Friday, 25 May 2018
Three years later, Matt and I ended up renting a holiday apartment during one of the hottest July's imaginable. During that holiday we must have visited virtually all of Bamberg’s brew-pubs, as well as two of the three Bierkellers up on the Stephansberg. The only brewery who’s tap we failed to visit was Kaiserdom who, despite being Bamberg’s largest brewery, seem to have limited distribution for their products within the city.
I returned for a brief solo visit later that same year, when the contrast with the summer could not have been more vivid. Those few days in late December saw temperatures well below freezing, and an unbelievable amount of snow on the ground. Even the locals were saying they had rarely seen so much of the white stuff. The extreme cold meant ideal conditions for enjoying a few glasses of the strong, seasonal Bock-Biers (Weinachtsfest Bier) which most of Bamberg’s breweries produce, including a stand-out one from Schlenkerla which is brewed using malt smoked over oak chippings, rather than the more usual beech wood.
In 2013, Matt and I spent a day in Bamberg as part of our holiday in Forchheim, and I also treated myself to an afternoon in the city, when I came to Nuremberg in 2015, for the Frankisches Bierfest. Schlenkerla and Spezial were visited on both occasions, and in 2015 I renewed my acquaintance with Café Abseits.
Our May visit took place as part of a group of beer enthusiasts, most of whom are CAMRA members, primarily from Maidstone branch. I have know most of these individuals for many years, and not only are they good company, but we all get on well with one another. The various members of the group made their way to Bamberg by a number of different routes, with most choosing the Eurostar – Deutsche Bahn ICE fast train option.
As Matt and I had decided to stay to stay on in Bamberg after the main group had left, we chose to fly, and I mentioned in a previous post that it is relatively easy to take the train from Munich to Bamberg. However, we did note that with the increasing roll-out of fast ICE Inter-City trains, there has been a cut back in Regional Express services between the two cities. The inclusive and good value Bayern Tickets are not valid on the former, so given this restriction, we found ourselves having to wait for a RE train between Munich and Nuremberg.
These issues aside, we were still in Bamberg by mid-afternoon, and whilst checking into the stylish and ultra-modern IBIS Hotel, just five minutes’ walk from the station, we bumped into a member of the group which had travelled by train. They had arrived about 30 minutes before us and were about to head out into the town. They agreed to wait whilst we dumped our luggage in the room and freshened ourselves up a bit.
Our tour leader was due to arrive in the early evening, and we’d arranged to meet up at the Fässla brew-pub, but with several hours to kill beforehand we decided to visit a few other of Bamberg’s drinking establishments first. We took a bus into town because, as I mentioned before, one of the group members has difficulty in walking. Alighting at the central bus station (Z.O.B. in German), we headed for a nearby pub called Zum Sternla. I’d noticed this place a few times on previous visits to Bamberg, but had never set foot inside. I later discovered that Sternla is the oldest pub in the city.
We entered and found several of the wood-panelled rooms which are so typical of pubs in the region, but before we could sit down we were informed that the bar was closed and we would have to sit out in the courtyard. There were a few mutterings, but this suited me fine as I am a huge fan of outdoor drinking.
The courtyard was long and fairly narrow, but there was along table capable of accommodating us all. We took our places and ordered some beer. Zum Sternla is not tied to a particular brewery so there were a couple of draught beers to choose from. I went for the Mahrs “U” to begin with, before switching to the lightly smoked Lagerbier from Spezial. Both were full of flavour and generally rather good.
After paying our tab, we departed Zum Sternla and walked back through the bus station to a place called Tambosi. Jon Conen’s Bamberg Guide, describes this place as more of a "lunchtime" pub which caters for the older generation. It was pleasant enough despite the décor being a little dated, and this theme extended through to the gents, where the orange porcelain urinals, and the brown wall tiles, looked very 1970’s. For some reason we all opted for a bottled Kellebier – I suspect this was because several members of the party are avid users of Untapped! The Weiherer Kellerbier is brewed by Brauerei Gasthof Kundmüller in Viereth-Trunstad, a village to the north of Bamberg. The beer comes in swing-top bottles, and was rather nice.
