet earned me an express ticket to Hell. Plus, I learned some fascinating sign language, as you can imagine.
HOW (NOT) TO TOUR BEER: SPATEN BREWERY
There are a handful of things that went wrong on this day but they all revolved around one central mistake…
MISTAKE #1: Assuming the tour would be IN ENGLISH.
I booked this tour in May but it wasn’t until we were seated in the waiting area–that was quickly filling up with Germans–that it occurred to me. I leaned over to my husband and whispered, “Holy shit. This tour is in fucking German.”*
*I don’t speak fucking German.
When planning trips I like to err on the side of hilarious. If shit’s gonna go wrong, it’s gonna go HILARIOUSLY awry.
How had the possibility of this not occurred to me sooner? Was it because the booking site was in English? Was it because I was one of those ethnocentric Americans that thinks the global community, and therefore brewery tours, revolves around her?
To be honest, language consideration never crossed my mind. I feel like SOMETHING must have led me to believe the tour was in English. Right? Or was this just like [insert dumb mistake here] all over again? Trying to learn organic chemistry solely through osmosis, trying to climb a mountain while hungover, working at Hooters–take your pick, I’ve got an endless number of options!
I’m just going with brain fart–a condition that affects the best of us. Ugh I just wanna punch myself in the throat sometimes.
Even the confirmation email I received was 100% in German. 🚩
Things they noted in the confirmation email other than the fact that the tour is in German:
- You must remain within sight and reach of the tour guide.
- “The consumption of alcoholic beverages on the premises is not permitted, as is the taking of animals.” We’re at the brewery right, not the zoo?
- “Please follow the information and instructions given by the visitor guide. The visitors’ guides are aware of the special dangers that are not always apparent to other people.” Well if that isn’t the understatement of the year…
- “Persons with infectious diseases must not enter the brewery.” (There was no health questionnaire; they should really up their application process if they mean to enforce this.)
- “We thank you for your understanding and we wish you an interesting stay.” Informative? No. Interesting? Definitely.
- It also says that photography is prohibited so maybe just pretend you don’t see any of the pictures in this article. In my defense, our guide gave me permission. Actually, the conversation went like this:
Me: “Do you speak English?”
Him: “Only a little.”
Me: “Am I allowed to take pictures?”
Him: “Yes, photography is allowed, it doesn’t matter if you use a flash or not. The only place photography is prohibited is in the bottling plant on account of the request of the manufacturer. But everywhere else it’s totally fine.”
Me: “Umm, you speak way more than ‘a little’ English…”
In conclusion, he knew I didn’t speak German and failed to encourage me to jump ship so now I hate him. Even though he was really nice.
MISTAKE #2: Believing, as per the website, that the tour was ONLY 1.5 HOURS.
Y’all see that, right? About 90 minutes, it says.
It also implies that my booking is a binding contract. 🚩
Now I know you’re not supposed to believe everything you read on the internet but sometimes… nope, there’s no excuse. This was one of those times. We were trapped in that brewery for over THREE HOURS.
Here are some other things I could have done in Munich with three extra hours:
- I could have zip-lined Olympic Stadium.
- I could have learned to surf on the Eisbach. From scratch.
- I could have test-driven a few BMWs on the autobahn.
- I could have finished one liter at the Hofbrauhaus. (I drink slow as shit, alright!?)
Much of my college career was spent in similar situations: three-hour blocks of staring blankly into space while someone spoke endlessly in a language I didn’t understand. Waiting for beer. So I should’ve been used to this. Actually, most of the day bordered on this metaphor. There was a lot of eye-rolling and checking out the status of my fingernails every other minute. A lot of huffing, puffing, and whisper-yelling to my husband, “When. The hell. Is this. Gonna. Be. OVER!”
What began as a pretty hilarious fuck-up quickly turned into two lost forms of medieval torture: boredom and time-wasting–my arch nemeses. ⇠ Doesn’t that make me sound like I’m just a stuffy Disney protagonist… with ADHD?
So for THREE LONG HOURS we followed our guide (and about 20 other tour-takers) through the innards of the brewery from which we could not escape, without a clue of what our guide was saying. And he had A LOT to say.
Where on Earth did they get the idea that this tour was only 90 minutes? Were we even on the right tour? We just literally put on a vest and followed suit…
MISTAKE #3: Not booking it the hell out of there when we had the chance.
This may have been our biggest mistake. Had we known we’d be trapped on this tour for three long hours with no exit strategy, we would’ve just acted like we were going to the restroom and never return. It’s kinda my move.
Regardless of the fact that the confirmation email directly states “do not remove yourself from the group,” 🚩 we were all over this brewery and wouldn’t have been able to find our way out anyway. We were in an underground beer cellar at some point with actual dirt floors, presumably the original dirt from 1397. There was probably something interesting said about this place. We’ll never know.
Our day at the Spaten brewery was… bad. No, Coldplay’s Super Bowl performance was bad. This was a disaster.
I think what kept us there was “knowing” the tour was only 90 minutes, part of that being BEER, and the fact that we prepaid. 🚩 Plus, it had taken us almost nearly half a decade to get this far–there was no turning back now.
THERE WERE GOOD PARTS TOO
As miserable of a day as we had wandering cluelessly around the Spaten brewery, there were a couple of high points. It was like in college when mono was a credible threat but nobody really cared on account of the weight loss.
BEER + FOOD
Trapped as we were, there was at least a light lager at the end of the tunnel. So what if we’ve been here for three hours… maybe they’ll let us drink as much as we want.
“DAAAAAMN, they’re letting us drink as much as we want!”
Two and half hours after we’d found ourselves at a crossroads–any of which we should’ve taken–we finally arrived at the Spaten brewery penthouse for a “beer tasting.” Unlike any other beer tasting I’ve sat through, our guide told us (in English, the bastard) we could order as many of the 24 full-sized, half-liter beers from the catalog as we wanted.
All the beer we could drink? What, were we rushing a fraternity? Actually, we could have been and not even known–Beta Sigma Sigma Gamma, ΒΣΣΓ. Finally–something good had come of our wasted day! Like when you’re stuck at home with the flu but there’s a Saved By The Bell marathon on. Man, I really rock at finding the upside to contracting debilitating viruses.
They also served pretzels and my new love, leberkäse… which my husband refers to as “hot dog steak.”
The tasting took place at the top of the Spaten brewery and you know I love an aerial view. Escaping to the balcony for fresh air and a chance to call out for help was greatly appreciated. Remind me to send the balcony a Christmas card this year. And while we’re at it, I owe our waitress a flaming bag of poo as well for all the ways she made our day even more infuriating. Fatty, send me a reminder.
Because we’d been at the brewery all damn day, we were still there when they brought the horses back from Oktoberfest. We watched as they unharnessed the horses and just left them standing there–the most interesting thing we saw ALL DAY.
And, in accordance with the Spaten brewery tour confirmation email, I DID NOT TAKE ANY HORSES.
If anything good came out of this experience it’s this:
- Almost a quarter of two decades after this journey began, I can finally cross this off my list and stop worrying about getting into the Spaten Brewery. Whether they turn out the way you hope or not, it’s always good to accomplish your goals.
- Because of my epic fuck-up, I have single-handedly managed to get the Spaten website changed AGAIN. Returning to the website to write this article, I noticed this:
WHAT’S A DUMB MISTAKE YOU’VE MADE ABROAD?
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