Ray, Paul, Michael, Frank, Trev, Terry, Dave and Martin
Visit Bamburg’s wealth of breweries. Fasla, Griefenklau, Heller, Keesman, Klosterbrau, Mahrs, Maisel, Spezial and Stubla
The Hole in the Wall, Fassla, kolsch, Spezial, Mahrs Brau, Brauerei Keesman, Herren Pils, Brauerei Heller, Schlenkerla, Klosterbrau, Burgerbrau Stubla, Schwarzla, St. Georgen (Butternheim)
With a 12-hour journey ahead of us, an early start deprived us of our customary farewell to English beer at The Hole in the Wall, but the group soon made up for the deprivation once aboard the Eurostar. It was indeed fortunate we managed a couple on the way to Bruxelles as the train was late arriving and we had barely enough time to get through passport control and catch our connection, and certainly not long enough for a beer! Drastic action was required so we bought the entire stock of beer carried on the Inter City to Koln. The train to Koln arrived on time and the expected hour wait for the ICE enabled us to visit Fruh am Dom for a few kolsch. Only brewed in Koln, the kolsch went down very nicely and earmarked the city for a longer visit. The ICE from Koln to Wurtzburg followed the Rhine valley with its spectacular scenery. It was just as well we had had the diversion in Koln, as the pils served on the train was appalling! The ICE arrived late for our final change at Wurtzburg but the local train to Bamberg was held to allow the connection to the last lap to Bamberg seemed to take forever but eventually the tired group arrived for the short walk from the station to our accommodation- the Fassla. After freshening up it was time to meet in the bar and plan our survey of the breweries and bars of Bamberg. But, where to start?
1) Braueriegaststatte Fassla: (Ob. Konigstrasse 19). Our guesthouse also happened to be one of the nine surviving Bamberg breweries. Dating from 1649, the Fassla had a major refit in the 1980’s but still retained its traditions with wood panelling and scrub-topped tables. Two draught beers were available, Lagerbier and Gold-Pils, both eminently drinkable. Onwards to the next brewpub, which was handily located just across the road
2) Braueriegaststatte Spezial: (Ob. Konigstrasse 10). This traditional brewery guesthouse was well liked and we had slight difficulty in finding enough seats at the long scrub topped tables, but they always managed to get us all in, even if not all sitting together. The Spezial provided us with the first taste of Bamberg’s specialty beer- Rauchbier- smoked beer. Draught Lagerbier is always available but on a subsequent visit (you remember the time Tel, when you expressed surprise to that nice elderly Bavarian that Bamberg still had a road called Judenstrasse) we were pointed in the direction of the ‘U-err’ (green beer), more hoppy and less smoked; the closest to an English style beer we came across. As with all Bamberg’s brewpubs and brewery taps, the Fassla and Special closed at 11.00 so the day ended with a sort walk over the canal to the Sports Bar (for those of us who can remember it, eh Frank
We started the day with a walk along the canal to two of the more outlying breweries.
3) Mahrs Brau: (Wunderburg 10). Founded in 1670 and still on the same site, the brewery tap has plenty of old world charm with its low ceilings, stone flagged floor and tiled stove (the kachelofen - a common feature in traditional pubs). As with many of the brewpubs visited, the draught Helles is served direct from wooden barrels on the bar. The heat from the stove proved too much after a while and we left for the next pub, passing the workers drinking in the entrance corridor along the way
4) Brauerei Keesman: (Wunderburg ) Just across the road from Mahrs, Keesman, founded in 1867, is much lighter and airier than the older Bamberg taverns. However, the brewpub still had all the traditional atmosphere and the Bamberger Herren Pils was very refreshing. The food looked good and we had lunch. The walk into the centre gave us the opportunity of getting our bearings and a view of Bamberg’s most famous building- the Alter Rathaus- the old town hall, sitting precariously on a footbridge over the river.
