Thursday, September 17, 2015

A comparison of European beer spa experiences...

Now that Bill and I have experienced three different European beer spas, I think it's time to compare them.  Although we'll probably visit other beer spas while we're living in Germany, the three we've done so far have been sufficiently different that it makes sense to write about them now.

I know a lot of people wonder what possible benefit one could get from soaking in beer or a beer/water mix.  Having now done it three times, I can honestly say that after each soak, I have had soft, shiny hair and smooth skin.  In fact, I have a sore on my back that was slow to heal and I have noticed that it seems to have finally scarred over after this weekend.  Was it really the beer that did it or just a coincidence?  I don't know.  The main reason I like to go to beer spas is because I am a hedonist and I love beer.  And hell, it's just a lot of fun!

The first beer spa we went to was Chodovar in Chodova Plana, Czech Republic.  Our visit was over Presidents Day weekend 2009, which also happened to be Valentine's weekend.  We were very lucky to be able to book the beer baths there.  If I recall correctly, we managed to snag the last available appointment.  At that point, Chodovar had only been in the beer spa business for three years, though the brewery has been making suds for centuries.

Chodovar's beer spa was the cheapest of the three we've attended and that's probably still true today.  However, I noticed some differences between the experience in Chodovar and the experiences we had at the Landhotel Moorhof and the Starkenberg Brewery.  First off, the Chodovar experience is less private, though you're supposed to bathe in the buff.

There are several pewter tubs in a room and sheets are drawn around them for privacy.  That makes it practical for the proprietors, who can offer beer baths to several people at the same time.  However, the mood is markedly different, since you hear people giggling and splashing in their tubs as they drink beer.  It's more of a fun experience than a relaxing spa experience.  Also, after twenty minutes in the tub, the water cools down a bit and you're ready to get out.  Then you go rest in a quiet room, swaddled in a thick blanket as you drink another beer.

After we had beer baths, Bill and I had massages.  I had a "complete" massage, which was about an hour's worth of kneading and rubbing done by a young Czech man who spoke no English and actually watched me undress.  Ultimately, he did a very good job and was professional, but it was a little weird and awkward.  Bill had a partial massage on his back done by a woman who spoke a little German, but no English.  Again, a good massage, but a little awkward.

When Bill and I did this in 2009, we each had our own tub, though they were located side by side.  There is one double tub at Chodovar, but it was booked.  In a way, I think maybe I might prefer having a separate tub.  Younger, hornier folks might beg to differ.  Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera when we went to the Czech Republic for our spa trip, so I didn't get any photos.  Suffice to say that I'd happily visit Chodovar again, though I think I'd rank it third in my list of beer spa experiences thus far.  I do see that they've expanded since our last visit, adding a pool and wellness area that looks very inviting.  Maybe it's time to book another trip!  For a picture of the beer baths, click here.

Our second beer spa experience was at the Landhotel Moorhof near Franking, Austria.  The Moorhof's beer spa is very different than Chodovar's.  First off, the Moorhof's beer spa doesn't seem to be a focus of the hotel's marketing.  Yes, they advertise it and even offer beer cosmetics for sale, but it doesn't seem to be the main reason people stay there.  I was surprised by that, since the Moorhof is in a rural area that isn't saturated with touristy activities.

The Moorhof beer spa experience is more private and seems more health focused than Chodovar's.  There is one room with three beer baths and one that has just one bath, making it perfect for couples.  At the Moorhof, we wore bathing suits, although if we hadn't wanted to wear them, we probably could have gone without them.  I think I would have preferred not wearing the suit, since the hops mixture used in the spa gets all over it and it's not so easy to rinse out.  I liked that the spa tub was more like a hot tub than a regular bathtub.  The jacuzzi action was noisier, but at Chodovar, you hear cheesy pop music and giggles from other people.  At the Moorhof, you hear the motor of the spa and your sweet one's loving words.  Or maybe you hear dirty jokes, as it was in my case.

After the beer bath, we rested in a straw bed for a half hour.  That was pretty nice, more comfortable than I expected it to be, and I preferred it to the communal experience at Chodovar, where several people were resting in the same room at the same time.

The beer spa was a little more expensive at the Moorhof and I wish we'd had our massages around the time of the beer bath rather than hours earlier.  However, I will comment that the massage therapist was a little less awkward than the one at Chodovar.  She spoke some English and was very competent.  She also seemed a little more conscious of modesty.


Our third beer spa experience was at the Starkenberger brewery in Tarrenz, Austria.  This experience was my favorite because it was pure hedonism.  Basically, it consisted of Bill and me frolicking in a big vat that was once used for fermenting beer and is now a "pool".  There were no massages offered at this experience (at least not professional ones), but we were allowed to soak for up to five hours and drink all the beer we wanted.  In fairness to the other beer spa experiences, I can pretty much say that this was not really a health promoting activity.  However, it was a whole lot of fun!

Of the three beer spa experiences, Starkenberger's was the most expensive.  It was also the most memorable and unique.  And, to be honest, for what you get over five hours in the beer bath, it may have even been the most cost effective, especially if there are four people (the maximum allowed) in your group.  That being said, I do want to comment that the Starkenberger experience may be the most risky.  There is a danger of drowning because you are pretty much left to yourself.  Remember, you're drinking as much beer as you want and hanging out in hot water deep enough to swim in.  The beer is pretty potent and if you're not careful, you could find yourself in real trouble.  Practice the buddy system!

Bill and I were actually talking about this last night... how amazing it is that you can go to a beer bath in Europe and be trusted not to either damage the property or drown yourself.  In the United States, you surely would have been asked to sign a waiver before jumping in the beer pool and/or there would have certainly been an employee there to supervise.  In Europe, it seems like people are expected to be responsible for themselves and not do stupid things.  Frankly, I find it a very refreshing attitude.


I don't know when our next beer spa appointment will be, but I am always on the lookout for new spas to try.  And I see that since our last tour in Germany, there have been quite a few more that have popped up.  I am sure this won't be the last time I write about bathing in beer or any other exotic substance.  For now, Starkenberger wins the prize as my favorite of the beer spas we've been to.
 
Here's a link to the first post about this trip.

Edited to add: We have now been to four beer spas, having visited the one at Hotel Diana in Seefeld.  Here is a link to my post about that experience (much like the one at the Moorhof).  Starkenberger remains my favorite of all four experiences so far!

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