Beer Travel: Bamberg

August 7, 2017, by Nic Sandery
Beer Travel: Bamberg

Last year, we published a series of articles on and by Nic Sandery. The young brewer had embarked on a global beer tour, exploring other country's beer cultures to seek ideas that would inform the beers he planned to release as Molly Rose Brewing on his return.

Now, with the first Molly Rose beers set to arrive in the coming months – in tiny batches to be sold direct to beer lovers in a manner similar to Ocho Beer in Tasmania – Nic returns with his last two travel pieces as well as articles inspired by his time working a vintage in a winery.

You can check out his insights from Japan and North Carolina here then see what he made of the home of the Rauchbier, Bamberg, below.

Why did you visit Bamberg?

Bamberg is one of the most famous brewing cities in the world. As a brewer, it is almost considered blasphemous if you travel anywhere in the vicinity of Bamberg and do not make a pilgrimage. There are nine breweries and a maltings in a small UNESCO heritage listed town. The question should be why wouldn’t anyone want to go to Bamberg?

While Bamberg is considered a beer and cultural hub of Upper Franciona, the brewing culture in this area is just brilliant. Almost every town has a resident brewery or at least a few pubs serving the local draughts. 

I visited a few small country towns in the area chasing down some old styles of beer that are not really made anywhere else in the world. This didn’t really satisfy my curiosity but, more so, made me want to spend some more time in the area. 

I also stopped into Wurtzberg for a night on the way through. It was a brilliant mixture of the beer and wine culture. A beautiful town on a river surrounded by vineyards and filled with little beer pubs and wine bars.

How did you choose those destinations?

Bamberg (centre photo above) is an absolute must for any brewer any time. It is a given. It would have been rude not to. The other towns I just stopped at along my way. 

I walked and caught local buses between little villages (the bike hire shop was booked out!). I was recommended a few places in the area by friends but this far into my trip I had a taste for adventure and it was apparent that beer was central to life in this part of the world so I just wandered and explored.

Did the beer and culture surrounding it meet expectations?

It most certainly did. Drinking Schlenkerla Marzen in the ancient brewery pub in Bamberg is something that I will never forget. The beer and the experience was just about as close to perfection as you could get. 

The upper Franconian region is known for retaining a lot of historical beer styles and it was fantastic to taste things like Zwickel biers, Landbiers, a bunch of smoked beers as well as many amber to very dark lagers ranging in richness and hoppiness as much as they did in colour.

What were the highlights?

Schlenkerla Marzen was just amazing. I sat in the entrance hall which had one large table and a few stools with access to the bar through a small hole in the wall where an aged, white aproned man was pouring pints of the miraculous beverage. 

This was the casual pop-in spot for a beer, as opposed to the formal dining room and the less formal drinking room. It seemed as if it was the spot where the local blokes would stop by while out running chores. One guy had a huge loaf of bread under his arm and some groceries in a bag that looked like dinner. Another set his kid up with some homework and helped him do it while he drank his pint of smoky amber deliciousness.

How do you think this part of your trip will influence Molly Rose?

I love lagers and I love smoked beers. The balance and finesse in a lot of the beers from this area is pretty inspiring. I hope my beers will show similar restraint, attention to detail but also individuality. I also love the communal nature of German pubs and breweries. People gather in them, drink their favourite locally made beer, eat hearty food and enjoy each other’s company.

Any tips for people travelling to Bamberg? 

Investigate the town and its breweries and pubs but also try and get out and around to surrounding towns. There are a few Upper Franconian beer trails online so I would recommend finding one that suits and then go exploring. There are breweries scattered everywhere and for me there is nothing more exciting than discovering a fantastic beer in the middle of an adventure through the countryside. 

A must see for beery people is the Weyermann Maltings. They make pretty much the best malt around and have been doing it in Bamberg for nearly 140 years. They run tours on Wednesday afternoons but, failing that, just go have a look and try the beers they make on site. The red brick maltings is an impressive sight and more than likely there will be beautiful smells of kilning malt wafting out. 

You can read Nic's previous articles here and watch this space for news on the launch of Molly Rose Brewing.

You can read other travel articles here.

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