5) Brauerei Heller: (Dominikanerstrasse 6). Home to probably the most famous of Bamberg’s beers, Schlenkerla, it produces the dark and exceptional smokey Aecht Rauchbier. You either love it or hate it. Housed in an historic timbered building right in the middle of the tourist area it is always busy and although the sightseers detract from the traditional drinker’s atmosphere it is still a must to visit.
6) Klosterbrau: (Ob. Muhlbrucke 1-3). Although the brewery is over 450 years old it only acquired a brewery tap, known as the Braun Bier Stubla in the late 1980’s. Further expansion of the on site drinking now includes a beer hall (more of which later). The draught Bamberger Gold (pils) and Schwarzla (dark lager) are available in this picturesque timbered building. Whilst enjoying our beer, a leaflet arrived which determined the course for the rest of the day, but for the moment onward.
7) Burgerbrau Stubla: (Urbanstrasse 18). Although this brewery was taken over by Kaiserdom, who know brew their beers, the pub still retains its original name. A comfortable bar with the emphasise on food, three draughts are available, Burgerbrau Export, Pilsener and (of course) Rauchbier. Kaiserdom’s modern brewery is actually located behind the old Burgerbrau brewery in the suburb of Gaustadt and the brewery tap was not visited.
Time to return to Klosterbrau and the beer hall where, so the leaflet told us, they were launching their Bockbier for 2000. This pale winter beer is very smooth and you find yourself surprised to learn it is an 8% beer. Arriving a little after the start time of 18.00, the hall was already packed. However, once seats had been found a very pleasant evening was spent drinking, eating sausage and sauerkraut, listening to the ompah band and watching the publican in our midst signing up agreeable bar staff.
Another day, another walk, to a brewpub outside the centre. On our way up Moosstasse we were intrigued to see bric-a-brac outside a number of houses. These turned out to be goods no longer needed by the householders and put outside for recycling should anyone want them. Well impressed with Germanic efficiency.
8) Privatbrauerie Maisel: (Moosstrasse 32). The tap for this traditional brewery, founded 1894, offers a wide range of beers including the hoppy draught Kellerbier tried by most. Venturing back into the centre, it was time for lunch. The Kachelofen (Ob. Sandstrasse 1) (yes, it had one and yes, it was hot) provided a good menu of local dishes with the added bonus of draught St. Georgen (Butternheim) beers. After a further visit to Schlenkerla, when the final decision on whether the beer was liked became apparent when Martin was left to finish off six, it was time to for the bar with the large screen TV to watch England play Germany in their last game at Wembley. Harman scores from a free kick. One-nil to the Germans. Oh bugger.
Time to hit the cultural trail and what better place to start than the Franconian Brewery Museum located in the old monastery cellars within the Michaelsberg. A tour of the museum was foregone (it was quite pricey and only in German) and we adjourned to the gaststatte next door, where we enjoyed a glass of draught Maisel Dark Benediktiner in a very nice conservatory. Continuing, we undertook some head photography and visited the Dom and Domberg.
Culturally sated, we decided to walk up one of the many hills surrounding Bamberg. First Unterer, then;
9) Brauerei Griefenklau: (Laurenziplatz 20). The smallest of Bamberg’s brewpubs this is a nice tavern and worth the walk, provided of course it is open. Fortunately, especially for the tour guide, we were in time to enjoy a glass of the draught Lagerbier before they closed at 14.00. This was an object lesson- always check the times the various brewery taps are open and when food is available as they all have different half day closing and periods when the kitchens are closed. Not everyone wanted to start the day with Fassla Lagerbier when they missed breakfast and then found no coffee or food available because the kitchen is closed!
A long walk back to the centre and some food was followed by a tour of our more favoured bars none of which deserve mentioning except perhaps for the Irish bar in Ob. Brucke, which had live music most evenings, was always lively and was much frequented by the US soldiers stationed nearby. Just remember, all the barmaids speak American and some have very acute hearing.
The long journey back was very quiet, enlivened only by the Hacker Pschorr beer fest on the concourse of Koln Hofbanhof.