Since the beginning of the year, the Sägemühle pub in Großenohe in Franconia has only been offering non-alcoholic beers. The story of a rescue.

Kerstin Gößl and Vladimir Kloz in their inn

In the restaurant: owners Gößl and Kloz Photo: Sebastian Lock

Großenohe has a picturesque location. The road passes through a narrow valley, somewhere up there must be the Three Peaks, one of those impressive rock formations that Franconian Switzerland is famous for. Not even 80 people live in these half-timbered houses. A stream gurgles sweetly. When strangers come, they are usually hikers or climbers, hungry in their bellies from outdoor exercise.

There is a stop, the Gasthof zur Sägemühle. In summer you can sit in the beer garden, listen to the stream and the kitten's purr, and rest your eyes on the gentle slopes. The only thing the hiker is missing is a mug filled to the brim with amber country ale from one of the small, owner-operated breweries in the region with the highest density of breweries, at least, in the world. There are almost 30 different varieties on the sawmill's menu, and all of them are alcohol-free.

That's why we are here. Also the colleagues from TV Oberfranken from Bamberg, whose car is in the parking lot. That an inn in the province of Upper Franconia in Franconia no longer serves beer is not only unusual, but for many people it is a provocation. “We have always been different,” says Kerstin Gößl, the boss who has run the sawmill together with her husband Vladimir Kloz since 2019. Gößl gets excited as soon as you ask her a question, attends to the press and takes calls from time to time. She placed the non-alcoholic beers in formation on the counter for the photographer.

She says: Even before the alcohol ban, Sägemühle was a gluten- and lactose-free restaurant with a vegan menu that went beyond fries, making it unique in the area. On weekends, Gößl's day starts at 2am, then the specialized pastry chef bakes cakes and tarts. “They’re all vegan,” she says, “but I don’t write it.” People would never notice that, but if you rub it in their faces, some would complain.

This text comes from Laborable day. Our left-wing weekly! Every week, wochentaz is about the world as it is and as it could be. A left-wing weekly with a voice, attitude and a special vision of the world. New every Saturday on newsstands and of course by subscription.

The sawmill's remote location speaks for, not against, this unique appeal: people need a reason to drive here. Meanwhile, draft beer from a regional brewery was flowing from the tap, despite all the gluten-free schnitzel breading. Until the beginning of this year. When Kerstin Gößl dismantled the faucet to save her business and her husband.

Vladimir Kloz is a stoic, stocky man with dark hair tied in a braid. He's not happy about having to turn off the rock radio at full volume because of the TV crew. Overall, he doesn't seem too impressed by the press hype. Kloz hits the schnitzel with his powerful metal hammer, the Bohemian goulash boils on the stove and the cook is Czech. His wife conducts the interviews, also because of the language. In the early afternoon there are no guests other than the press; Because of the rain, Gößl says that the weather is not good for hiking.

Alcohol had already been a “problem” for her husband. “Corona then added the last. Existential fears, stress…” At some point she opened her first beer after morning coffee, but she ate almost nothing else. She had become a burden on the business and the relationship. She reacted more and more angrily. “Sometimes a plate would fly when she didn't bring the salads fast enough.” She emphasized that he was never violent towards her.

She didn't leave her husband during that time because she knew what he was like when he didn't drink. And because they had just built this together, the inn in the idyll, with a lot of passion. Her husband tried again and again to stop, but he continued sitting in the fountain. In 2023, health problems arose: pain in the organs, nausea, high blood pressure. “A permanent hangover, that's how he described it. She drank early to feel better, it's this cycle that you then fall into.”

Kerstin Gößl did not leave her husband because she knew what he was like without alcohol

On New Year's Day 2024, the sawmill opens at 2:00 p.m. and Vladimir Kloz sits in the kitchen of his brown-and-white-tiled 1970s restaurant and cries. He says like his wife: “Either I stop or tomorrow you take me to the cemetery.” Kerstin Gößl picks up the phone, calls an ambulance and packs her husband's suitcase. She tells the paramedics: “He wants to leave and I don't want him to come home today.”

That was exactly the best start to the year imaginable for her. “I will defeat the demon of alcohol,” Kloz wrote in an apology post on Facebook at the time. She remains in the clinic and leaves for eleven days. Three months is the doctor's recommendation, says Gößl, but then she could have closed the shop immediately. Instead, she saves everything. There shouldn't be a drop left in the sawmill when her husband returns home. Since then, they've been testing non-alcoholic offerings from breweries and winemakers. They are happy and send free products.

A glass of beer and a plate of chips and other food at an inn

It looks like any Franconian economy Photo: Sebastian Lock

Around six in the afternoon, the Hardenberg family arrives at the inn, due to their vegan and alcohol-free daughter-in-law. They traveled from Nuremberg, almost 40 kilometers, to go out to eat together. Goulash and soy schnitzel are served at Gößl. The gluten-free breading of vegan or non-vegan schnitzel is actually crispier and more exciting than wheat flour-based breading, which is often soggy.

The father of the family wants cheese himself from his wife's charcoal. This is also possible here, in the pond in front of the house. No, he explains, he generally doesn't want to give up beer and wine, but on such an occasion it's perfectly fine: “Our Franconian friends,” says the man from northern Germany, “wouldn't take advantage of the offer in the evening.”

In Bavaria, and especially in Franconia, alcohol is an emotional issue, an integral part of culture, sociability and politics. It is glorified, says Gößl, and people forget not only the harm caused by the “worst legal drug”, but also to the people who have to do without it: “The simple smell of stale beer can be a trigger for alcoholics. If I were affected, I would turn around and leave immediately.” He is glad that the sawmill no longer smells like beer and that the counter is no longer stuck together. And when the beer garden is full, like it was on Sunday a week ago, guests end up drinking more: “Then they want to try as many non-alcoholic beers as possible and then they can drive their car. We had record sales.”

With the decision not to consume alcohol, the press came to Großenohe, the news was followed by thousands of comments: the vast majority positive and respectful, among the passionate brewers who announced that they would definitely not go there and predicted bankruptcy. People who had never been to the sawmill were upset, says Gößl. “Anyone who can't avoid drinking alcohol for an hour or three while visiting a pub definitely has a problem. But we still have politicians who say beer is a staple food, I could do it… That's just outdated anymore.”

The Nuremberg family sits down to eat; Father and son drink non-alcoholic beers from small Franconian breweries. It's time for the boss to roll a cigarette. Would the innkeeper of a non-alcoholic beverage store have imagined it?

Kloz searches for words and finds one from Franconia: “Some people say it's a G'schmarri. But negative publicity is also publicity. Why not be the first?” He had flashbacks, sudden reappearances of withdrawal symptoms and had to work on his physical condition; Otherwise, he would be fine. He calls alcohol his “dark personality,” which always had to be fed.

Kerstin Gößl and Vladimir Kloz run the business together. The inn is only open from Friday to Sunday and receives additional income from guests during the holidays and from a small farm shop. Kerstin Gößl spoke and told a lot. She no longer gets nervous when the press arrives at Großenohe. And she feels relieved because she has managed to save what matters most in her heart: “He's relaxed again,” she says. “It works, it works. And he's making fun again. “He is the same as when we met.”

Failed to fetch data from the URL.