A testament to hospitality, friends, and family
Man. This place really cuts the mustard! We like to say that Beer is at it’s best in easy hospitality. Just beer doing beer stuff, bringing people together to share, to confide, to celebrate, or to commiserate. The reason our taproom is the space it is: brewery, bar, restaurant, arcade, beer garden all in one; is for that very reason. We want everyone to feel welcome and to be able to enjoy Bingo beers as they see fit. Beer is meant to bring people together. The folk at BayWa and the Locher family of generational growers in Tettnang in particular made the noble goal of cherishing life’s simple pleasures together with a cold beer so clear and accessible to us. It’s folk like that that inspire us to strive to make the best beer we can and to provide welcoming spaces for all to enjoy.
We reached out to one of our suppliers, Crosby Hops, about visiting the Tettnang. They in turn got us in touch with BayWa, one of their suppliers in Tettnang, where Anton Locher is Operational Director of the hops department. From a distance it could all seem so corporate and impersonal, but the welcoming kindness and joy to share was immediately present upon us. The encouragement in lead up correspondence to bring bathing suits for a dip in the Bodensee announced a different type of agritourism.
We got in at lunchtime, and Anton and his team had sandwiches on the most perfect Swabian seeded rolls waiting. We discussed the week’s itinerary, toured the hop receiving/ pelletizing facility, and started our tour of an array of family farms. Anton led us around the varying villages that dot the idyllic countryside of Tettnang. In and out of fields, farms, barns, and kilns, gracious growers welcomed us with an ease that belied a vision of German stoicism. The excitement to share and connect was at times near overwhelming. A late afternoon invitation for a respite of pilsner and pie at the Hillebrand farm to just chat about Bingo, why we wanted to come visit Tettnang, and generally enjoy company started to bring into focus Tettnang’s desire to genuinely connect. It was hot as hell that day, and Anton as our guide led us down to a public park on the shore of the Bodensee to cool off in lake waters with a few lagers alongside throngs of other similarly minded Southern Germans. We wrapped up the day picking up Anton for the Hop Picking party so he might properly have beverages. Introductions made to other growers over beers, it was hard not to feel like more than guests and tourists but quickly like family.
The Locher family has been growing hops in the Tettnang for generations with Anton’s younger brother, Ludwig, at the helm of the farm for this generation. It was with great excitement that Anton brought us directly across the street from his home to his brother’s home and the home of Locher Hopfen farm production. Their younger sister lives there too on a plot a little further back off the road. The current hop plucking and drying facility is brilliant and new and geared toward maintaining and growing family excellence. The former out-structures of production stand as testaments to an agrarian ancestry and house the fruit farm’s small distillery. We chatted all things beer around a table in the new facility while the brotherly dynamic of a family enamored of hops and beer played out in front of us. We were welcomed in for stories of current and past production that slid into brotherly ribbings. Why is Uncle Ludwig out in the fields when Anton is just messing about with a soccer ball and his two boys all day? Earnestly tongue in cheek, no doubt, as Ludwig’s toy tractor for the boys made clear as it sat feet from us for the nephews to play with and learn the family business. The Brothers Locher share with pride the advancements their father introduced. It is a family history that is on display in nearly every part of the facility in photos, artifacts, and products. Beaming with pride, each piece of the family puzzle is pointed out with as much pride for family origin stories from Switzerland and Lorraine as for the products the family produces. Genuine connection is very clearly fundamental to these brothers and their family whether it be through direct sale of certain fields of particular varieties of hops to small brewers or in the simple and essentially human endeavor of “getting to know you.” After touring the production facility and fields, we ended up (as it seems all brewers do) in the family distillery and small tasting room. The room is filled with family pictures and documents including a form showing Grandmother Locher’s brother’s enlistment into the Lorraine liberation unit of the French army.
A distillery sits on most farms throughout Tettnang as the orchards are almost always interspersed with hop fields on family farms. They allow for the farm to find another revenue stream and to continue work into the winter when snow shrouds the hillsides and fields and summer’s fecundity is a memory and yearn. As we sat in the distillery with Anton and Ludwig, Ludwig shares stories of learning the distilling skill and other hop process skills from his father. Herr Locher was a copious note taker and diligent businessman, and it seems the still was his preferred place as he was able to distill his yield of fruit into schnapps that can last for years. A rare schnapps sits proudly on the shelves. Mirabelle de Lorraine, a common French eau-de-vie but rare German fruit tree and schnapps, announces a connection to Grandmother Locher’s ancestry. Ludwig, having mastered his hop processing craft, is still learning this skill. His father was an artist he says as is evidenced by the quality of Mirabelle schnapps in these bottles. Ludwig shares that Herr Locher passed away a little less than a year ago. The gravity of this loss for Anton and Ludwig is palpable in us all. Ludwig pours us a bit more Mirabelle with a pride and a touch of solemnity as we finish beers and acknowledge the goodness of this initial connection to the Locher family. It is hard to imagine a better allegory for this place and this family than communing with beers from the countryside of Locher Family hops announcing the modern Locher family alongside a pour of the distillation of family and land as Mirabelle schnapps produced by the all too recently passed patriarch. With warm hugs, we part as so much more than business associates in the nebulous landscape of beer and beer products. It feels like family.