It was then time to move on to Fässla, where we’d arranged to meet our tour leader. The place was packed, and we were lucky to get a table; even so it was rather cosy all squeezing up together. We decided that despite the squeeze, it would be a good idea to grab something to eat. As this was to be my first Bavarian meal of the trip, I naturally opted for roast pork. It came with one of those spongy potato dumplings (Kloß), and sauerkraut. To drink I had a couple of glasses of Fässla Gold Pils.
Bamberger Weissbierhaus, a short walk away, provided the ideal in which to unwind. It is a fine old traditional, Bamberg pub with a beamed ceiling and plenty of dark wooden panelling.
There was a choice of several different draught beers, but most of us opted for the Aktien Landbier Dunkel from Bayreuth. It was a full-bodied and satisfying beer on which to finish on, and the Weissbierhaus was a good place to end our session on too.
It had been a good start to the holiday and a good introduction to some of Bamberg's lesser known pubs. For me, Sternla, Tambosi and Bamberger Weissbierhaus were all new places, and with the exception of Tambosi, worthy of a return visit. The next day saw us heading off to Forchheim, but I've already written about that.
Wednesday, 23 May 2018
The former Shepherd Neame house, closed in February 2017 following a decision by the brewery that it no longer fitted their “business strategy”. It was put on the market with the prospect of being used for residential purposes, but fortunately the local Barden Residents Association stepped in and managed to have it classified as an Asset of Community Value (ACV).
It was at this point that Matthew Rudd and his partner Emma Cole stepped in with an offer for the pub. The couple had been running the award-winning Windmill in Sevenoaks Weald, but were looking for a new challenge. They had seen the Nelson advertised previously, before they took on the Windmill, but it was only available as a tenancy, and that was not what they were looking for.
new walls, ceilings and various other fixtures. The end result a fine-looking traditional town pub with three different bar areas.
Unlike the Windmill, which is something of a "foodie" destination, the Nelson will focus on serving high-quality beer, and will only be providing bar snacks. The pub will be stocking up to 10 cask ales, along with a range of craft "key-keg" and bottled beers. Whether this number is too many remains to be seen, but the pub was certainly shifting some beer when a neighbour and I called in yesterday evening.
We met up with friends from West Kent CAMRA; some of whom had been there since the pub opened at 4pm. The latter will be the weekday opening time, with longer hours at the weekends. I have to say that having known the Nelson from its time under both Courage and Shepherd Neame, that I was extremely impressed by the tasteful renovation and restoration work that Matt and Emma have carried out.
Low Rider Citra Amarillo - a 3.9% pale session ale from Bristol Beer Factory; Magic Rock Inhaler – a 4.5% Pale Ale, before finishing with a pint of Thornbridge Jaipur (a mistake with work the next morning!). There was a good mix of customers in the pub last night, many of whom were local residents, delighted to have their pub back.
When asked by one of the local papers, whether he thought it a risk to run a pub without a dining option, Matt replied that he was really interested in having a go at running a “wet-led” community pub. He went on to emphasise his belief in the demand for such a pub; especially in Tonbridge, where there’s a lot going on at the moment. He finished by saying, that the feedback had been really positive and how much himself and Emma were looking forward to running a pub that is an important part of the community.
The pub - prior to restoration
I’ll drink to that, and wish Matt, Emma and the Nelson every success. The pub is slightly under a half hour’s walk from my house, so I suspect I will be paying it quite a few visits!
Sunday, 20 May 2018
For the majority of the group, this was their first visit to a town which boasts four breweries, but for Matthew and I it was second time around. We spent a week in this pleasant little town, back in July 2013, in order to experience Annafest; a beer festival of legendary proportions, but we also took the opportunity of visiting a few other places in the area as well.
takes place at the Kellerwald, a wooded hillside on the edge of Forchheim, where there are a series of natural rock cellars cut into the hillside. The cellars were originally constructed for the storage and maturation of beer, in the days before refrigeration. Today there are two dozen such “Kellers”, the majority of which are just open for Annafest, although a handful remain open all year.
As well as plenty of beer drinking there are other attractions such as fairground rides, various stalls, plus six stages which feature a wide range of different musical acts. With seating for about 30.000 people, the Kellerwald provides sufficient accommodation for the 450,000 – 500,000 visitors who come each year over the course of the festival.
Our tour leader had bought a group ticket for us all, so once we were all assembled we walked under the subway and boarded our train to Forchheim. The station has been enlarged since our last visit, with a couple of new platforms installed. This is because a new high-speed rail line has been built alongside the original tracks. This will enable high-speed trains to complete the journey between Munich and Berlin in under four hours.
