Friday, 8 June 2018

An afternoon in Wunderburg

A short distance east of Bamberg, along the line of the Main-Donnau Kanal, lies the suburb of Wunderburg. It is almost a self-contained community with its own church and shops, but of more interest to the beer lover, it is also home to two breweries. What’s more the breweries are on opposite sides of the same street. On the second full day of our stay in Bamberg, and on a day which was perfect for drinking,  our tour group visited both establishments

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
found the other ensconced at a long table, sheltered from the fierceness of the afternoon sun, at the far end of the courtyard. The garden was relatively empty when we arrived, but by the time we departed, it was packed.

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!


Martin Taylor said...

As I've said before, Paul, it's the human detail that makes this blog so good. Hope I can enjoy curry and beer with my sons soon.

Yet another place to add to the list,perhaps Dick and Dave can be persuaded out there if curry is that good.

NB Matthew is me, by the way. I had problems logging in to comment under my own name.

Russtovich said...

"but nowadays seems just an excuse for a get together accompanied by plenty of beer drinking."

Funny how that seems to happen a lot. :)

"sheltered from the fierceness of the afternoon sun, at the far end of the courtyard."

Wise move; and smart to have those eager go over ahead of time and snag a table big enough for all.

"This obviously pleased the “Untapped” contingent"

I was into that for a while, but don't make a big deal out of it anymore (for that matter I was into Pokemon on the smartphone for a few months and got over it). :)

"and it is a lovely old, comforting sort of place, with a real timeless feel about it. "

There's a nice photo on their brewpub page.

"With one of our party following the route indicated by Google Maps on his phone,"

Did that when I was in Brugges and Brussels a few years ago. Having a phone from outside the EU I found it handy to get the main map when on WiFi and then it would still work with GPS whilst walking around.

"but Matt and I stuck to beer - Schlossbrauerei Reckendorf. "

Wise move. I am reluctant to mix drinks these days.

"It certainly put paid to the myth about Germans not liking really hot curries!"


"but I certainly felt that curry the following morning!"

Oof! I know that feeling. :)

Glad to hear it was a good day. Nice that such a large group could split up then meet back up later.


PS - Interestingly there is no Streetview for all of Bamberg and the surrounding area (or for most of Germany for that matter).

Dave said...

Love Bamberg. Never had curry there though. Love that German pork.

Matt said...

Mahrs Bräu is the one place that I wish I'd had time to go to when I was in Bamberg: I had planned on making a trip to it, but a fire next to the railway line and a replacement bus back from Forchheim threw my schedule out, and that intention with it.

I seem to remember reading somewhere that in the summer you can travel from the centre of Bamberg to it in a horse-drawn cart?

Paul Bailey said...

Thanks Martin, both my parents were great "people watchers", so I must have picked something of the habit up from them.

Last month's trip was the first time I've had a "ruby" in Germany, although business trips to Cologne have seen my colleagues and I eating in Thai, Spanish, Italian and Argentinean restaurants. Btw, I thought "Matthew" was you.

Russ, the group dynamic was a good one, and that evening wasn't the only time we split up. The following day Matthew and I had a day out in Wurzburg, along with my friend Ian, from Tonbridge and his wife. The rest of the group spent the day in Bamberg.

Matt, it's a shame circumstances prevented you visiting Mahrs Bräu, as along with Schlenkerla and Spezial, they're up there with the best in Bamberg. As far as I know, the horse-drawn carriage still runs out to Mahr's from the city centre. It certainly sounds like a stylish way of travelling to the brewery.