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News, Nuggets & Longreads 3 September 2016: Blokes and Books

This week, we’ve mostly been enjoying profiles of blokes who brew, blokes talking about themselves, and obituaries of blokes who have died, along with a bit of navel-gazing about beer writing.

For Good Beer Hunting Kyle Kastranec (@Beer_Notes) profiles a reluctant businessman who doesn’t seem to particularly enjoy the success is his brewery is experiencing:

At some point during my time with Henry Nguyen, he looked me dead in the eye and said, “I’m not a person that was meant to own a business.”

He’s right. He’s also anxious, neurotic, and indecisive. He’s attention-averse. He’s not even all that interested in making money.


Painted Mahr's sign on a wall in Bamberg.

Another brewer profile, this time by Will Hawkes (@Will_Hawkes) for All About Beer, highlights a tension between trend and tradition in German brewing which is finding an outlet in the person of Stephan Michel of Mahr’s in Bamberg:

“I am Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde!” he admits, laughing. “I have the traditional thing and then I have the rock and roll thing on the other side.” Mahr’s Bräu, which is imported into the U.S. by Shelton Brothers, is very traditional: the brewery focuses on two beers, the dark amber Ungespundet… and pale Hell (although others are brewed)… But then there are the snappily-designed t-shirts and rockabilly concerts at the brewery, the 250-mL bottles… and the suggestion that he might soon start canning his beers.

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beer reviews bottled beer Germany

Magical Mystery Pour #8: Aus Bayern

Magical Mystery Pour logo.We finally found time to sit down and enjoy the final batch of beers suggested to us by Joe Stange, all three of which are from Bavaria, and two of which we’ve had before in one form or another.

We bought them from Beers of Europe and they were all in 500ml bottles:

  • Keesman Herren Pils, Bamberg, 4.8% ABV, £2.09
  • Ayinger Jahrhundertbier, Aying, 5.5%, £2.39
  • Weltenburger Asam Bock, Weltenburg, 6.9%, £2.69

Glass of pale golden beer. Of Herren Pils Joe says:

Repeat visitors to Bamberg typically go through their Rauchbier and Ungespundet phases before they emerge from their pupas as beautiful Herren-swilling butterflies. (And then, weirdly, the phases start over again.) There are times when I drink this and decide it’s my favorite beer in Germany.

We poured it into one of our favourite Pilsner Urquell mugs (Boak’s proudest moment is mangling Polish into Czech to negotiate the purchase in a pub in Prague) where it looked very pretty and very pale. The head, as you can see from the picture above, was very well behaved.

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breweries Franconia Germany

Where is the British Bamberg?

The other day, we asked if there was a beer equivalent of Hay-on-Wye and, pondering the responses, we began to wonder if our question was the right one.

Steve Lamond suggested York as a candidate. One of the things we love about York is that, unlike most British towns and cities, it has a bona fide walled Altstadt, within which, crucially, most of its good beer is easy to find on foot, with no need for trams, buses or trains, or worrying walks through industrial estates. So, yes, York could be a British Bamberg, if not a Hay-on-Wye.

Of course, another thing that defines Bamberg is just how dominated the landscape is by brewing: Weyermann’s maltings loom on the skyline and the air is filled with the smell of brewing. We were reminded of this on arriving in St Austell on Thursday, getting off the train to be struck by an almost overpowering smell of stewed hops and sweet wort on the wind. The brewery building sits on a hill overlooking the town taking a place which, in other towns, would be occupied by a Norman castle.

It might only have one brewery, and scarcely any pubs of note, but it is a beer town through and through.

The St Austell visitor centre bar is the best place in Cornwall to get a wide range of their beers in good condition (but still no Black Prince mild). We enjoyed Raspberry Porter, brewed by Roger Ryman on his small experimental kit, and reminiscent of the fruit beers from Saltaire.

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Germany

Dull beer

We’ve all had one of these from time to time:

Label from a bottle of Dull Bier

As photographed on the wall of a Bamberg pub.

Categories
breweries Franconia pubs

Bamberg revisited

You don’t need us to tell you about the pubs in Bamberg. I’m sure you’ve all “been there, done that”, and if not, you’re planning to.

That said, I don’t think you could ever “do” Bamberg. If you stuck to just “doing” the brewery taps, you’d miss out on lovely cosy pubs and idyllic beer gardens in and around the town. Then there are all the pubs with brews from nearby villages, then day trips to places like Buttenheim, Forchheim, Eggolsheim… then the hundreds of pubs in surrounding villages.

We don’t want to bore you with all the beers we had in Bamberg this time round, but here are our top five drinking experiences, in no particular order.

1. Lunch at Griefenklau Greifenklau

You don’t hear much about Griefenklau Greifenklau – I don’t think I’ve seen their livery outside of their outlet on Laurentziplatz. We suspect the locals want to keep this one to themselves. It’s a fair hike up a hill, but definitely worth it, as the beer garden is beautiful, with great views across the wood to the Altenburg. It’s a very mixed crowd, from grandparents with children to business people. The beer is very fresh and satisfying. Possibly not the most complex in town, but with a garden like this, who cares?

A similarly beautiful spot is the Spezial Bier-Garten on Steinwartstrasse (listed in the Bavaria Lonely Planet guide). You can’t beat this place for the view across town, especially at twilight. The beer itself is very subtle –- you only notice the smoke flavour when it warms up a bit. And they don’t do the full range of Spezial beers — you need to go to the outlet on Obere Koenigstrasse for that.

2. Mahrs Brau Ungespundete

This was the first beer of the holiday that made our eyes pop out and caused us to make ‘mmmmm’ noises (perhaps we’re getting jaded?). It’s copper coloured and extremely fruity, with peaches, cherries, cloves and liquorice. There’s a good hop flavour as it goes down, which balances the roastiness and oakiness. They also do a lovely weizen, which is (without being advertised as such) a bit smoky.

3. Reacquainting ourselves with Schlenkerla

We’ve been drinking Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Maerzen from bottles in London during the last year or two and, although we always enjoy it, it sometimes seems a bit one-dimensional. Not as fresh as it is from the tap, where the crazy smokiness is just one flavour beautifully balanced with a lot of others. We sat outside under a tree, listening to a university orchestra rehearsing in a nearby building, and sighed with contentment.

4. Discovering Keesmann Stern-la

Keesmann are another brewery we’d not heard much about. Their beers are on the commercial side — a bit ‘cleaner’, maybe — but we were very impressed by Stern-la. It’s an unfiltered lager but was very clear in the glass and a dark golden colour, with a lot of sweet malt flavour. We’d expected something as rubbish as, say, Ingolstadt’s Ingobrau and it’s always a treat to be pleasantly surprised.

5. Afternoon session at Klosterbrau

You know how much difference a pleasant waiter can make? Our waitress on the sunny afternoon we spent here was great. “Nice beer?” she asked with a smile as we swooned over the seasonal bock. “Yes!” we said. She smiled and looked delighted. “All is well with the world,” we said to each other several times. Although the bock might have had something to do with that, too.
Notes

As is usually the case, Ron‘s guide to Bamberg pubs is a great place to start researching your own crawls. Links have been included where appropriate, but neither Keesmann nor Griefenklau Greifenklau seem to have a homepage. UPDATED. Griefenklau don’t have a homepage but Greifenklau do.