While pondering Dark Lager recently, I reminded myself of how long it's been since I last visited Bavaria. And how much I missed its delicious Lagers.
Looking back on all the great times I've had in Bavaria, I realised an overwhelming number of them were in just one part of the state. Franconia.
When did I first visit this magical region? A long, long time ago. Well before the kids were born. When Dolores and I were fancy free and could pretty much wherever we wanted. And whenever we wanted. So, sometime in the early 1990s.
It wasn't a particularly long trip, just a long weekend. We flew into Nuremberg and took the train up to Bamberg. Where else would you start a a Franconian beer tour?
Bamberg was a very different place back then I can remember remarking to Dolores that it was amazing such a beautiful city seemed to have no tourists, other than us. Beer tourism wasn't much of a thing back then. And the river cruises hadn't started dumping flocks of pensioners in the city. What a magical place it was.
We stayed in Fässla. Very handy not just for its own pub, but also Spezial opposite. I'm pretty sure that's one of the main reasons I chose to stay there.
I've always thought Fässla's beers have been a bit neglected by beer nerds. Perhaps because none are smoked. That didn't bother me. I loved them from the first sip. I helped that the draught beer was sold Bayerischer Anstich - straight from the cask. Sadly, the barrels are now fake.
I've still had plenty of good times there. Like a morning session next to a group of firemen who, hopefully, were there after rather than before their shift. Or a visit with Jeff Bell on one of Andy Neil's beer tours. And, obviously, I dropped by a couple of times when travelling around Franconia with anti-American Mike, in 2009 and 2020.
Of course, it wasn't long before me and Dolores dropped by Schlenkertla to get a taste of their legendary smoked beer. It's often said that you need to sink a few pints before you get a taste for it. I loved it from the first sip. It helped that it had the soft carbonation of gravity dispense.
I must have visited the pub at least half a dozen times. It's one of the places I have to go to, when I'm in town. Last time was in 2013, when me and Andrew made a trip to Franconia. That was the second time I'd taken Andrew there. We'd also made a trip in 2003, when he was just seven. It was much more fun when he could drink.
Me and Dolores didn't just stay in Bamberg. We also took the short train ride to Forchheim. Where I encountered for the first time when of my favourite brewery taps: Neder.How many happy hours I've spent in the town. But more about that next time.