Bitburger Brauerei Th. Simon GmbH

Leaving Luxembourg I cross back over into Germany to the town of Bitburg, home to Bitburger Brauerei, Germany's third biggest beer brewer with revenues in 1997 of 670 million DM. Bitburg, with a population of 12,000, is a beautiful little place surrounded by rolling farmland. Part of lure here might have to do with its relative isolation-no major roads or rail lines pass through the area.

Beer companies are fun to visit and I usually receive a warm welcome. It might have something to do with the fact that their industry is generally sharp at marketing and public relations.

Boy, it's a piece of cake finding Bitburger's office/brewery complex because the main road running through town passes right by it. Then again, it's the only road that goes through town. It's a great looking complex with century-old buildings blending in with new ones. There's a turn-of-the-century pub/restaurant near the entrance along with a wide array of brightly colored flowers planted in flowerbeds, which obviously means this place is set-up for tourists to drop in.

Checking in with the receptionist I learn they haven't a clue as to who I am. Seems they didn't receive my letter of introduction which seems odd considering I addressed it to the correct post office box here in tiny Bitburg. I'm told to wait while they try finding someone to meet with me.

Off to the side of the reception area is a good-sized room selling Bitburger paraphernalia to visitors. It contains the usual objects such shirts, pens, drinking glasses and so on, all of course with the Bitburger name on them. Some of the items have the words "Bitte ein Bit" stamped on them. Traveling around Germany I've been seeing Bitburger advertisements featuring those words and always wondered what it meant. I ask and find out it translates to "a Bit please" and it's the best-known beer slogan in Germany.

The most unusual item in the reception area is the brand new Mercedes convertible sports car. I ask the receptionist, "What's with the car in the middle of the room?" It seems Bitburger has been running a contest and a woman recently won the car. Matter of fact, in about an hour the lucky woman as well as the local press corps will arrive here for the official presentation by company officials.

There's no such fanfare for me as I'm met by Winfried Welter and Margrit Mertes from the company's Export department. I appreciate them meeting with me on such short notice but the visit lasts all of 10 minutes. No tour of the buildings, not even an offer to have a beer. Boy, these two definitely aren't from marketing or public relations. I make my way to this out-of-the-way place, come upon this cool headquarters complex and am in and out in 10 minutes. What a disappointment.

How long has Bitburger been on this site? Since its founding in 1817. About 300 employees work in the half-dozen buildings. Beer isn't brewed here anymore though, not since they built a new modern brewery several miles away. I can't see the CEO's third floor corner office or boardroom in the five-story administration building because "it isn't possible". The nearest airport (Luxembourg City) lies 30 miles away and the nearest freeway 15 miles. Perks? How about each employee gets 10 cases of free beer a month.

A definite highlight to this visit was my riding 10 miles out of town and unexpectedly coming upon the town of "Wolsfeld", which is my last name. My grandfather passed away over 10 years ago but I remember asking about our "roots" and being told his father was from the Luxembourg area. Hey, Wolsfeld lies only about 10 miles from the Luxembourg/German border. So, what's the story on this town? Well, it isn't exactly a town; it's more like a farming village of about 400 people. There's no traffic lights, no gas station-not even a grocery store. I check out the two church cemeteries looking for family plots but come up with zilch. I stop in at restaurant (there're two here) and ask the bartender questions. The bartender speaks little English but a couple from England are sitting nearby and the man volunteers to translates for me since he speaks German. I tell the English couple about not finding any Wolsfeld graves and the man explains to me a possible reason why. Most immigrants coming to Ellis Island couldn't speak English and when asked their name, many a time would answer with the name of the town they were from. Boy, hearing that sure deflated my elation. Oh well, I end up snapping several dozens pictures with my camera along with buying a dozen postcards from the restaurant (to mail to family members).