By Bobby Bush
Priorities? Sometimes even I get priorities skewed. When I first heard the news about the devastating string of monster tornadoes which tore homes and lives apart in Moore, Oklahoma, the first thing I felt was fear. Fear, mind you, not for the dead and injured, not for the thousands of folks left instantaneously and literally homeless. But fear that one of my new brewpub discoveries - a recent addition to my most-favorite list -had been destroyed. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I picked up the phone and called the Royal Bavarian, hoping that owner/brewer Jorg Kuhne would answer the phone in his happy, sarcastic German-accented voice and tell me that he, his family and his wonderful brewpub had survived the 300 mph onslaught.
Upon hearing the "all circuits busy" recording, I relapsed, in a snap, to common sense. There are more important things than beer and brewpubs. And I'll be the first to admit it. One less brewpub in the fields of Greater Oklahoma City would not upset world trade. But the death and destruction this flat terrain endured will have a lingering effect on its inhabitants for years. My selfishness was embarrassing. It wasn't until days later, when a friend drove down Sooner Road and informed me that all was safe and sound at the Royal Bavarian, that my guilt abated, somewhat.
Why the concern? Because right smack in the middle of Nowhere, OK - half way between OKC and Norman - I found an establishment that believes in tradition. German food and German beers: that's all Jorg and his enthusiastic wife Karen know. And they know it extremely well. Their large barn-like structure, with its chalet farmhouse brewery layout, is designed for partying. It was the Munich-born brewer who explained, when I first met him, that the problem with Americans is they "need a reason to party." In his country, he explained, "Germans don't need a reason to party." Just to prove he meant it, the beer garden was built to hold 500 people.
And what better to party with than a freshly brewed German lager? Because of the state's low alcohol restriction, Royal Bavarian beers are limited to a handful of styles. King's Weizen, served in a tall 1/2 liter pils-like glass, was a cold-lagered wheat ale, extremely smooth and non-clovey. This recipe, straight out of Germany (as they all are), utilizes a 70% wheat bill. Served in a heavy unchilled mug, King's Gold, a blonde lager, was wine-like in texture though sweet from 2-row and Munich malts. Just a little bite slipped in at the end. And King's Oktoberfest was brilliantly amber with a pleasant malty sweet aftertaste. They'll occasionally feature a Dunkles, but never a Bock, not at state mandated 3.2% maximum.
From every batch of beer brewed in Jorg's seven barrel, open-fermenter German-made system, a sample is sent back to Germany for testing, not to qualify for the Reinheitgesbot purity law (though it does) but for Jorg's peace-of-mind, more than anything else. Even though the Bavarian law lists only four, his beers require six ingredients. In addition to grain, hops, water and yeast, Jorg adds "energy and sweat." Most of his brews require a two-months, temperature-controlled lagering period. They're all carefully served at 48 degrees. Truly a labor of love.
The same creativity and effort goes into Royal Bavarian's authentic food menu. Wurst, ham, veal and beef, in numerous entrees, spatzel sauerkraut, potato dumplings and strudel, warm homemade breads and a half ham shank that'll feed an army. The Royal Bavarian epitomizes, to me, what German living is all about: rich, filling food and tempting beer- both meant to be consumed in large quantity.
Reality hit me like a frigid cold beer in the face. My priorities and perspectives are in order, temporarily at least. Royal Bavarian brews on, a little piece of Munich in the Moore, Oklahoma. The tornadoes spared a good one. I can drink to that.
This article first appeared in Focus Magazine of Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush