Bamberg is royally cool. It’s laid back, the food is good, the hotels are reasonable and the beer is exquisite if you’re a smoke lover. Bamberg rivals Munich for the world's beer king city. In Germany it's really more famous because the beer history goes back farther.

Klosterbrau is the oldest. The brewery at this location was first recorded in city records in 1333. They claim a date of 1533 since it was 200 years before the brewery actually got an owner and a name - Prince Bishop's Brown Beer House. 22 prince bishops held sway until 1790 when the church secularized it. Peter Braun bought the place in 1851 and it's now in the 5th generation of that family.

Amazingly parts of the current gasthaus are original to the 1500s. Rooms have names like Tithe House, Decoction House, Little Brown Beer Room, Little Yard, and Vault.

  • Maibock - This is the very end of the season and it was pretty stale. The bitter was overpowering and also quite sour.
  • Schwarzla - Pure black and very roasty.
  • Brauns Weiss - A pretty normal dunkelwiezen. It's their flagship beer and fabled in the city guides but is really nothing special.
  • Weiss - A+ Big and bready.
  • They also have a Gold Pils and Vollbier.

At the Klosterbrau, Bob walked into the WC just as Kevin Cox walked out and said "Hi Bob" just as if it were natural to see someone you know. So we sat around and had a couple more beers.

Kevin was in Munich before Bamberg and was going on to Salzburg and Prague.

Schlenkerla. What can one say. It's possibly the best bar in the world. Certainly among the top 10. To qualify you have to have:

  • History - It opened in 1678 and hasn't changed much since.
  • Good beer - Hey, it's Schlenkerla Rauchbier. Fabled of song and story.
  • Cordial staff - Certainly so. The bartender and waitress (there is only one of each - it's really small) knew us by name before the week was out. They, and the regulars, are used to tourists and understand when flashes of cameras go off - it happens every 5 minutes or so.
  • Convivial drinkers - Even though it's a major tourist stop in crowded Bamberg, the regulars are interesting and the locals are welcoming.

Bob closed down the place 3 nights of the 5 we stayed in Bamberg. Once with Kevin Cox plus the duo from Munich mentioned below, once by himself, and once with a crew from Nurnberg that come to Bamberg weekly just for the rauchbier and the ambiance. Thanks Tom, Oliver, Christian, etc. for the good times.

The first time we walked into the place we took the first picture below and 3 other people took pictures before we hit the door. It's that famous in Germany, people travel here repeatedly.

There's only one beer on tap at Schlenkeria, the Rauchbier Marzen - 5.1%. It's served from a wooden cask that's emptied every 20 minutes or so. Some people will wait for the tourists to drink the dregs to get the fresh beer from the next keg. You can get Rauchbier Weisse from bottles also. Both are priced at, get this, 2.05€ per 1/2 liter glass. Cheapest best beer in the world or best cheap beer in the world. Either way, it's special. The smoky character comes through strongly from start to finish and 3 liters in an evening don't produce a hangover at all. Wonderful stuff.

Those antlers on the wall are probably older than the United States.


First pull from a new cask. My picture on left. Wikimedia’s picture from John White on the right.
Alex Culaj, a student from Kosovo, is one of the Schlenkerla's six Bierschänker (Beer Servers).

The carry-out department sells schnapps for consumption on site, postcards, 3-liter kegs, and believe it or not a 5-pack of Schlenkerla Rauchbier for 5.50€. That's not a typo. In fact the 10-pack of 1/5 liter bottles behind the 5-pack in this picture is 10.50€!
I dare you to match that price anywhere - especially when it sells in the USA for, what, $5 per bottle.

Schlenkerla on tap at a hotel gave a creamy ivory head. From the wood it has very little carbonation and very little head.

Fun facts. Schlenkern is German for not walking straight. Schlenkeria does its own maltings, smoking the malt over a beechwood fire. The text on their mats translates to "Even if the brew tastes somewhat strange at the first swallow, do not stop, because soon you will realize that your thirst will not decrease and your pleasure will visibly increase".