Although it is a relatively short walk from the station, into the centre of Forchheim, we waited for a bus as one member of our group is partially disabled, as the result of a particularly nasty motor-bike accident, and finds walking both difficult and painful. Our rail tickets were valid on the bus, which is the beauty of public transport in this part of Germany.
Our bus dropped us close to Brauerei Eichhorn, which was our first port of call. Eichhorn is the smallest of Forchheim’s four breweries, and uses a squirrel as its emblem. This was my visit to their actual pub, as the place had been closed during Annafest. We sat inside, due to the onset of a thunderstorm, and had the place virtually to ourselves.
The landlady looked slightly bemused as all 13 of us filed in, but brought us our beer in a friendly and efficient manner. Vollbier Hells was the offering on tap, a pleasant enough dark golden lager, but spoilt by being rather gassy. One member of our party resorted to giving his beer a good stirring with a fork, in order to dispel some of the CO2!
The beer in Neder was much more to everyone’s liking; in fact some people thought it the best beer of the entire trip. Served direct from a cask, perched up on the bar, and dispensed into stoneware Krugs, Neder Kellerbier certainly took some beating, and I could quite happily have stayed for another mug.
Onward and upwards though, and just a couple of doors away was Brauerei Hebendanz. Like Eichhorn, this brew-pub had also been closed during Annafest. It was an old-fashioned looking place, and for some reason we sat out in the corridor to begin with, before moving into the front bar. We tried the Dunkles, but most of us found it rather disappointing; I couldn’t even find the beer listed on the Hebendanz website.
Because of its location, outside the town centre, we gave Brauerei Greiff, Forchheim’s fourth brew-pub, a miss. I’m pretty certain that the bus we caught into town earlier would have taken us there, had we not decided to alight at Brauerei Eichhorn, but no matter, as Matthew and I had consumed plenty of Greiff beer at Annafest five year’s previously.
Friday, 18 May 2018
Well I’m sure as anyone who has read the previous post will have gathered, I’ve been away in foreign parts, and from my comments on other blogs, particularly Retired Martin’s page, Germany was the destination for this year’s spring break.
The base for our five day short holiday, was the lovely city of Bamberg; a real gem of a place which fortunately managed to escape the attentions of Arthur "Bomber" Harris, an obsessive man who considered it his mission to pound as many beautiful and historic German cities into rubble.
Bamberg is a well known destination for British beer lovers, given its nine or ten breweries, and its distinctive beers; the most famous of which is Rauchbier – literally “smoke beer.” The importance of the latter is perhaps over-stated, given that only two of the city’s breweries produce it on a regular basis but, Schenkerla, who produce the most distinctive and widely known Rauchbier are custodians of not only a world classic beer, but are also guardians of one of the most unspoilt taverns in which to drink it.
I travelled there with son Matthew, leaving Mrs PBT’s to spend a few days down at her sister’s in Bexhill. She is recovering well, but decided a spell at the seaside would be more beneficial than a trip abroad. This was undoubtedly a wise move on her part, as Matt and I formed part of a group of beer enthusiasts, most of whom were from Maidstone CAMRA. This was the same bunch of individuals who we visited Düsseldorf with, last year.
The main part of the group travelled over by train (Eurostar plus Deutsche Bahn), but as our travel arrangements were rather more last minute (due to Eileen’s earlier illness), we flew into Munich and then took the train. Flying into Nuremberg is undoubtedly the quickest way of getting to Bamberg, but Ryan Air are now the only airline offering direct flights between this handy little airport and the UK. Easy Jet, on the other hand, operate three flights daily, each way between Gatwick and Munich, and by making use of a Bayern Ticket, it was possible to make the onward trip to Bamberg at a very reasonable price.
The train journey is quite lengthy, but our early morning flight, allowed plenty of options, so after landing at Munich, we took the bus to nearby Freising. From there we boarded one of Deutsche Bahn’s double-decker, Regional Express trains, and from the upper deck we enjoyed a comfortable journey to Nuremberg, as our train sped through the picturesque Bavarian countryside.
A quick change of trains, saw us arriving in Bamberg shortly before 3.30pm, and five minutes later we were checking in to our recently-built, stylish hotel, close to the station. The rest of the group were also staying at the same hotel, although I hadn’t realised this when I first booked it.
