...apple or pretzel...apple or pretzel...
When you travel by air across Europe, strange ways of organizing airports and puzzling security measures has made this quite an ordeal, even if you turn up well ahead of time, behave politely and have plenty of books to read or work to do. You are sent walking between terminals. You hurry out of the plane just to find yourself waiting in a bus for the other passengers. You get the picture. Most airports seem to love the new security measures. You cannot even bring a bottle of water with you through security, which means at everything has to be bought airside at premium prices. And the bars are usually lousy, at best some fake Irish atmosphere, usually standard lagers at inflated prices.
But there are exceptions. You can do worse than transferring through the airports of Germany and Austria. Of course you have the queues, the buses and the security checks there, too. But at least you can hope for a decent glass of beer. Take Franz-Josef Strauss airport in Munich. It is large, but it is new and built to cope with lots of traffic. And you have a good selections of cafes and bars, all of which serve decent beers. You have probably never heard of some of them, like Schlossbrauerei Stein Heinz vom Stein Hefeweissbier Dunkel. (You think I'm making this up, don't you? They are here.) I found that one in a Ökologische or organic café. Others bars offer draft Helles, Pils and Weissbier. And you can pick up some decent beers in the Duty Free shop! And there is even a brew pub with two outlets at the airport, which is unique in Europe. The airport in Düsseldorf is smaller, but you have some splendid beers to choose from there as well. A pilsner and a wheat beer here, too, but in addition you can have a glass of the local Altbier, a speciality that is hardly available elsewhere. Vienna Airport offers good connections to Central and Eastern Europe. And a handful of good beers, too. If you look hard, you might find a Stella, but the emphasis is on national and even local beers.
I think the key is how you look at beer as a commodity. The marketing men have created global brands which are available just about everywhere. The bland taste hardly offends anyone, to be on the safe side, you replace some of the barley with tasteless grain. You pay premium prices for this, and the consumers see to believe in the hype and think all is well while they sip their Corona. In Germany and Austria (and I assume in surrounding areas like Alsace and Bohemia, although I haven't been there in recent years) beer is a staple food. It is like bread. And you buy bread from a bakery in your village or town; whether you are running a private household or you have a hotel or a restaurant. In the same way, you don't buy beer from a national producer, not even from the next town. The customers expect to find this, even in Terminal 2. And they want freshly baked pretzels, too. And they get it!
Sure, there are many sides to this. It discourages innovation; it makes it difficult to create regional brands to stand up against the multinationals when they move in. But, for the time being, you still can get good local beer, served with local pride, even in international airports. Get it while you can, this will not last long.