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The Gravitational Pull of Franconia - Day Six

More of Bamberg
Beer Travels July 27, 2006      
Written by MartinT

Montreal, CANADA -

The skies were threatening this morning, so we thought that was the perfect reason to have our first frühschoppen. A morning drink, if you prefer. Most breweries in Bamberg open around 9am, so we decided to take advantage of this temporary rainless moment to visit Greifenklau’s biergarten, with its postcard view onto a castle on the nearby mountain. Greifenklau has 1 of their beers on tap, simply called Lager, but I’ll put my hand in the fire that it’s another ungespundetes (unbunged) lagerbier. Its herbal, grassy hops ventured into floral territories quite efficiently, and the delicate, soft carbonation let the malts express themselves as standard Franconian extraction dictates. A firm herbal hop bitterness lingers, and some cereals tickle the nose. Freshness personified. The very friendly and grandmotherly matron worried about us staying outside in the garden (“it’s kald!”), but we were more than fine and were enjoying the beer and view too much. A brewery couldn’t have a better caretaker.

<IMG border=0 SRC=/images/features/ViewfromGreifenklau.jpg>
A great view for a great lagerbier at Greifenklau

Then we went for lunch across town at Keesmann-Bräu, where we met plenty of loud and mostly older locals, enjoying their daily dose of Herren Pils. Slamming playing cards on the table in brotherly coup d’éclat is a sport here apparently, as much as slowly sipping the nicely hopped, light-bodied, clean Pils they brew here. Its feathery, wooden, spicy hop flavor wasn’t enough to make us forget the Greifenklau Lager though, nor was it able to surpass the sumptuous crème of white asparagus which both Marie and I fell in love with. The matjes filets were also delicious, this was becoming one of our best meals of the trip!

Next up was Fässla, situated right in front of Spezial. We could have done Mahr’s Brau instead (which is right in front of Keesmann), but we needed a break, and walking around Bamberg isn’t exactly unpleasant, so the decision was simple. A few minutes later, we encounter a jampacked Fässla, but luckily there were a few seats available in the schwemm, next to a quirky old man who kept sniffing some tobacco(?) he would put on the back of his hand. That is, until he would nearly sneeze it all out a few seconds later. Neat. We bought 2 beers from the window in the schwemm, the Gold Pils (from the tap), and the Zwergla (bottled). The Pils was frail-bodied and lightly-hopped, serviceable but too easy for what I was getting used to around here. The Zwergla was somewhat aqueous for a dunkel, with some clean but diluted caramel sweetness and subtle roastiness. Ultimately, 2 boring products to our tastebuds. The place, though, is absolutely breathtaking and cannot be missed. All chairs are carved with the brewery logo, the wall paintings in the schwemm are splendid, and the wooden gaststübe was warm and inviting. Too bad the 2 beers weren’t to our liking. We’ll be back anyway.

Marie felt like having dessert, a wish I cannot refuse. I was ready, and suggested the Eulenspiegel restaurant, situated on the little street leading to the bridge that runs through the superb Altes Rathaus, Bamberg’s architectural centerpiece. They serve St.Georgenbräu beers from the tap, you see? A devil I am. While she was having an admittedly delectable apfelküche, I sampled through 3 St.Georgenbräu beers, which they conveniently offered in 0.2-liter glasses. The Landbier was a surprise, as they didn’t advertise it as Landbier Dunkel, which they should have I guess. Its body was lusciously heavy and silky, serving chocolate and roasted malts on a platter of simplicity and nourishment. The Pils possessed the same luxurious body, well-built and full of potential, but its aroma and flavors were somewhat lacking. Wooden, herbal hop subtleties sat idly on the distant, wet haystack. The Kellerbier had an absolutely delicious body, on which herbal hops played quietly, with malty succulence branching out into dried fruit, caramel, and even dark chocolate. If not for its tranquil aroma, this would have been a beauty in my book.

Dinner was later taken at Mahr’s Brau, where the more traditional gaststätte felt more in the lines of Spezial, Schlenkerla, and Fässla, with lots of wood and festive locals. We sat in the front biergarten, but had to get our beers at the usual little window in the schwemm. 2 beers were from the gravity cask, the Ungespundetes and the Pils. The Pils sported a full, but somehow watery body, and finished awkwardly with a dry, mineral nudge. It was still pleasantly fruity (pears) and hoppy, but I had a nagging impression of pilsner mixed with tap water. The Ungespundetes (or simply “U”) had some herbal hops to help it out, but was bothered by the same watery palate, with very low carbonation (moreso than usual), and a dry, mineral finish. Better than the Pils, with its caramel, and earthy hops, but I feel like they might not be handling natural carbonation as well as others here. Food was of good quality by Franconian standards, and my Altfrankisches schweinelendchen was finished easily.

Back to our hotel, now Spezial brewery, I noticed you could take a pint of any of their beers and take it upstairs to your room. I couldn’t resist having an Ungespundetes. Find me another hotel where you can have fresh Spezial Ungespundetes in the lobby! ;)

Beer of the day: Greifenklau Lager


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start quote The place, though, is absolutely breathtaking, and cannot be missed. All chairs are carved with the brewery logo, the wall paintings in the schwemm are splendid, and the wooden gaststübe was warm and inviting. end quote