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Bamberg and Upper Franconia 2008

Travellers

Paul, Phil, Peter, Dave, Nelly, Chris, Bob, Andy and Martin

Objective

Nelly has been putting together continental beer tours for a number of years and it was Upper Franconia so PV thought why not.

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5 to 9 November

Nelly has been putting together continental beer tours for a number of years and Paul V had often wanted to accompany his group but the trips had always seemed to coincide with the Mengo trips. This year the Nelly trip was later and Paul took the opportunity of going along.

Wednesday

The Channel Tunnel fire had brought a revised Eurostar timetable; one which required catching the 05.16 from Farnborough Main in order to get to Bruxelles in time for the ICE southwards. The four travelling by Eurostar, Paul, Pete, Phil and Dave duly met Nelly at Bruxelles Midi where we had sufficient time to call into the SAS Bar just outside the station for a quick couple of Leffe Blondes before catching the train for Frankfurt. The timetable here was even less amenable but such was the determination of this group we still managed a couple of draught Henninger before travelling on to Nurnberg and our final train of the day to Hirschaid. Unbeknown to the main group, a further two, Chris and Bob travelled on the same train from Nurnberg but we quickly met up at the station.
A short walk brought us to Brauerei-Gasthof Kraus (Luitpoldstrasse 11), which would be our base of operations for this trip. The landlady must have taken a quick dislike to Dave and Paul; the former was dispatched to an annex across the road whilst the latter eventually found his broom cupboard opposite room 4 (it had no number!). Although the room did have a shower, it did not have a toilet, wash basin, table or clothes storage. This would not do. As Nelly had caused the problem by cancelling one room too many, a swap was arranged and Paul settled in to his room with a view of the brewery.
After a quick wash and brush up the group reconvened in the bar which was really buzzing. The cause was a large group who were just staying overnight (and thereby allowing Nelly to move into a ‘normal’ room the next day). The food was typical Franconian fare, pig in any form you could wish. Washed down with the uninspiring house Lagerbier Hell and Vollbier, the meals were quickly demolished. Unfortunately, the back room where we had managed to find a table was becoming unbearably hot and after consulting Bob (who had been in Hirschaid since the weekend) Paul and Nelly set out to try another couple of the town’s bars.
A few minutes walk back towards the station is the Gastatte Schwarzer Bar (Nurnberger Strasse 31). It could not have been more different to Kraus. It was cool and mainly aimed at diners, of whom there were two, but the barmaid happily served us with Krugs of lovely St. Georgen Brau Keller Bier. It must be said that it was better than the Kraus Vollbier.
The only other bar on the list for Hirschaid was Schabernack (Luitpoldstrasse 7a) and on the way there they joined up with a few of the others who were not quite ready for bed. The bar, just back from the road, was a typical Kneiper and only served drinks. There was a respectable choice of draught beers but the Spezial Rauchbier Lager was left for another time and two Rittmayer Hallerndorfer beers, Kellerbier and Hefeweissbier were tried instead. The Kellerbier was as good as the St. Georgen, which did leave the two Kraus beers tried so far someway behind. A good end to a long and tiring day.