Brauerei Spezial - Only this one picture since it was raining and the inside was filled with locals and a flash would have been disturbing. Sorry. Spezial dates back to 1536 and the inside could be easily from the 1800s without change.

  • Rauchbier Lagerbier - Not nearly as smoky as Schlenkerla's Rauchbier. In fact just a mild smoked malt essence. Lightly carbonated and translucent.
  • Weisse - Nice.
  • These were the only two beers available. Seasonally they make a marzen and a bock.

Two guys, one from Mississippi and one from Lincolnshire sat down at our table. Turns out they just got in on the train from Nuremberg on a evening pub crawl. So we joined them, or vice-versa, at the Fassla and back to Schlenkerla until it closed. A lovely evening.

Brauerei Fassla is directly across the street from Spezial. It's almost as old (1649) and the front rooms have even more of a locals-only feeling. You either order at the bar or a waiter walks around occasionally with a tray of beers. They mark the barmats to keep track of your tab - even for strangers. But for strangers, they mark only one mat of the group and individual tabs aren't allowed. In back a covered garden is less strict.

  • Echtes Bamberger Zwergla - Smooth but with a strong bitterness and some nuttiness. Medium copper.

  • Pils - Crystal clear and deep yellow. Mild with a long lasting bitterness.

Bamberg's newest brewery, Ambrausianum, sits directly next door to Schlenkeria. It has all contemporary furnishings in an an old building; it just doesn’t act old. The malty brewing smells extend right out onto the street from the coppers located under stone arches in the center of the restaurant.

  • Wiezen - Dark dull apricot. Almost to dunkle darkness. Still no clove but plenty of banana on a nice malty base.
  • Dunkel - Dull walnut. Unfiltered. Smooth bitter chocolate dominates. Probably deadly. Terry's 2nd favorite in Europe and Bob's 2nd favorite in Bamberg.
  • Also a Hell which we sadly didn't try.

They have a taster consisting of 1/10th liter of each of the three for 2.90€.

Stopped in after the Schlenkeria closed one night and they sold us a beer and told us we had to drink it on the street - but to bring back the glass.

Mahr's Brau. Very like the Schlenkerla, 11 items on the menu, one draught beer, old bent-beamed ceilings, 19th century ceiling fixtures, antlers, wrought iron, and a local following that's almost religious. There's also an ancient telephone and a coal fire in the green enamel furnace. They also have a fine rauchbier (that isn't nearly as smoky). One difference is the kegs - they are molded plastic rather than wood - but they still allow the house beer to be served with very little CO2.

  • Hell - From the keg. So-so.
  • Giesl - Very thick. Black. Some roasty and a bit of smoky. Massive hops to balance the coffee and chocolate notes. 2nd best in Bamberg and that's saying a lot.
  • Festtags Weisse - Bready reddish. A bit overcarbonated but very good.

Keesman. Across the street from Mahr's. I visited on a rainy afternoon and it was deserted. Completely deserted. Strange because Mahr's had a dozen or so people.

The inside is very nice, clean, and new. The backyard terrace is outside the brewery shipping plant and just feet from the trucks - presumably this isn't a problem in the evening.

  • Stenla Lager - "Dark beer". A light amber to our eyes. Fruity with almost a berry character.
  • Also Herren Pils, Weissbeir, and a bottled hefeweizen. Two different bocks are also offered seasonally.

Brewery Museum

An extensive brewery museum in Bamberg is a product of a club with 400 members, including 70 brewery representatives. It's a full-time professional display covering 3 floors in the old monastery.


Filters from 1926

Capping machine with automatic feed. This is from 1914.
The foot pedal lifts the bottle into the crimper and feeds another cap from the brass hopper into the chute.

Bottle filler from 1920. Things have changed much.

An excellent mostly-copper model of the brewing process.
Much like the printed flowchart we're all familiar with, but in glorious 3D.

A wort chiller. Water is run over the outside to cool the liquid running through the tubes.
There's a very similar one at the Red Oak brewery in Greensboro, NC.

A much different wort chiller.
Didn't figure out exactly how it work and what the handle accomplishes.

The coolest grundy ever. About 4 ft high.

Catalog drawing of a flat tambourine filter - and the real thing.

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