The email from a colleague arrived around 6. He had heard, via the Olympic grapevine, that Saxony House is so popular they’d run out of beer. What? A German pavilion without beer? So as Maclean’s intrepid party/Pilsner reporter, I hoofed it over to Stanley Park’s Vancouver Rowing Club—which has turned the space over for the Olympics—to investigate. My interrogation began with two staff in the main party room, where a band played Omp-pah-pah and Dire Straights covers and patrons were downing plenty of liquid barley. The line of questioning seemed to amuse them. “Are you a spy?” one of them asked. “She’s a spy!” the other declared.
Undeterred, I worked my way into the VIP lounge for the lowdown—and some fabulous sausage smeared in Saxony mustard (like Dijon, only more mellow). As it turns out, the rumour is true. Last Friday night, they exhausted the 270 kegs of Wernesgruner pilsner they’d imported, forcing beer-drinkers (i.e., everybody) to switch to Kostritzer, a dark beer for a few hours, Antje Rennack, assistant to the managing director, revealed. But the next day, another shipment arrived.
Mystery solved. But by this time I was enjoying myself nobbing among the Saxony VIPs, finding out more about the German state, and taking in the lovely views of English Bay. Since they can’t legally import sausage, a father-and-son team from Saxony (part of the VIP contingent) make it daily at a local German butcher using imported spices. They expect to go through two tons by the Games’ end.
Saxony House’s managing director Hans-Jürgen Goller arrived to field more questions. He’s been planning for the Olympics for three and a half years, he said. His first choice for a headquarters was the Roundhouse in Yaletown, now home to Casa Italia, but he wasn’t sure he could fill it nightly. Then there was a wrangle with the IOC over the fact that Saxony is not an IOC member.
But he seems happy where he is. The crowd is 90 per cent Canadian, 30 per cent of them of German origin, and 10 per cent German tourists. Usually there are line-ups. It’s far quieter on nights when Canada’s men’s hockey team plays, he says. “Canadian fans tend to stay in the city core. They want to be alone.”
He says one of the reasons Saxony set up at the Games is to stir awareness. Apparently it’s not yet on tourists’ radar. That’s a shame. If Saxony House is any indication, the actual place must be a blast.