Friday, 25 May 2018

Bamberg - a brief over-view plus some new pubs

May’s trip to Bamberg was my sixth visit to the city and my third actual stop-over. My first visit was a brief morning halt as part of a whistle-stop coach tour, which involved a visit to several German Christmas Markets, in 2007. Whilst most of the coach party headed for the market, I made a beeline to the world-famous Schlenkerla tavern, where I sat in the lobby enjoying a few glasses of the equally famous Rauchbier.

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 a long 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.

A quick word here about payment. The general rule, for those who wish to join in, is that a “kitty” system is operated. Participants chip in with an initial payment of €20, and then top up the kitty  in increments of €10, as required. The kitty is purely for beer, although on this trip it was used to cover public transport as well. Individuals pay for the cost of the food they consume. The arrangement works well, providing participants drink at roughly the same pace.

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.

One reason why Fässla was so crowded that evening is that Spezial, on the opposite side of the street, is closed on Saturday evening, but whatever the reason, we decided to seek somewhere a little quieter for the final drinks of the evening. The 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.


Professor Pie-Tin said...

That final beer looks gorgeous.
Deeply envious of your trip and also the ability of some of your group to reach Europe without flying or sailing.
I know complaining about public transport in the UK is as commonplace as it has always been but being able to get a train after work in London and bedding down in a European city that night after a nice dinner without having to submit oneself to the whole rigmarole of airports is one of the things I miss most about living here in Ireland.
And Germany is vastly underrated as a tourist destination in Britain.

Paul Bailey said...

That final beer certainly was good, Prof.

I'm sorely tempted to go for the train option next time, as we were certainly herded around like cattle at Gatwick, prior to the outward flight. My friends' journey did involve an overnight stop in Brussels, but they found a good, but basic hotel close to the Gare d'Midi, and with a few strong Belgian beers under their belts, enjoyed a good night's kip, before continuing their journey in the morning.

Another friend, who decided to stay in Nuremberg (because his wife had friends living close-by), managed the entire journey in a day, and last year, my colleagues and I took the Eurostar-Thalys to Cologne, in order to attend a trade show.

Russtovich said...

"for those who wish to join in, is that a “kitty” system is operated."

Not a bad idea for a large group. Is that partly because Germany is like us where you don't pay as go at the bar?

"I suspect this was because several members of the party are avid users of Untapped!"

LOL, I can understand in a way. Have that app but haven't been avid in using it lately.

"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."

Good beer, good people and good place. Good way to end indeed. :)


PS - "but there was along table"

Hopefully there was enough 'space' for that 'along' table. :)

" is closed onSaturday evening,"

Spacing again old chap. :)

Paul Bailey said...

Thanks Russ, spacing issues duly corrected.

Unlike the UK, you don't pay at the bar in Germany, and the same applies to most other parts of Continental Europe. I'm sure I'm not the only Brit who finds this practice frustrating, as a friend was complaining about it recently on her latest blog post.

My lengthy reply is probably worthy of a post of its own, but the point is having to wait around at the end of the session, in order to settle the bill, can be extremely annoying. If, for example, you’ve a bus or a train to catch, you can end up missing it.

Russtovich said...

"having to wait around at the end of the session, in order to settle the bill, can be extremely annoying. "

Completely agree. It's like that over here. Some places will allow you to pay as you go if you ask. Or, what I do sometimes, is ask for the bill as soon as they bring me my last drink. And if it's shift change they ask you to settle up, even if you're not leaving, so the tips go to the right person. :)


Paul Bailey said...

" And if it's shift change they ask you to settle up, even if you're not leaving, so the tips go to the right person." That seems a good idea to me; we've experienced it in Germany, a few times.