Thursday

The weather was very dull but our spirit was undiminished for our first full day of brewery exploration. Although the train journey to Erlangen presented no problems, the plans went awry as soon as we arrived. Leaving the station on the town centre side we were unable to locate the stop for the bus we needed. By the time we found the stop on the other side of the station we had missed the bus.
Fortunately the buses to Neunkirchen am Brand were half hourly and we duly arrived in the town and started searching for an outlet of the town’s brewery, Vasold und Schmitt. The brewery had no listed tap in our two guidebooks but surely there must be quite a few bars in the town selling their beer. Not so! We did eventually find the elusive brew but the bar was closed. Apparently it was school holidays and the owners had decided to join the children and take a day off. Disappointed, we took the next bus to Eschenau Bahnhof and the train to Weissenohe.
After a short walk into the village we arrived at Wirthaus Klosterbrau Weissenohe (Klosterstrasse 20), only to find it closed for the school holidays! A brewery off-sales was located next door and appeared open but there was no one in attendance. A quick tour of the village found no other bar and the group headed back towards the station. However, Paul was not prepared to give up so easily and went back to the brewery off-sales to see if anyone had turned up. After a few shouts, a young woman came out from the brewery. Yes, we could buy some bottled beer and yes we could consume it at the tables outside the Wirthaus.
Collecting the group from the station, we at last managed to have a drink. Both the Klostersud, a light Kellerbier and the Bonifactus Dunkel were very enjoyable and the group were in better spirits when we made our way back to the station and our onward search for breweries.
Grafenberg is a small town at the end of the local line which runs out from north east Nurnberg. As you climb the steep hill out of the station it becomes quite evident why the line finishes here.
Although only a small town, Grafenberg boasts two breweries. Friedmanns Braustuberl (Bayreuther Strasse 14) is a modern take on the old Gasthof and comes complete with new pine tables in the bar area. The smoking room was more traditional with dark panelled walls hung with deer skulls. The draught Frankisches Landbier was disappointingly gassy but the Pils less so and the dark beer, Ritter-Wirnt Trunk, rather nice.
The Brauerei-Gasthof Lindenbrau (Am Bach 3) was a different kettle of fish. A traditional Gasthof it had all the expected furnishings including a very large Kachelofen. Both the Pilsner and Vollbier Dunkel were very good and we were so comfortable we decided to partake of the ‘afternoon’ menu and were not disappointed.
No doubt we could have stayed longer at Lindenbrau but the connecting buses were now less frequent and if we were to fulfil the planned trip we needed to get the 16.10. Waiting at the stop on the main B2 road, an eight seat taxi turned up and enquired into our destination. The driver seemed happy we knew what we were doing and drove off. Shortly afterwards the bus turned up and soon deposited us at the turn off to Hohenschwarz and our kilometre walk into the village. This really was a one horse place and we said hello to him on the way to the brewery.
Brauerei-Gasthof Hofmann (Hohenschwarz 16) turned out to be a large shed in the middle of nowhere. Given its out of the way location, the place was really busy with early evening drinkers. Only one draught is brewed and unfortunately the Dunkels Landbier turned out to be excessively malty and sweet.
The next bus left from the centre of the village and was to take us towards the final planned breweries of the day at Ebermannstadt. We began to get worried when the bus was over ten minutes late and had started back towards Hofmann in the hope of ordering a taxi when one turned up. It was the same driver that we had meet at Grafenberg and he turned out to be running the bus replacement service. Unfortunately, due to his late arrival we had missed the next connection. He would not take us to Ebermannstadt and in the end we agreed to go back to Grafenberg and the train. With a fifty minute wait until the next departure, the taxi driver took pity on us and drove us back to Klosterbrau Weissenohe where we were just in time to sample the rest of the bottled range before the off-sales closed at six.
On the train back into Nurnberg several plans for the rest of the evening were discussed but all of these came to nothing when the train stopped for an hour outside one of the stations. After some to-ing and fro-ing we eventually got underway again, passing a broken down train. The line terminates in the north of Nurnberg and you have to get the S-Bahn to the Hauptbanhof to connect with the main rail network.
We decided on one more stop off before returning to Hirschaid and broke our journey up the main line at Altendorf. The Gaststatte Backstahausla (Am Bahnhof 1) is a rather basic beer house but it is handily located right by the station and serves up the local Lowenbrau (Buttenheim) Ungespundetes Lagerbier. Mengo were rather disappointed with this beer when we visited the Lowenbrau Biergarten, but this example was a really nice beer, one of the best tried that day.
Finally we arrived back at Kraus and tried those draught beers we had not managed to sample the previous day.

