Drinks logistics with the Atego.
Economics & Logistics
For the Farny beer brewery in Allgäu, drivers like Franz Weber are irreplaceable. In his Atego, he is a haulier, a counsellor, a packhorse, a tour guide and a Foreign Minister all rolled into one.
Franz Weber calls this region “The Promised Land”. His region. On the horizon, the Alps rise majestically with their snow-covered peaks glistening in the morning sun. The rich green of the meadows lights up the rolling hills where small villages nestle on the Württemberg side of the Allgäu. A picture postcard wouldn't look better. “Come again” is inscribed on the hand-carved signposts at the borders of the villages which the Atego passes through. And there is no-one to whom that applies more than Franz Weber. Because, whether it's two assorted crates which he is delivering to a small pub or whether its nearly 8,000 litres to the large beer houses in Ravensburg, he brings the beer to the thirsty people of the Allgäu region.
The 51-year-old has been driving beer trucks at the Farny Edelweißbrauerei in Kißlegg near Wangen for twelve years now. At Farny, driving a beer truck is much more than one would normally associate with the profession of a truck driver: Franz knows all his customers personally; he knows if the daughter is getting married or whether it's grandpa's birthday. And Franz knows the world. But for him, there's just no place like home: “I lived in the USA for seven years, but the Allgäu region drew me back again,” the father of four explains. In his home town of Ratzenried, he is a member of the local bagpipes group, he tells us, before giving an entertaining lecture on the subject of kilts, tartan and the rehearsal evenings he has spent with the “Allgäu Scots”.
Anyone having the pleasure of sitting next to him on one of his tours, will find out from him, in his mischievous Alemannic dialect, where Karl-Heinz Riedle learnt to kick a ball, as well as the life stories of anyone seen accompanying groups of children on the pavement, working in their gardens or noting down the numbers of illegally parked cars. Franz knows them all. And they all know him – and are happy to stop for a little chat. Sometimes, his services have even been required as a counsellor. For the Farny Brewery, Franz is something like the ideal “Foreign Minister” and a face which people associate with the beer. Established in 1833, Farny has now, not least because of its live-wire beer truck driver, developed into the market leader for wheat beers in the Lake Constance region, in Upper Swabia and in the Western part of Allgäu. Thirteen beers are brewed in Kißlegg – from the “Maskulator Doppelbock” to the “Alt Dürrener Weiße”. The crystal wheat is Farny's most popular beer, this sort was actually invented here in 1924. “Our crystal wheat is ordered from as far away as Stuttgart,” Alexander Neugebauer, Farny's master brewer, proudly declares.
However, Farny customers do not only fill their glasses down in the valleys, but also high up on the mountains. Steibis at the foot of the 1833 metre-high Hochgrat is the next stop on Franz’s itinerary. From there, the route takes us up to the approx. 1500 metre Farny-owned mountain inn “Falkenhütte” which senior boss Erika Schneider runs together with the next generation of publicans, Baltes and Brigitte Stenzel. The Atego drives past the snow cannons for the ski slopes. “In the winter, there's a blanket of snow here so trucks can't make it up,” says Franz. Even as it is, he has to make his Atego work hard on the narrow path leading up to the cabin. Narrow winding roads. Just a few centimetres beyond the edge of the road, the steep descent is frightening. A few loggers are shifting tree trunks out of the forest with a mobile cable logging system. If it didn't before, now is where the Atego really needs its manoeuvrability and dynamics: when the load area is full, it can shift eight tonnes of weight even up a pass like this one.
In any case, Franz makes a pretty singular impression up on the alpine road “Falken Hädrich”. The reason is, he's actually all on his own up here with his Atego. The road has been closed for other vehicles. Only a few hikers are out and about and they arrive at the cabin thirsty. The last few metres are even steeper. But then Franz arrives, and Brigitte Stenzel is already waiting for him: “As long as there is no snow on the ground, Franz and his colleagues are pure luxury for us because they take the crates straight to the storeroom.” In the winter, the Farny beer comes with the snowmobile: “Then we have to unload each crate ourselves. That's why we start to stock up in the autumn”, says Stenzel, watching Franz unload the crates and barrels by hand. Someone like Franz is more than just a driver and a company representative, he also has to do some lifting. That's part of the job.
However, Franz doesn't have much time to talk today. He has to be on his way. In the valley, there are other pubs waiting for him as well as the beer and the new stories he will bring with him. Franz shifts down to a lower gear. Once again, his gaze scans the magnificent landscape, taking in Lake Constance, then it fans out into the distance; across his Promised Land.
You are a master brewer at Farny's and, apart from brewing, you are also responsible for the company's fleet of trucks including its own workshop. Wouldn't it be more efficient to outsource the transport side of the business?
Alexander Neugebauer (left in the picture): Definitely not. It's through our drivers that we keep contact with our customers. That is tremendously important for us and is certainly one reason why no regional brewery like us would outsource its fleet.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a brewery?
Neugebauer: In Germany people are drinking less and less beer. That means that each brewery is trying to get a share of a pie which is becoming smaller and smaller. For us, as a small regional brewery, it means we have to react intelligently to this trend. That's why, some years ago, we started brewing non-alcoholic and light beers with a low alcohol content, one of which is the only light crystal wheat beer in Germany.
Do modern technology and traditional beer brewing methods really go together?
Neugebauer: Our philosophy at Farny is to offer the customer the best possible product by using modern technology and traditional know-how. That applies both to the brewing equipment which was entirely refitted with stainless steel in 2008, as well as to our fleet of trucks. All 22 vehicles originate from Mercedes-Benz. They range from the Atego, include the Axor and extend up to the Actros.