From the pool at the bottom of the old town of Blankenheim, we had set out on a walk that would take us the long way round, through the woods and down the back of gardens, passing the school, the remains of a Roman villa, and the youth hostel in the castle on the hill, before we arrived almost back where we started. It was there, through an opening beneath an old half-timbered house, that we found the source of the Ahr.
This river has given its name to Germany’s smallest wine region, and in 2021 was one of the worst hit areas of the floods in the Eifel, a beautiful corner of western Germany close to the Belgium and Luxembourg borders. Although Blankenheim had suffered some damage in the floods, it was hard to imagine, watching the tiny trickle emerge from the ground beneath some heavy stones before following a narrow channel between the cobblestones of Blankenheim’s old town, that this tiny stream would turn into a river whose banks would be breached, wiping out vineyards and damaging and destroying buildings throughout communities downstream.
We followed it a short way until we came to a shop, a jumbled collection of all kinds of everything, including local wines, handicrafts and mustard from the region. Just inside the doorway a huge cut-out of a stag wearing braces and a beanie, a white t-shirt and a pair of tinted glasses. He wanted to show us something. A beer by the name of Blanq.
The beer, a man from the shop told us, was made with regionally sourced ingredients and, of course, the best Ahr spring water. In a country known worldwide for its beer, it is only recently that the consolidation of German breweries by the big multinational companies is being challenged by the emergence of local, craft breweries.
Blanq, the beer from Blankenheim, is made in cooperation with the Vulkan Brewery in Mendig, another collection of local Eifel heroes, and was developed during the corona crisis to fill a gap in the market for Eifel beer as well as providing support for the local tourism industry that would soon have the floods, as well as the global pandemic, to deal with.
The beer was also, the man told us, Ahr-phrodisierend. If you don’t speak German, read the word out loud. It means what it sounds like. Needless to say, we were sold. Back at our guesthouse, with a view across the rolling volcanic landscape that the Eifel is famous for, we tried the beer. It was tasty, a German Helles beer that was quite strong in taste compared to its Bavarian cousins, yet fresh-tasting and aromatic.
It also added to the enjoyment to know that we were supporting a local business and drinking something born out of a tough situation in a wonderful part of the world. Before we left Blankenheim, we went to make sure we had not only some bottles of Blanq but also a few six-packs of Vulkan beer to take home with us. As to whether or not it had an aphrodisiac effect, that is nobody’s business but ours.