Friday

As we were only going to be Dorfing about near Bamberg, an early start was not really needed. However, Paul said he would be going in an hour earlier than planned so that he could visit the model railway shop. Nelly then decided he would be travelling in early as he needed to replenish the grundies lost when his rucksack exploded at Mechelen. Suddenly everyone was going into Bamberg on the early train.
After Paul had bought his model train and Nelly his underpants, we had over an hour before the bus to Drosendorf. There was nothing for it; we might as well go for a drink. As we all know, it may have been 9.45 am but Brauerei-Gasthof Fassla (Obere Konigstrasse 19-21) was already busy. Although some held out until after ten, in the end we all succumbed and tried either or both the Lagerbier and Gold-Pils. They provided a good start to the day.
The bus drops you off right outside Brauerei-Gasthof Goller (Schesslitzer Strasse 7) and we were all seated and selecting our first beer shortly after 11.30. This beer house is a typical 1960’s box of little character. However, the traditionally dressed barmaid was very friendly and made us welcome. The beers were also traditional and both the Lagerbier and Urstoff (Export Pils) were well up to standard. Goller had released its Bock and it would have been rude not to try it. Unfortunately it turned out to be excessively sweet and Paul was rather glad he only tried a small one.
Remembering it was school holidays, we were not surprised the bus to Merkendorf failed to materialise at its appointed time. Still, the walk between the villages is only a couple of kilometres and there is a good path alongside the road.
Although only a relatively short distance, the group soon became strung out along the path and our arrival at Brauerei-Gasthof Hummel (Lindenstrasse 9) was rather staggered. The barmaid became more and more confused; as soon as she returned with the beers ordered, the number of bodies had multiplied, time after time. The brewery is a former winner of ‘The Golden Bell’ and going by the number of tables reserved for the evening, well liked locally. The food was typical fare for the area and everyone enjoyed their various types of pig. Five draught beers were available but only a couple were tried by most; the Kellerbier and the Pils. Both confirmed the brewery’s deserved reputation. It was disappointing no one ventured to try the Cowboy Schwarzbier. This group just did not have the required Frank, instead its Nelly went for the Raucherla, a 5.6% smoked beer.
Although only a village, Merkendorf boasts two breweries and it only takes a few minutes walk to get to Brauereigastatte Wagner (Pointstrasse 1). Located in a modern building, the tap is smaller than Hummel but the brewery itself produces twice as much beer. That it may be the locals favourite was indicated by the numbers already gathered waiting for the ‘hot’ food to be served at 16.30. We had time to try the two draughts available before catching the bus back to Bamberg. First up was the Ungespundetes Lagerbier, dispensed direct from the barrel balanced on the stool behind the bar counter. It was found to be flat, slightly malty and sweet. With its sharper taste, the Marzen was much better.
The bus terminated at Bamberg’s central bus station, which was handy as Paul now wanted to catch the 18 up the hill to Laurenziplatz.
On his previous two visits to Bamberg, Paul had only managed to visit the Brauerei-Gasthof Greifenklau (Laurenziplatz 20) once and then just for one beer as the tap had shut shortly after his arrival. The rest of the group were quite happy to go along and we were soon ensconced in the dining room of the Gasthof. We would have preferred to be in the bar room but this was already packed. Beer selection was made more difficult by the young waitress who pretended not only to not understand English but our German as well. She really was quite strict; a not un-enjoyable experience for the masochists amongst us. The Lagerbier was very pleasant but after so many similar beers it was becoming difficult to detect any distinctions. Fortunately the Weizen proved to be an excellent palette cleaner, nice and creamy but with a sharp aftertaste. After trying the waterfall feature in the gents we moved on.
