On our first trip to Bamberg, we half-joked that we were going to visit all of the city’s breweries in one day. Five years and two visits later, Merideth and I were back in the Franconian city to complete that lofty beer traveler goal.
On that first visit, a whirlwind one-day stop in 2007, we managed drink beer at most of Bamberg’s breweries. We picked up one more brewery passing through during our May Year in Beer visit (of course chronicled in Merideth’s book, Teachings from the Tap). This time around we stayed three days, plenty of time to complete Bamberg.
One of the Bamberg breweries missing from the List, Brauerei Spezial opened at 9am, a beer traveler’s dream. Thus, we were on the move early, heading from our vacation apartment towards the city center. With a leisurely pace, we took a circuitous route from our apartment so we could marvel at the nearby Weyermann Malzerei.
Beer gardens are not always packed with maß clinking revelers. Passing through Spezial’s huge doors into their interior courtyard beer garden, we saw only one other customer, an older gentleman sitting in the corner. It WAS only 10am after all. Since it was a warm, beautiful morning, Merideth and I chose one of the empty tables in the sun.
Much to Merideth’s chagrin, Spezial did not have their one non-smoked beer, the Ungespundetes. The only beer available was their Märzen Rauchbier. To her credit, Merideth did give it a try.
A brilliant copper color, the smoke was prominent on top of a somewhat surprising light-bodied brew.
Merideth was a real trooper because I insisted on going straight from Spezial to Schlenkerla so we could compare Bamberg’s two Rauchbier breweries. Crossing the Main-Donau canal at the Luitpoldbrücke, we headed into the heart of the tourist zone. Resisting the desire to join a tour group, we were seated in the almost equally deserted Schlenkerla beer garden within minutes.
We ordered one of their Rauchbiers and and an order of the Schweinebraten, roast pork. Rauchbier might be an acquired taste, but that taste could be acquired by pairing it with succulent roast pork.
The Schlenkerla Rauchbier had a much deeper body, with more notes of smoked ham than it’s lighter Spezial counterpart. Just like I remembered and enjoyed it in 2007.
Early in the evening, we returned to the City Center on our way to the the top of one of the numerous hills in Bamberg. Walking up Oberer Stepansburg, we were on our way to the Wilde Rose Keller. Through social media, we were told that we HAD to visit the hilltop beer garden.
There was only a smattering of people when we arrived. I had visions of sitting at a table overlooking the city but a multitude trees blocked any view. We chose a table in the middle under the trees and settled in.
Wilde Rose Keller had house beers, but I will admit I’m not sure who brews them. Needing a refreshing beer after the walk up the hill, I ordered us two Hefeweizens to start. Once we settled in, we moved on to the Kellerbier. Both were quite delicious, perfect for the setting.
For dinner, Merideth ordered us a variety of our Bavarian favorites: cheese, Obatzda, bread, pickles and pretzels.
As Merideth and I enjoyed our beers and food and played scrabble (I won 281-246, my only triumph of the trip), the beer garden steadily filled up with families, groups, friends, and couples. Some brought picnics and set up camp. Everyone was enjoying the beer and an absolutely beautiful Bavarian evening.
The following morning we had blocked off for doing laundry. Much to our delight, we found a inexpensive, fast-service laundromat that would do the work for us (Bamberger Waschsalon…they speak English too). That meant instead of sitting in a laundromat on a beautiful day, we had the morning to explore Bamberg while our clothes were being washed. We decided to traipse back up the hill to Greifenklau, our favorite beer garden in Bamberg.
The chestnut tree shaded beer garden has a panoramic view of the nearby countryside including the Altenburg, the 12th century castle a few kilometers distant. The first customers of the day, we found a somewhat sunny seat in the morning chill. While drinking a couple of krugs of their lager, we watched a red squirrel play amongst the apple trees in the grove below. What a great way to kill time.
Laundry sorted, we could now think about lunch. Driving a dozen kilometers west of Bamberg into the Steigerwald, Merideth and I found ourselves in the tiny village of Weiher at Brauerei Kundmüller. The restaurant and brewery were located next to their farm which included a Streichelzoo, or petting zoo, for the wee ones.
Walking into beer garden, we felt the stares of the locals at the Stammtisch who I assume don’t see too many American beer travelers. Leaving Merideth at a table under the big tree under the watchful eyes of the locals, I went inside to order our lunch, house-made sausages and their European Beer Star award-winning Kellerbier.
While enjoying our meal on another warm and sunny Franconian day, we watched some of the animals in the Streichelzoo, guinea pigs, rabbits, pigs and goats. We did wonder when the two pigs were going to be Schweinehaxe, Schweinebraten and hausgemacht Bratwurst.
On the way back into the city, we stopped at the last Bamberg brewery that we needed to add, Kaiserdom. We stopped at Kaiserdom during our 2008 visit only to find it oddly closed. Pulling into the almost empty restaurant parking lot, I did get a bit worried that we were going to miss out again. It was with a great relief that the front door opened.
Merideth and I were the only customers besides a largish tour group of Russians. Ordering a Zwickelbier and Pilsner, Merideth and I basked in our accomplishment, we had completed Bamberg.
We finished our third Bamberg visit where we began our first one, at Mahrs Bräu. We were off to Munich the following morning, the next phase of our trip. Such transitions often get us in a reflective mood. Finally spending an extended amount of time in the city gave us the opportunity to experience more of Bamberg’s many charms. Though we had now added all the breweries, we saw ourselves visiting again. There is still the Weyermann tour to do… And we need to add our padlock to the bridge…