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.

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.


Bamberg smells nice

We’re all used to judging the aroma of the beer we’re enjoying, but it’s rare to be able to enjoy the aroma of the town where it’s being made. Bamberg is fairly small and so dominated by brewing that the very air is full of it.

When they’re making Rauchbier, the air fills with the smell of smoke, making a summer evening feel rather autumnal.

At the other end of town within sniffing distance of the colossal Weyermann malting plant, every time the breeze blows there’s a powerful scent of toasting, sugary grains in the air.

Makes you thirsty.

The Session

The Session #15: seeing the light

Versión castellana

It’s January, not many winters ago. We’re in the Altstadthof, a brewpub in Nuremberg, and we’ve just decided that the “Rothes” beer we’ve just drunk three pints of is the best beer we’ve ever tasted. We look at each other and decide we’ve fallen in love with beer.

We decide we want to learn more about it — how can the “lager” we’ve been told is the root of all evil be so wonderfully varied? How do they make this amazing stuff? And so an obsession is born from a brief winter holiday.

We picked Nuremberg for a destination as (a) the flights were incredibly cheap (b) it seemed like an interesting place, especially if you like history and central European winters. I also booked a few days “surprise” holiday in the lovely Hotel Nepomuk in Bamberg, as a birthday treat for Bailey. I chose Bamberg because I’d heard it was pretty, and had a recommendation for the hotel in question. (It’s a classy joint — fellow beer-blogger Evan Rail celebrated his honeymoon there recently.)

So we planned a trip to the beer mecca that is Franconia, without beer being a motivation, and without really knowing much about beer at all. I’m not saying we’re experts now, but at the time we didn’t know our Dunkel from our Dunkel-Weiss, and nor did we care. In those days we drank real ale, but also “normal” lager. We weren’t sufficiently interested in beer to pick a pub on the basis of it, let alone a holiday destination.

That changed with this holiday.

We noted from the guidebook that Bamberg was famous for its breweries, and that people visited from all over the world to try the products from the nine (or is it ten? or eight?) breweries. That’ll be fun, we thought, gives us something to do. The rest is a bit of a blurry haze — I couldn’t tell you which ones we visited without seeing them again (at least two were shut) or what beers we liked. I remember Rauchbier, but I don’t think I liked it particularly at the time. I remember being surprised and bewildered by the different names and types of beer, and trying to work out what the difference was between a pils and a helles.

By the time we got back to Nuremberg, we were eager to try everything we could get our hands on. Then came the afternoon in the Alstadthof, and we were hooked.

We’re going back to Nuremberg and Bamberg in a couple of months, armed with a bit more knowledge. We’ve already been back to the Alstadthof, and the Rothes is still our favourite beer in the world.

For more on drinking in Nuremberg, see our post from June last year.

For the session announcement, see here. Let us know about your entry by leaving us a comment here or sending us an email – boakandbailey “at” gmail “dot” com


The Session

The Session #15: Cuando vimos la luz

Enero, no hace muchos años. Estamos en el Altstadthof, un brewpub en Nuremberg, y hemos decidido que su “Rothes” es la mejor cerveza que hemos probado en todo el mundo.

Decidimos que queremos aprender más sobre ella – ¿cómo pueden los “lagers” tener tanto sabor y variedad? ¿Cómo se elabora esta cosa maravillosa? Así nació una obsesión, desde unas breves vacaciones de invierno.

Escogimos Nuremberg como un destino porque (a) los vuelos fueron increíblemente baratos (b) parecía un lugar interesante, sobre todo si te gusta la historia y los inviernos de Europa central. Ademas, yo organicé unos días en Bamberg, para un regalo para Bailey. Yo había eligido Bamberg porque había escuchado que era bonito, y porque tenía una recomendación para el hotel “St Nepomuk”. (Por cierto, nuestro compañero de beer-blogging, Evan Rail, celebró su luna de miel allí hace poco.) Este artículo continua…