Downhill is of course much easier and we walked back to the old town centre. Here we split up. Those who had not visited the new brew pub, Ambrausianum (Dominikanerstrasse 10), tried it out, while Paul, Dave and Phil took the opportunity to visit Brauereiausschank Schlenkerla (Dominikanerstrasse 6). As usual Schlenkerla was heaving with beer drinkers and tourists looking for the ‘traditional’ German beer house experience and trying out the world renowned smoked beer. As normal, the Rauchbier Marzen was available from the hatch in the corridor and Phil settled down to enjoy one of his favourite beers. However, the Heller Rauchbier-Urbock was also available and Paul decided to give this deceptively smooth 6.5% knee trembler another go. It was lovely.
Nelly called in to say he had ordered a taxi to take us across town and meet up with the final two members of the tour.
We duly found Andy and Martin in Brauereigastatte Keesmann (Wunderburg 5) lurking in the corridor as the bar was packed. They had already entered into the spirit of the place. Although Keesmann might lack some of the traditional beer house trappings, it does produce one of the city’s best beers and the Bamberger Herren-Pils did not disappoint; a lovely smooth beer. Coming in November began to show a distinct advantage over early October, as Keesmann had also released its Bock. It turned out to be almost as light in colour as the Pils and proved to be just as smooth, if some 2% stronger, weighing in at 6.4%. Somewhat confusingly, the toilets had been moved and a new block installed. This must have been the fifth place with new toilets visited that day and one wondered whether there was a EU grant they had tapped into.
Just across the road is the Brauereiausschank Mahrs-Brau (Wunderburg 10); as traditional as Schlenkerla but with a much more friendly atmosphere. We were fortunate to find a table large enough to accommodate us all and were soon trying out the Ungespundetes served up by a well-corseted waitress. This ‘un-bunged’ was different to Wagner’s, livelier and fuller in taste. The Bock had to be tried and proved to be another deceptively smooth 6.5% offering.
It was probably here we learnt the sad news that one of Bamberg’s breweries had recently shut. Maisel (Moosstasse 46) was no longer brewing and the Keller was serving Fassla beers. Oh well, Bamberg is back to only ten breweries.
As settled as we were, Nelly was keen to get back to Hirschaid as Kraus was releasing its bock this evening. This being Martin’s first visit to Bamberg, Andy was keener to show him a few of the other breweries and they decided to walk into the old town. Paul was also less than keen to dive into the undoubted crowds at Kraus and elected to go with the breakaways.
Paul left Andy and Martin heading for Schlenkerla and made his way to Brauerei-Gasthof Spezial (Obere Konigstrasse 10). This is the other producer of smoked beer in Bamberg, and for many, including the two ladies whose table Paul crashed, the better of the two. The large friendly waitress, who so enjoyed Tel’s request for some U’err, was still there and Paul soon had a lovely Rauchbier Lager before him. After the crowding in the other beer houses, the Spezial was surprisingly less than full. His new companions explained the reason; the brewery’s Bock had been unveiled at the Spezial Keller the day before and everyone else was up there. The Rauchbier Bock was, of course, available at the Gasthof and it would have been rude etc.
Paul met up with Andy and Martin at the Bahnhof in time for the last train back to Hirschaid. Arriving at Kraus shortly after midnight the Gasthof was still busy but not full and the others were nowhere to be seen. In for one Bock, in for six. The splinter group were just trying the Kraus version when the rest returned. Whilst the rest continued on to their beds, Nelly stopped off for a beer. It seems that when they arrived back both the Gasthof and brewery yard were so packed it was impossible to get a beer and so they went next door to Schabernack. Our little group were soon joined by some locals keen to practise their English and one of them very generously paid our bar tab. The Kraus proved to be one Bock too far for Paul and he retired drunk.

