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The Gravitational Pull of Franconia - Day 4

Memmelsdorf and Merkendorf
Beer Travels July 13, 2006      
Written by MartinT

Montreal, CANADA -

It was drizzling as we got off the bus to walk around Seehof Castle, on the outskirts of the village of Memmelsdorf, mere kilometers east of Bamberg. We had planned lunch at one of Memmelsdorf’s 2 breweries, Drei Kronen. Yes, another Drei Kronen brewery. These guys have a very classy restaurant and hotel for the region, and offer food to match the quality of their establishment. The Kalbsbraten mit thymiansoβe (“roasted calf in thyme sauce”) was excellent and refined. They had 3 beers on tap, Stöffla, a lightly-smoked lager, Hefe Pils, an unfiltered pilsner, and the Lager. I went for the Stöffla, which proved to be the right choice, albeit somewhat disappointing in its fragile smokiness. The mouthfeel was, as is often the case in these naturally carbonated lagers, both rich and drinkable. Earthy apricots and rauch malts whispered distinctly, and went along great with the meal, while never creating excitement. Marie’s Hefe Pils was topped with litchi and honeymelon esters, but all too discreet. The hops were especially quiet, barely lending enough herbal and grassy properties to remind you that you were having a pilsner. No flaws here, but nothing much to remember. We decided to skip the Lager in light of these two ordinary lagers.

<IMG border=0 SRC=/images/features/CastleSeehof.jpg>
A glimpse of glinting Seehof Castle

Two buildings over though is Brauerei Höhn, another chic brewery/restaurant/hotel. They brew one beer here, a landbier called Görchla. Earthy and citrusy hops blend admirably with the fresh cereal character, an outgoing aroma with “Franconian Landbier Hell” all over it. This one is severely unfiltered, rendering a murky orange gown under the usual thick and bobbing head of foam. A wealthy mouthfeel shows dry hay to house the peachy fruitiness, seasoned with spicy, grassy, leafy hoppiness. Aftertaste has a few fruity esters again, and some tranquil hoppiness. A very personable example of Franconian authenticity, and one which deserves more attention methinks.

A few moments later, we hop on the bus that will take us to Merkendorf, another 2-brewery village 3 kilometers north of Memmelsdorf. Now that’s service. The unletting rain was forbidding us to walk the short distance, but that bumpy bike ride to the Kreuzberg the day before had given us the proper leg aches to justify the comfortable bus trip alone. It is here that we met Nick B. of the Franconian Beer Board, who kindly decided to join us for some brewery hopping. We first tried Brauerei Wagner, and found it full of retired locals playfully teasing each other at a card game. Brewery locals here in Germany have a table section reserved for them, called the Stammtisch. A very interesting gesture from the brewery for their best customers. They had 4 beers here, so we ordered a glass of each. The Lagerbier was surprisingly thin-bodied and gave simple cereal and fruity caramel. The Märzen was better appreciated by Nick, but I personally found it too soporific, if not well-brewed. The Pils was anemic with its few blades of hay, single drops of citrus fruit, and flaccid appearance. Luckily (for me), the Weizen held the usual juicy banana esters in a well-fed body, with a soft, yeasty finish. A nice enough example.

<IMG border=0 SRC=/images/features/WagnerStammtisch.jpg>
The Stammtisch is as busy as ever at Wagner-Bräu

Unsatisfied by the beers, but still pleased by the old-timer ambiance, we walked over to Brauerei Hummel, where the brewer is obviously having lots of fun. He had 10 beers available! 5 on tap, and 5 bottled! And very interesting styles too: kellerbier, rauchbier, maibock hell, weizenbock, rauchdoppelbock, märzen, etc. As enticing as it is unusual for this region. The Stammtisch was also filled with card-playing locals, swearing about a war of some sort, laughing loudly, drinking slowly, sending curious looks at the three North Americans who had just ordered a glass of each of the 5 tap beers. The Pils was my favorite of them all, with an intelligent intermingling of earthy, wooden hops and rich cereal and straw. Another full yet drinkable mouthfeel to please tongue and tummy. The Kellerbier was a tad shy for what I had encountered of the style, offering some passionfruit amongst the soft, earthy hoppiness. The feeble bitterness was aiming for larger crowds of which I am not a part. The Räucherla had a stronger smoke flavor than aroma, and proposed an earthy finish which blended malts and hoppiness pretty well. I’d like to have it side-by-side with the Drei Kronen Stöffla and compare. It’ll happen soon enough, don’t worry. The Weizen and Maibock Hell were both ably brewed once again, with comfortable and balanced flavors, a feature the brewer here lays out very well. I didn’t try any of the stronger beers, but bottles of each await safely in my beer fridge for an approaching tasting. The smoked doppelbock is especially appealing…

Once back in Bamberg, still in a daze of childish glee at trying so many rural lagers, we ventured to Brauerei Spezial for dinner. All rooms were packed in this Bamberg classic, but we were able to sit at a table with other patrons, which is quite common around here. Like Schlenkerla, Spezial brews only smoked beers, except for an Ungespundetes Lagerbier. This one was only available on tap, and I had read great things about it, so I obviously ordered a pint to join my fatty leberkäse. It was unbelievably full-bodied for a “house blond”, a feature common to quite a few ungespundetes lagerbiers around here we would learn. A wealthy cereal broth with balanced citrusy, herbal hops and bitterness. A little more of the latter would have made it a superstar in my book, but this was still more than good enough to be my beer of the day. And to say we’ll have a room on Spezial’s second floor in a few days…

Beer of the day: Spezial Ungespundetes

Other notable brushes with excellence : Höhn Görchla



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start quote The Stammtisch was also filled with card-playing locals, swearing about a war of some sort, laughing loudly, drinking slowly, sending curious looks at the three North Americans who had just ordered a glass of each of the 5 tap beers. end quote