Our itinerary allowed for two days in Bamberg plus a trip out to nearby Forchheim and its four breweries. Matt and I stayed on an extra day, so we decided to do the cultural thing by spending a day in Würzburg. Harris unfortunately managed to virtually destroy that city, and seven decades later the scars are still visible, but the magnificent Würzburg Rezidenz has been painstakingly reconstructed, along with a number of other historic monuments.
I will be writing about our experiences at these various places, later on, but for now I will just say that we had a really good time. The weather was fine, apart from the last day, the pubs were splendid, the beer was magnificent– along with the prices (around €2.80 for a half litre), and the company was excellent.
Matt and I got back in the early hours of Friday, and have spent the day unpacking, washing, tidying things away along with some shopping. Tomorrow, there is a street party taking place at the bottom of our road, as apparently two people are getting married. I’m not an ardent royalist, but the party will be a good excuse to get to know some of the new people who have moved into our road, and to catch up with those neighbours who we wish to catch up with.
Friday, 11 May 2018
The lad and I are off to foreign parts on Saturday; I won’t say much more at present, but I’m sure many of you will have guessed beer will feature quite highly on the trip. As if getting everything ready was not enough, we’ve an important quality audit coming up at work, which happens to take place the week I’m back.
I’m not one of the major players in this event, but I’ve still got an important role to play. Making sure procedures, instructions and other quality-related documents are up to date is quite a task at the best of times, but when you’re being assessed on this, and your continuing certification is potentially at risk, it does tend to focus minds extremely sharply.
The Barn, which is just a short hop from the town’s main railway station.
As the name might suggest, The Barn is an old farm building, which has been re-constructed using some of the original bricks and beams. The place functions as both a bar and a restaurant, and whilst I have drunk in the ground-floor “pub” section on several occasions, the other night was the first time I have ventured upstairs to the restaurant.
We were asked which wine we would like, but all opted for beer, as we know from experience that our visitors enjoy a glass or two of beer. Harvey’s Sussex Best was the only cask ale available, but it was pretty average. It wasn’t off, but it was definitely a bit tired, so I only gave it a 2.0 NBSS. I switched afterwards to Cinque; a 5.0% lager from the Shepherd Neame stable, which is brewed using five different grains.
It was a good evening and whilst some of the talk was obviously work-related, a fair chunk of it was not. We know that our colleagues from head office relish their visits to the UK, as alongside the opportunities afforded by inter-company cooperation, it gives them a break from the insanely long hours which many of then work.
birth-rate. With the crazy hours put in by many Japanese workers, (one of our colleagues regularly works a 15 hour day), people are too tired to form meaningful relationships with the opposite sex, and even when they do, there is little time for procreation and raising a family.
Leaving these and other issues aside, our colleagues could have picked a better week to visit, given the audit preparations which are going on. For me though, it was fortunate that the project they had come to oversee, involves mainly production staff, although they did insist on using my laboratory for their in-process testing !
Blogger Matt Thompson, over at “When My Feet Go Through The Door”, covers the story in much greater detail, but it seems more and more people are realising the value of “provenance” for their products, and the holy fathers of Grimbergen Abbey are no exception.
|By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36139901|
Monday, 7 May 2018
One of the last articles I wrote in 2017, was a post called "Follow your dreams". As the title suggests the post was inspired by the idea of a "bucket list"; all those things you'd like to do before you shuffle off this mortal coil (kick the bucket). As I said then,"Having a bucket list, is to have a life and utilise it fully before it's knocked off from under your feet."
The gist of the article was, whilst I don't have a Bucket List as such, there are places and activities which I keep in the back of my mind, with the aim that one day they will surface so I can take action to bring them into reality. I have achieved many of these desires over the past few decades, and am regularly adding new ones.
Whilst many of the desires on my "virtual list" are naturally beer-related, there are plenty of others which are not, but the concept of a beer only "bucket list" does sound an interesting one, and one which could definitely work.
Enter Mark Dredge; one of the UK's most enthusiastic beer writers. I have followed Mark's journey from keen and innovative beer blogger, to today's well-regarded beer writer and connoisseur. With his latest book, entitled "The Beer Bucket List,” Mark has taken the idea outlined above and really ran with it, adding in touches of his own along the way. In doing so he has created a masterpiece of a book, which is a real joy to read.