Saturday

After breakfast we gathered together at Kraus for our tour of the brewery. Unfortunately, after the Bock celebrations of the night before, the brewer was still in bed and the staff did not think he would be up before noon. Most then went for a stroll around the town although some did discover the willing young woman in charge of the Tourist Information shop and spent a pleasant hour looking at her maps.
The afternoon was set aside for visiting breweries not easily accessible by public transport and to facilitate this Nelly had booked a twenty seat bus. Reconvening at Kraus shortly before midday some enjoyed a beer while one went for a coffee. It being Germany, the bus driver turned up at the arranged time of 12 o’clock and we were off to our first port of call.
Robersdorf is only a short distance from Hirschaid and we were soon seated in Brauereigastatte Weber (Ringstrasse 46). The place was rather too clinical but the Landbier Hell was as traditional as they come; hoppy and not too sweet. After parking the bus, Peter joined us for a drink. Today he would limit himself to apple juice but did admit to being rather jealous of our intentions. Still he did comfort himself with the memory of his Thursday evening at the Spezial Keller enjoying his favourite Bock.
Rejoining the bus we set off along the valley of the Reiche Ebrach which we would follow all the way to Schlusselfeld. Crossed by the road several times, a railway line also follows the valley to Schlusselfeld but unfortunately this is now freight only. Even Germany had its Beeching and so now you have to take to the motor to visit these breweries instead of letting the train take the strain.
Next up was perhaps the most authentic Gasthof visited this trip. Located in the small village of Herrnsdorf, Brauereigastatte Barnikel (Dorfstrasse 5) was founded in 1314 and although they have rebuilt the Gasthof, you still feel you have stepped back several centuries when you enter. The bar room was dark, even with the lights on, wooden floored and with well used furniture. In the middle of the floor was an unguarded wood burning stove. They obviously take Health and Safety seriously here. The beer was dispensed from a small adjoining room. The barmaid was a little taken aback to have a coach party arrive so early on a Saturday afternoon but quickly rallied and brought out the Lagerbier. Despite its heritage, the beer was slightly disappointing, rather sweet and flowery for most of our taste.
Nestling next to the church in the small village of Sambach, Brauerei-Gasthof Hennemann (Sambach 33) is quite a young brewery, compared to Barnikel, being founded as recently as 1780. The beer house is probably newer and the interior looked recently refurbished. Clean and airy, you again had a ‘neu’ Gasthof. Two draught beers were available, Lagerbier and Zwickelbier, and the latter was found to be deliciously sharp.
The afternoon was moving on and so did we to Elsendorf. The Landgasthof Strernbrau (Braugasse 2) is a large place with extensive accommodation and is obviously the centre of village life. The Evang. Posaunenchor brass band was practising in a side room when we called. They stopped shortly after our arrival (had we put them off?) and adjourned to the bar room for a break. The three draughts available were Hell, Pilsner and Kellerbier-Dunkel. The landlady came to talk to us and made a valiant attempt to describe the beers, but something must have been lost in translation as she informed us the Pilsner was four times unfiltered! It was actually a very enjoyable unfiltered soft beer with no gas. The Hell was also quite tasty but the outstanding beer was undoubtedly the Kellerbier-Dunkel. Altogether a very friendly place.
During our rather stilted conversation with the landlady she also mentioned our next planned brewery, Scheubel at Possenfelden, had recently closed down and so it was straight onto the end of the line at Schlusselfeld.
As Schlusselfeld is actually a small town, it boasts two breweries. First up was the Brauereiausschank Stern-Brau (Kirkplatz 12) whose brewer is Gunther Scheubel and perhaps a relative of Georg who brewed at Possenfelden. The tap was actually closed when we arrived but the family were having a drink in the bar themselves and invited us to join them. The Vollbier Hell was a typical example of the genre but the Festbier Dunkel was all the better for a touch of smoke.
We thanked the family and left them to their Saturday afternoon Ruhetag and moved on to Brauerei-Gasthof Schwarzer Adler (Markplatz 6). This is a large, many roomed beer house in the town centre, run by a young couple. The landlord is the brewer’s nephew and, although trained at Weihenstephan, is not yet allowed to brew their Vollbier. Halfway through the first round the barrel ran dry and, after a short wait, the lucky ones got an exceptionally fresh beer. It was well worth the wait as the beer was top quality, one of the best tried. So we had another.
