Sheep, storks and slow food Stiftsgut Wilhelmsglücksbrunn

Stiftsgut Wilhelmsglücksbrunn

Where might you encounter three stork nests, a llama and an award-winning blue cheese? At the idyllic Wilhelmsglücksbrunn in western Thuringia, of course.

Where might you encounter three stork nests, a llama and an award-winning blue cheese? At the idyllic Wilhelmsglücksbrunn in western Thuringia, of course. Stiftsgut Wilhelmsglücksbrunn is located very close to the border with Hessen and comprises an organic hotel, a slow-food restaurant and a certified organic farm. 

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Now that the Stiftsgut has been renovated, it’s hard to imagine that it was essentially a ruin 25 years ago. ©Florian Held, TTG

In 1997, work began on converting the Stiftsgut, which was completely derelict at the time, into an organic farm. It has always been a disability-friendly operation, and the Karsten family has been closely involved from the outset. Hardy and hairy Galloway cattle were brought in, as well as a herd of Lacaune sheep from the south of France, renowned for their high milk production. Water buffalo inhabit the boggy areas around the farm, their long tails swishing back and forth in a constant monotone. It almost feels like Asia.

The restaurant, the hotel and the organic shop and cheese dairy were added later. Organically grown and produced ingredients are used throughout the Stiftsgut.

We have picked a glorious summer’s day to visit, and we can feel ourselves relax as we drive the short distance from the main road to the farm. To the right of the access road we spot the first Galloways dotted around the hilly countryside. Countless cyclists pass us in the other direction, as Wilhelmsglücksbrunn lies on the Werra Valley Cycle Route. I immediately feel like I’m on holiday.

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We join some cyclists relaxing in the beer garden by the pond. ©Mira Held, TTG

We are greeted by Mrs Karsten and by the noise of a stork living on the roof of the main building. And it’s not the only one. Two other stork families have also made the farm their home. Looking around, I’m not surprised they like it here. In front of the main building, the beer garden’s tables extend all the way down to a terrace overlooking a pond. On the right there’s a well-stocked organic shop, while the stables on the left have been converted into holiday lets. Hotel rooms are available in a further building.

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The cheeses need a lot of looking after, and are turned and bathed every day. ©Mira Held, TTG

We visit the cheese dairy first, where Philip Gräfenhahn is putting the finishing touches to his current batch. He turns the fresh cheeses with great skill. “I make fresh cheese every two days. Today, I’m making a semi-hard cheese with fenugreek. I just need to turn it once more and then it’s ready for the brine bath.” Before its bath time, Philip shows us the ripening rooms where the cheeses are stored at various temperatures. The washed-rind cheese ages for four weeks, the semi-hard cheese for six to eight weeks, and the Creuzburger pecorino for a whole twelve to 16 months. The range on sale also includes cream cheese, brined cheese and hard cheese. They are all available in the organic shop and in the restaurant, of course. 

When Philip isn’t making cheese, he makes ice cream using sheep’s milk. “It’s great! The milk arrives fresh first thing in the morning as the sheep are only over there. Then I pump the milk across and either start making cheese or ice cream, depending on what is needed that day.” If you think that sheep’s milk ice cream will taste too, well, sheep-y, you’re wrong. In fact, it is lovely and creamy.

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Cheese galore in Wilhelmsglücksbrunn. ©Florian Held, TTG

“It’s all about smell, taste and touch,” says Philip. “This is miles away from the job I used to have at a large dairy where everything was automated.”

Talking of taste, it’s time for us to head over to the shop and try some of the cheeses we’ve been talking about. The pecorino is milder than expected and also pleasingly creamy, as is the semi-hard cheese. We’re eager to try the Creuzburger Blaue, which won an award at the Biocaseus competition in Italy. It’s an aromatic blue cheese that simply melts on the tongue. No hint of sharpness like you often get with Gorgonzola, instead it’s a creamy delight that I must have on my next cheese platter. It’s interesting to note that the milk from Lacaune sheep is traditionally used to make Roquefort, which explains why the Creuzburger Blaue has some similarities.

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Spot the odd one out! The llama is part of the flock of sheep and protects it from the big bad wolf. ©Mira Held, TTG

Before we continue our rounds of the Stiftsgut, it’s time to pay a visit to the sheep. All year round, they divide their time between the open stable and the meadow, living together with a llama. Why? Because the llama protects them from wolves. In the event of an attack, it will fearlessly set upon the wolf, sounding the alarm, kicking out and spitting, of course. Llamas have been used to protect herds against prairie dogs and pumas in the US for decades, but they are quite a novelty in Germany. “That’s the way organic farming methods are sometimes,” says Mrs Karsten with a shrug.

At the end of our tour, we grab a slice of the popular poppy seed cake, an affogato coffee with sheep’s milk ice cream, and a whey and yoghurt drink. The Stiftsgut employs a pastry chef who bakes their traditional Thuringian sheet cakes. These are very popular with the many cyclists taking a break in the beer garden, and we love them too. I’m not really a fan of poppy seeds or raisins, but I have to admit that the cake is delicious. The whey drink and the sheep’s milk affogato are also great.

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The choice of food served in the beer garden ranges from lamb fillet to bratwurst. ©Mira Held, TTG

Refreshed after our coffee break, we head off on a long walk around the Stiftsgut and check out the water buffalo. Afterwards, we make for the beer garden by the pond, where we settle down to enjoy the evening sun. They serve Rother-Bräu here, a beer made by a family-run brewery in the Rhön hills, as well as all manner of Stiftsgut specialities.

We order the water buffalo stew, baked sheep’s cheese, the lamb fillet and the CreuzBurger, which has a buffalo and Galloway beef patty. This is textbook slow food. It is really satisfying to see how many dishes are based on the Stiftsgut’s own or locally sourced ingredients. All food served in the restaurant is organic.

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In the distance you can see some Galloway cattle enjoying the views. ©Mira Held, TTG

Flo and I tuck into one last scoop of that delicious sheep’s milk ice cream before we make our way back to Erfurt. It’s a pity that we didn’t book one of the rooms in the hotel.

 

Information at a glance:

The restaurant is open daily from noon until 10pm in the summer. Booking is essential in the winter. The organic shop is open Wednesdays to Saturdays from 10am to 6pm. You can also buy lamb, water buffalo and Galloway beef from the farm here. Stiftsgut Wilhelmsglücksbrunn has seven holiday lets and 20 hotel rooms.

 

Unsere Genussexperten

Mira and Flo from the blog "How To Gourmet" are two real Thuringians and gourmets. With them, we discover culinary beacons in Thuringia. Enjoyment stories, wherever you look. They look for new impressions and delicacies at every opportunity, which they present on their blog "How to Gourmet".

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