Greetings and Happy Holidays from Original Gravity Tours!
In our previous post, we shared a few improvements we’re making to our German Brewery Tour, which includes spending two days in and around Bamberg. In this newsletter, we provide a sneak peak into a few of the things we’ll experience there:
When you think of German beer you probably think of Oktoberfest or Munich, right? Right, but there’s another place you need to know about that “smokes” Munich when it comes to beer.
Bamberg is a small, medieval town (pop. 70,000) situated on the banks of the Regnitz River and located about 140 miles north of Munich in the region of Upper Franconia, in northern Bavaria. While Munich is home to more famous breweries (e.g., Hofbräuhaus) Bamberg and Upper Franconia are home to the highest concentration of breweries, per capita, in the world!
A UNESCO World Heritage Site and dating back to the year 902, Bamberg is worth visiting even if you aren’t a beer lover due to efforts made to preserve and rebuild much of the old town according to its original design and architecture. But for beer lovers, Bamberg is “beer heaven” as it is home to nine breweries and the home of Rauchbier; a complex, smoke flavored beer that’s famous around the world. Below are intros to three of those 9 breweries that we also happen to visit on our tours.
Situated in the center of the old town, Rauchbierbrauerei Schlenkerla is one of two breweries famous for producing Rauchbier, a beer made with smoked barley, which imparts a distinct, smoked flavor to the beer. Founded in 1405, they produce 7 varieties of Rauchbier from their Helles Schlenkerla Lager (the lightest in color, flavor and alcohol, 4.3% ABV) to a strong dark beer, Schlenkerla Oak Smoke (8% ABV double bock) that makes a perfect companion on a cold winter night
A short stroll away you’ll find the other “famous” Rauchbier brewery in town, Brauerei Spezial (founded in 1536). Spezial produces 5 different varieties starting with their only unsmoked beer called Spezial Ungespundete (an unfiltered lager, 4.9% ABV). The rest are all smoked beers, and the strongest is a dark, bock beer called – not so creatively – Spezial Bockbier (7.0% ABV).
Note: Rauchbier is an acquired taste – some people love it, others hate – but if you get hooked, you’ll be hooked for life! And both Schlenkerla and Spezial offer very old beer halls (think hand-carved timbers) that are guaranteed to invoke feelings of Gemütlichkeit.
Continuing on you’ll come to Mahrs Bräu (founded in 1670) which is famous not for Rauchbier, but for their award-winning Mahrs U (an unfiltered lager, 5.2% ABV). People often ask what’s special about unfiltered lagers. A reasonable analogy is the difference between eating wheat bread and white bread. Wheat bread contains more of the actual wheat kernel and generally has a richer flavor and texture than white bread. Similarly, an unfiltered lager contains small particles from the grains used to brew the beer and thus tends to be more flavorful than a standard lager, which is filtered to remove those particles. But don’t take our word for it, try a Mahrs U and find out for yourself!
Barley & Malt Lesson, 101:
There’s at least one more “beer place” worth visiting in Bamberg and that’s the Weyermann malting plant (founded in 1879) which is one of the most respected malt producers in the world.
Lesson: Malt is a key ingredient in brewing beer as it provides color, flavor and the sugars that are converted by yeast into alcohol. Malt is produced by soaking barley (or other grains) in water until it’s partially germinated. It’s then kiln dried (most common) or dried over open flames to produce different styles of malt (light, dark, smoked, etc.). This in turn allows a brewer to make different styles of beer by combining different styles of malt in their brewing recipes.
On our tours, we visit the Weyermann malting plant to learn first-hand how different styles of malt are produced. Weyermann also has an “experimental brewery” where they test malts to determine the impact on different beer styles. Our tours include a tasting session in the brewery that will help you understand the direct connection between malt and the resulting beer product.
We think you'll agree that for such a small town, Bamberg has a lot to offer, and we hope this post wets your appetite for some summer travel!
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Happy Holidays and Prost!
Greetings! I'm a passionate beer and international travel lover. Other than craft beer, I mostly go for German & Belgian beers and if you share the same interests, you may enjoy my blog. Prost!