Friday, 8 June 2018
An afternoon in Wunderburg
Many UK beer enthusiasts will be familiar with the name Mahr’s, and it was in the courtyard beer garden which fronts the brewery that we later ended up but, as the beer garden doesn’t open until 4pm, our first port of call was at the lesser known Keesmann Brewery.
We sat outside in what in effect is the brewery yard, where there are a number of tables and benches laid out for those who
enjoy al fresco drinking during warm weather. There was a bit of disgruntlement from a couple of group members, as they wanted to sit inside, but they were persuaded by the majority of the group that they should join us out in the sunshine.
Sitting in the courtyard brought back memories of that first visit in 2010, when Matt and I sat there watching the brewery staff getting things ready for the local Wunderburg Kerwa; an annual celebration which has religious origins, but nowadays seems just an excuse for a get together accompanied by plenty of beer drinking. This time though the activity in the yard seemed much more workaday, although that routine was shattered when several cases of bottled beer came crashing to the ground, due to the actions of a careless fork-lift driver.
Keesmann are best known in Bamberg for their Herren Pils brand, which probably is one of the best pilsners in the local area. I also enjoyed the brewery's Helles and their Gold. We had eaten earlier, at the nearby Fässla Keller (more about that another time), but some of our party were getting impatient, and having drank their way through the Keesmann range, were keen to move across the road to Mahr’s Bräu and start on their beers.
An advanced party were therefore sent over, with instructions to secure a table with sufficient space for all 13 of us. Matt and I wandered over later, with the stragglers, and
We joined our comrades and got stuck in with the sampling of several of the excellent Mahr’s Bräu beers on offer. This obviously pleased the “Untapped” contingent, who had several more beers to tick-off electronically. As I hinted earlier, Mahr’s are quite familiar to UK beer enthusiasts, and the brewery has even gone as far as launching a collaboration with an English brewery.
The pub attached to the brewery is also well worth a visit, although it was deserted whilst we were there, as everyone was outside enjoying the sunshine. I popped inside a couple of times, in order to visit the toilets, and managed a look around and also took some photos.
I have been inside the Mahr’s pub during the depths of winter, and it is a lovely old, comforting sort of place, with a real timeless feel about it. During that visit, in late December 2010, one of the beers “Ungespundetes”, was being dispensed direct from a wooden cask, perched up on the bar counter, but I understand this practice has unfortunately ceased.
The temperatures during May’s visit were at the opposite end of the scale and we were glad of the large, square umbrellas which provided adequate shade for the entire table. I enjoyed both the Mahr's Ungespundete Lagerbier, known as "U" and the Helles.
As the late afternoon gave way to early evening, most of the party headed back to the hotel. Matt and I still had some beer left in our glasses and not wishing to rush decided to make our own way back. The only trouble was that despite having been to Mahr’s several times, we couldn’t find the bus stop.
We decided to follow the course of the Main-Donnau Kanal back into the city centre, but rather than walking along the bank, we kept to the road which runs parallel with the canal. We eventually came across a bus stop, but discovered that it was only two stops away from the central bus station. It still provided some welcome relief from the sun which, even at 7pm was still very fierce.
Later that evening Matt and I joined three of our companions for an Indian meal. It was an old friend’s birthday, and instead of pork knuckles and Schnitzels, he fancied a curry. We’d been discussing this earlier, whilst still at Mahr’s, and the consensus was that Germans didn’t really do hot and spicy food; how wrong could they be!
It was quite a hike to the curry house; the Germans haven’t really taken to curry in the same way that us Brits have, so there are only a handful of Indian restaurants in Bamberg. With one of our party following the route indicated by Google Maps on his phone, we found our way to the restaurant via a maze of back-streets which afforded a totally different view of Bamberg.
Indisches Restaurant Swarg was certainly worth finding, and looking back at the map, it wasn't far from Bamberg's main shopping area. As it was Monday evening, it was virtually empty and we almost had the place to ourselves. We were handed English menus, although I imagine the German version would have been quite easy to decipher.
Matt and I both went for a Jalfrezi; lamb in my case, chicken in his. The waiter asked how spicy we wanted it, so we both said "mild". Our companions are seasoned curry lovers, so opted for chicken vindaloo each. They also decided to share a bottle of Burgundy between themselves, but Matt and I stuck to beer - Schlossbrauerei Reckendorf.
We should have gained a hint from the curry paste which accompanied the poppadom starter, as it was exceedingly hot. That cold glass of Helles was already coming in handy. When our main course arrived, it was anything but mild, although I have to say it was extremely good. It certainly put paid to the myth about Germans not liking really hot curries!
We spent an enjoyable couple of hours at Restaurant Swarg, reminiscing over old times and having a good laugh remembering shared experiences. We made our way back to the hotel, by a slightly different route, joining the rest of the group in reception for a couple more beers. They had dined at Cafe Abseits; Bamberg's premium beer cafe, just a short distance away on the other side of the tracks. It had been a good day, but I certainly felt that curry the following morning!