Described as a “Collection of over 150 unmissable beer experiences, featuring the world’s greatest beer, bar, breweries and events: it’s the ultimate bucket list for every beer lover.” The description ends by saying, “This is any beer lover’s must-read book about the most essential beer experiences on the planet.”
I know Mark Dredge personally, but I won't claim we see each other often, or even go out for a drink together. Our paths cross from time to time, primarily at beer-related events, but given Mark’s rather hectic schedule, even these meeting are led frequent nowadays. Apart from researching and writing books, conducting beer presentations, tastings and other related events, Mark’s career has included working for Camden Town Brewery and managing online content for Pilsner Urquell.
He lived and worked for a while, in my adopted home town of Tonbridge, before moving up to London. Mark first made his presence known amongst the world of beer writers, with his blog, "Pencil & Spoon." The blog was always a good read, but sadly, Mark’s other commitments mean it is rarely updated these days; although an exception was made recently to promote “The Beer Bucket List.”
This is Mark’s 5th book, and he has posted about it on his blog. He says, he was inspired by thinking about where in the world he'd most like to drink a beer. And then by thinking about where he'd suggest others go to drink. The list included the places that any beer lover really should go, plus all those many oddities and idiosyncrasies that make beer – and travelling for beer – so great.
I wouldn’t argue with that, and because the book’s publishers Dog ‘n’ Bone, kindly sent me a copy to review, I was able to discover exactly what Mark is banging on about.
Before delving deeper it’s fun just browsing through the book and seeing how many, or quite often, how few of these beer experiences you have under your own belt. I am lucky to have have experienced quite a few, but then I’m probably twice Mark’s age, so this is not totally unexpected.
From a personal point of view, my beer experiences in Britain and Europe compare pretty well with those Mark describes, but I’ve only scratched the surface of North America. Further afield, with the honourable exception of Japan, South America, the Antipodes and the Far East are unknown entities, as far as I am concerned, but they certainly look exciting destinations for any beer lover, and places to add to ones own bucket list.
And there lies the beauty of this book, for a beer bucket list is something which will never be finished. There will always be some new, hitherto undiscovered gem of a place, just waiting to be explored, and by the same token, new and exciting beers are appearing all the time and not just in the usual places.
I’m not going to spoil things for you by listing too many of Mark’s choices, as the publishers and I obviously want you to buy your own copy but as a bit of a taster, visiting the Pilsner Urquell Brewery, rates pretty highly on my list, as it does on Mark’s, along with going to Oktoberfest for the first time.
This was another amazing experience, and it’s interesting to note that like me, Mark had been putting off going to this event for a number of years, primarily because of preconceptions which turned out to be unfounded. As expected there are quite a few classic breweries described in the book, and whilst I have visited several of these, Mark has the upper hand here, particularly with regard to some of the legendary North American establishments (Anchor, Sierra Nevada, Russian River Brewing etc).
Great beer-drinking destinations feature highly, but so do other slightly more “off-beat” experiences such as London’s famed Bermondsey Beer Mile, drinking in some of the capital’s Historic Pubs, along with a comparison between two of the UK’s finest cask ales, with a definite north-south divide coming to the fore.
In summary, “The Beer Bucket List” is a real labour of love, in which the author’s enthusiasm for his subject really shines through. If you are planning your own beer voyage of discovery or, like me, looking for inspiration for your next beer destination, then this publication really should be on your bookshelf.
I could go on, but having whetted your appetite you will need to buy a copy, if you want to know more. “The Beer Bucket List” is a hardback publication, which runs to 225 pages. It is well illustrated and is nicely laid out, following a geographical pattern. The book is published by Dog ‘n’ Bone, who are an imprint of Ryland Peters & Small Ltd.
For all bibliophiles out there, the book's identification number is ISBN: 978 1 911026 27 3. Available from all good bookshops, price £16.99, although I’m sure a well-known on-line retailer may offer it at a lower price. Before going down that road though, please consider your local, independent book-seller, as it’s not just pubs which are disappearing from our towns!
Disclaimer: I have reviewed this book on behalf of the publishers Dog ‘n’ Bone. For doing so I received a complimentary copy, but did not allow this to influence my review in any way.
With the exception of the front cover, the photos are my own. They all relate in one way or another, to the book.