During our visit to Adler, Peter had also been chatting to the landlord and they suggested we visit a brewery not considered by ourselves. Would we like to go? Of course we would. At last leaving the valley of the Reiche Ebrach, we headed north to the B22 and the hamlet of Monchsambach.
It was dark when we arrived, so it was difficult to assess the exterior of Brauereigastatte Zehendner (Monchsambach 18) and as we also failed to gain access to the main bar (due to a private party) cannot comment on that either. We ended up in a large shed at the rear, which was surprisingly busy given our location in the middle of nowhere.
However, the young brewer/owner was working in the shed and, after he served us with Krugs, sat down for a chat. Stefan was extremely enthusiastic about beer in general and his beer in particular and was keen to know what we thought. We were trying the Ungespundetes Lagerbier, which had little gas and a very smooth malt taste. It was one of the better beers tried this day and Stefan was pleased to hear us say so. It soon became clear why the beer was so good; he had been trained at Spezial in Bamberg.
We decided to stay for another and a bite to eat. As we had already gone past the booked finish time of 6.00 pm Nelly suggested soup would be quick. Peter the Driver took a different view and, as he ordered the sausages, Paul did too. It seemed Peter was very relaxed about the finish time and agreed an extension.
The next destination was at Bob’s request. Many years ago he had called at Burgebrach and fondly remembered the pub there as having some excellent beer. Brauerei-Gasthof Schwan (Hauptstrasse 16) is a large imposing building in the centre of the village. Although the brewery dates from 1488, the interior of the Gasthof is firmly set in the 1930’s with heavily embossed wallpaper, wood panelling and granite flooring. The owners also had a penchant for displays of pumpkins. Was the beer as good as Bob said? Fortunately he was not wrong; the Pils was truly excellent.
Now heading back towards Hirschaid, we left the main road for a cross country trip to the small village of Untergreuth and Brauerei-Gasthof Buttner (Untergreuth 8). A family was just leaving when we arrived. The husband, discovering we were English and on a beer tour, appeared to want to come back in with us and try out his English and drinking but the wife was not so keen and he eventually disappeared into their car. The small bar was packed but everyone moved around so we could be accommodated on one table. The beer house was in the old traditional style but the pretty young serving girl was a much more modern miss and quickly brought us the one draught beer available. The Vollbier Hell had no gas and was noted as quite outstanding. A very friendly place.
Leaving Buttner some thought it was all over, but Nelly had other ideas. As he pointed out, it is not often you have the use of your own bus and willing driver and he would now like to visit one of his favourite out of the way pubs.
So it was off over the Main-Donau Kanal to Eggolsheim and another one beer brew-house Brauerei-Gasthof Schwarzes Kreuz (Hauptstrasse 33). After the hustle and bustle of the last few bars this one was rather quiet but no less friendly and the Dunkles Vollbier a refreshing change to the recent Hells and Pils.
After one or maybe two we did at last make our way back to Hirschaid arriving shortly before nine. Peter considered the extra charge for the late finish and came up with €370. Nelly gave him €400 and profuse thanks. Peter gave Paul a suggestion for a 14 brewery bus tour and his business card.
Despite the long day it was unfortunately too early to go to bed and after a Hirchentrunk in Kraus we ended up next door at Schabernack for our farewell to Hirschaid.

Sunday

Some of us were a bit worse for wear at breakfast but everyone made it down. Andy and Martin were the first to leave; they were continuing their German holiday with a visit to the Harz Mountains. Chris set off for his journey home via Paris and the rest of us for Bruxelles.
Our journey back took us via Köln and an hour between trains. Just enough time to sample a few quick Kolsch in their new tap Gaffel am Dom (Bahnhofsvorplatz 1) and some Dom Kolsch at the Premier Sportbar in the station. The sharp beers of Köln provided a nice change to the soft beers of Franconia and a good end to a very enjoyable trip.


Created on 01/05/2009 09:13 PM by drinking
Updated on 01/05/2009 10:04 PM by drinking
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