Bamberg, the city of rauchbier. But more importantly, the city with probably the biggest specialty malts house in the world. I will come back to malt houses later.
The downside of my trip to Bamberg was that I was already totally spend by the weeks before and it was more survival than experiencing the joys of Bamberg (Afterwards it turned out, I probably already had the unusual combination of Pfeiffer ánd Scarlet Fever that would incapacitate me over the next few months). A shame, because it is a beautiful city, so I have to come back some time really soon. Luckily my traveling partner gave me some extra support so I could enjoy some of the quirks of Bamberg. There is public transport in Bamberg, but the busses are an adventure in itself! How they manage to negotiate those small streets and alleys is anyone’s guess.
First off, it took me a really long time to like smoked beers, and I’m not sure I like rauchbieren now. I LOVE smoked and peated porters and stouts, which are really smokey and/or have whisky flavours. But my first encounter with a rauchbier was Schlenkerla and that’s more like a liquid bacon, definitely not the kind of smokeyness I like. But being in Bamberg I had no choice but to sample some rauchbieren.
Schlenkerla (Aecht)is the most famous and touristy one, but in my opinion not the best. It’s really heavy on the smoke and bacon, Schlenkerla drinkers probably poop smoke as well. It is a very historic and cosy venue though, so you should visit it anyway. Interesting to note they have a special allergens menu, but: that menu is exactly the same as the normal menu but with a chart with allergens. And ALL their meals contain gluten. You’d think after a fortnight in Germany, I would be used to that by now 😉 Ah, it’s probably one of the aspects that caused the exhaustion. It certainly didn’t help. But anyway, I had to eat something.
The oldest beer venue in Bamberg is Klosterbräu, followed closely by Brauerei Spezial. We slept at the latter. They told me beforehand they couldn’t arrange a gluten- and lactosefree breakfast, but bringing my own bread, their buffet was just fine and I could eat loads. Still have to email them that they have more on offer than they think. Both venues are very nice and a treasure of history. The toilets at Klosterbräu are an adventure in themselves when you are a woman. Luckily I’m good at games like rescue rover. At brauerei Spezial you can see the building bend a bit under its own weight. It has a huge restaurant which is always full, a breakfast place at the other site, a giant gate and archway that used to be the entrance for the carriages, a brewery ánd malt house at the back and old but gorgeous sleeping arrangements on the floors above. It really feels like you’re in an inn in a fantasy story. On the other side of the road you find Fässla, having about the same setup as Spezial. All three breweries had quite nice beers, smoky, but not as agressive as Schlenkerla. We tried the märzen (most rauchbieren are märzen) and dunkles or fastenbier at every venue.
Two other interesting venues, more outside the city center, were Greifenklau and Mahr’s Bräu, both classic Bamberg breweries as well. At Mahr’s bräu the walls are so old and thick and cold, they had to keep the fires in the hearth high. The phrase hot as hell is probably best suited here.
The most awesome place we visited though was Bamberg’s smallest brewery: Hopfengarten. In the middle of a neighbourhood reminiscent of say Geuzenveld in Amsterdam, you can find a huge greenhouse complex and gorgeous garden walled by hops (at least in summer). In the greenhouses all kinds of plants, fruits and vegetables are cultivated. The family wants to be self-sustainable. They also focus on forgotten vegetables ánd on more variety. There are over 4000 types of potatoes, but how many can you find in an average store? And of course they also grow all their additives themselves. Their beers are awesomely, wonderfully balanced. They really work on matching the hops to the add-ons. We tried the Chillilero, which isn’t really spicy, but has a real pepper taste, a bit like bell peppers. This goes wonderfully together with the Cascade. We also had the Zitronic, which doesn’t taste like an upgraded radler at all, but it’s a full-on helles with subtle citrus flavours, also made with cascade. The garden is just gorgeous and they organise a lot of parties in it over the season (We were there off season). It’s unfortunate we couldn’t stay longer than just the one beer, but I’ll definitely come back. This venue really surprised and is up in my top-10 of best ever beer venues!
Which beer venue surprised you in such a way?