Related stories Related stories

Other Stories By Oakes

  Oakes Weekly - July 23, 2009
       Jul 23, 2009

  Oakes Weekly - July 2, 2009
       Jul 2, 2009

  Oakes Weekly - June 25, 2009
       Jun 25, 2009

  Oakes Weekly - June 19, 2009
       Jun 19, 2009

  Oakes Weekly June 11, 2009
       Jun 11, 2009

  Oakes Weekly - May 14, 2009
       May 14, 2009

  Cheers to America’s Craft Brewers
       May 8, 2009

  Scoping out the Scene in St. Lucia
       Mar 26, 2009

  A Short Visit to San Diego
       May 8, 2008

home Home > Subscribe to Ratebeer.com Weekly RateBeer Archives > Oakes Weekly

Oakes Weekly - July 9, 2009

Franconian Beer Rules
Oakes Weekly July 9, 2009      
Written by Oakes

Richmond, CANADA -

Last week I couldn’t help but get the diacetyl thing off my chest, but this week I want to explain how crazy Franconia is when it comes to beer. You’re all familiar with the reputation that Bamberg has and you all know about the rauchbier. If you’re been here, you probably know the rest of what I’m going to say but if you haven’t been here, you might have a tough time believing some of it.

So let me start from the start. There are several differences between Franconian beer and beer from other parts of Bavaria. While many Franconian brewers make the usual styles like Dunkel, Hell, Hefeweizen and Pils, they specialize in a couple of other styles as well. The first is rauchbier, which is made by one out of every five or six breweries in the Bamberg area. The second is the Franconian country lager, which can have any number of different names as I explained last week. There are regional differences in these beers, too. For example around Nürnberg they tend to be darker and maltier. In the Bamberg area they are paler and hoppier. In each case, they may have quite a bit of farmhouse character and/or diacetyl. Though I must say, in many instances the latter is not present and this is to the benefit of the beer. Without it, these beers have tremendous character. They look great, foaming over the rim of the ceramic mug (krug) as they do. They are exceptionally appetizing. The breweries are often old, and some of them are still wood-fired. They may use open fermenters in some of the older ones, though I have to say I haven’t seen that yet (not that I’ve seen the equipment at all the breweries).

These lagers are the staple of the Franconian beer scene, and differentiate Franconian beer from that of other regions in Germany. The region is also differentiated by its beer culture. Yes, you can still find crappy industrial beer, colaweizen and other such signs of the apocalypse, but for the most part drinking great beer is simply an accepted part of everyday life. This is a rural area, and the people here are accepted as quaint and backward to most Germans. The truth is, that’s what keeps the beer culture going. Barley, wheat and hops are everywhere. Biergartens are a staple and even in the cities people seek out the rustic country beers.

Not that one needs to go far to hit a country brewery. In Bamberg kreis (the equivalent of a US county) there are 140,000 people and by my count they are served by 54 breweries. That’s one brewery for every 2600 people. The town of Bamberg (not included in the county) has 9 breweries for its 70,000 people, not a bad ratio at all. There are many, many villages with under 1000 people that have a brewery. In some cases, the brewpub is the only business; or the only pub is a brewpub. It is of utmost importance that a town have a butcher, a baker and a brewer. Yes, Franconia is losing some of its country brewers. But the density of breweries here is higher than anywhere else on Earth.

Beer is more important here than just about anywhere else on Earth. The US, with its supposedly great emerging beer culture, still has dry counties, major cities without microbreweries, repressive laws, and most licensed establishments only serve crap. That is not the case here at all. You basically have to go to a nightclub or a Chinese restaurant to avoid good beer here. Dive bars, sports bars, student bars, yuppie bars…yup, they all have good beer from craft brewers. If you’re sick of wandering into a random bar and crossing your fingers hoping they have dusty bottles of Sam Adams Lager, then Franconia is for you.

I was going to list my favorites here, but after visiting a dozen more breweries this past week I would argue that the list of ones that aren’t my favorites might be a shorter list. Our ride last Sunday included four stops. The first was pretty good, and they just got better from there. It was one hit after another. And quite frankly, aside from the odd butterbomb, that’s what it is like here. You just don’t seem to ever run out of great beer.



DerWeg says:

The mention of tiny towns having dedicated breweries serving people numbering only in the hundreds is wonderfully true, and a surprise to the wandering visitor. It truly is difficult to locate bad beer options, and I hope you may be inspired to talk about the often really great food that perfectly accompanies the very consistent beer.

166 months ago
cellar says:

Sounds like a fantastic spot... a lot more sound relationship between breweries and people than in Ireland, where it is more like one to a million! Would anybody know what is going on for October Festival in Bemberg?

166 months ago
DonMagi says:

RBSG next year?

166 months ago
pivnizub says:

Well written! Unfortunately this part of Germany seems to be better known abroad than in Germany....... Prost!

166 months ago
pivnizub says:

Well written! Unfortunately this part of Germany seems to be better known abroad than in Germany....... Prost!

166 months ago
malrubius says:

Love Bamberg. Spezial Keller at the top of the hill is one the best places to drink a beer, and the Schlenkerla tavern in the old town is classic. Regarding the availability of great beer in Franconia versus the US, though, try getting a tripel or an IPA there.

166 months ago
fonefan says:

Yes, that is why we love Bamberg - land so much ;o)) Cheers Jan

166 months ago
Beershine says:

YEAH!! Well put Oakes!

166 months ago
willblake says:

Thanks for the insight, Josh. This is the kind of news that renews my desire to venture to Franconia and keeps it indeed as my number one "dream vacation" for beer travel. Cheers!

166 months ago

You must be logged in to post comments


Anyone can submit an article to RateBeer. Send your edited, HTML formatted article to our Editor-In-Chief.

start quote In Bamberg kreis (the equivalent of a US county) there are 140,000 people and by my count they are served by 54 breweries. That’s one brewery for every 2600 people. end quote