Monday, 27 August 2007

Bamberg (part 3)

Obere Mühlbrücke 1-3,
96049 Bamberg.
Tel. 0951 - 57722
Fax 0951 - 59294

I've always had a soft spot for Klosterbräu. Maybe it was their willingness to provide my son Andrew with a meal that wasn't on the menu (sausage and chips). Or it could be the downhome folksy charm of their Stube. Then again, their Schwärzla and Maibock are both cracking beers. Two years in a row I stuck mostly to their beer at the Amsterdam Maibock Festival. (This year I didn't, because I got the day of the festival wrong. I assumed it was going to be on a Sunday, as previous years. They fooled me by switching to Saturday. I felt a bit of a tit missing it, especially as it's the closest festival to my home.)

Rambling again. How else can I fill my blog every day. If I kept to the point I'd only write two sentences a day. I like Klosterbräu and its beer. Which is why it was so disappointing that the beers we tried all tasted weird. This is what my notes say about Schwärzla: "crap, tasted like industrial cleaner". The waitress apologised and said something about some new equipment in the brewery. Let's hope it was a one-off.

We quickly reappraised our lunch plans. Who wants to drink crap beer with their meal? Schlenkerla, our next scheduled stop, seemed a logical choice. Everyone left their glasses nearly full. Except me. I hate wasting beer, even if it does taste funny.

Dominikanerstrasse 6,
96049 Bamberg.
Tel. 0951 - 56060
Fax 0951 - 54019

Despite visiting Schlenkerla several times, I'd never been in the Dominikanerklause before. I've always stuck to the taproom, where you can keep a good eye on the wooden barrels dispensing Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen, as it's so pithilly named. Really rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? The Dominikanerklause is larger and has an impressive vaulted ceiling. It was built in 1310 as a monastery chapel and certainly looks the part. A more secular kind of worship now takes place there.

This time the beer wasn't a disappointment. I realise that for some the boldness of the smokiness in the Schlenkerla beer can be intimidating. Personally, I love it. Their Urbock is the best German beer I've tasted:

"Dark brown with a fine-beaded pale tan head; bacon, smoke, raisin, malt, pepper, ginger and fig aroma; sweetish/bitterish taste with bacon, treacle, pepper, fruit and smoke aromas; very bitter finish with burnt, treacle, resin, pepper, smoke and bacon aromas.

This beer combines wonderfully dark malt, fruit, hop and smoke flavours - there's something for everyone. It must be very heavily hopped for the hops to be able to compete with everything else that's going on. One of the best beers in the world."

But that wasn't what we were drinking. The pub only sells a single beer, Märzen. This is what I wrote in my notebook: "Aggressively smoky but slips down the throat."

Andy, continuing his grab-a-ganny tendencies, got chatting to an old dear. She was happily slurping away at a half litre of Märzen like everyone else. She swore by the stuff (not at it as many first-time drinkers do, unprepared for the smoky bacon experience).

Café Abseits
Pödeldorfer Str. 39,
96052 Bamberg.
Tel. 0951 - 303422
Fax: 0951 - 9371091

After lunch, we had another couple of hours of free time. An opportunity to visit some of the town's other breweries or climb Michaelsberg to suss out some of its beergardens. My plans were different.

Most of Bamberg's pubs are effectively tied houses, selling beer from a single brewery. An exception is Abseits. It describes itself as Bamberg's Ältestes Studentencafé & Bierspezialausschank (Oldest student café and special beer pub). It offers a changing range of 6 draught and 30 bottled beers, all from Bamberg and the neighbouring area.

The easy availability of maps via the web mean I rarely wander blindly around looking for places any more. But I hadn't printed out a map of Bamberg before setting off. I knew Abseits was on the other side of the railway tracks from the town, but wasn't sure of its precise location. Luckily, the first person I asked knew where it was.

The "student pub" bit is a pretty big hint that you won't find any rustic kitsch. And I didn't. It reminded me very much of a trendy Amsterdam pub, except with better-quality draught beer and without the smell of weed.

It was not long after opening time when I arrived and me and the crusty barmaid were the only living things in sight. I had a Huppendorfer Vollbier. This is the point where my notes start letting me down. "pretty nice" doesn't really tell you very much, does it? After all the trouble I went to (20 minutes walking) getting there, it seemed silly not to have a second. Hummel Kellerbier, it was. Also quite nice.

I loved their breakfast menu which included such classics as "Yuppie breakfast" and Polish breakfast". The latter included a vodka. How's that for racial stereotyping?

Tomorrow our ordeal is finally over. Only three more pubs and a curry house to go. I'm sure that you'll be as relieved as me.

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