Sunday, August 25, 2019

Day 13: Mühlendorf

It was going to be a hot day, nearly 90ºF (30º+ C) so we decided not to be too adventurous. Actually, I decided. The hot humid weather reminds Bob of Florida so he was happy with it. Me, the humidity was killing me.

We decided to ride up the Aurach valley. The first stop was Brauerei Müller in Debring.

They had three beers on tap, a Pils, and unfiltered Lager and a Dunkel. We went with the Pils and Lager (hard to tell with the Krug). Both were good but nothing outstanding.

They had a lot of fish on their menu and it was tempting but seemed too big a meal for lunch with a lot of riding ahead. So we went with the standard Bratwurst and Kartoffelsalat.  Hit the spot.

We headed west-ish, along the valley. Some very pretty scenery, including a nice shot of the Altenburg tower in the distance.

We had a choice of two routes from Google Maps. One (which I had ridden before) takes you thru Stegaurach and has stretches along the main road. The other alternative presented was about 1km longer but looked to be bike paths and back roads. Both were labeled “mostly flat” so we took what we thought was quieter route and found out Google lied. It was not “mostly flat” — it was on average flat — meaning you went up a big hill then down a big hill — a couple of times — but your starting and ending elevations were the same. So it was flat, right?

Soon we were at Mühlendorf and Brauerei “Alte Mühle”, a/k/a Mühlenbräu. 

It seemed a bit quiet and the I noticed the evil word “Urlaub”

It was about 2pm and the keller wouldn’t open for another two hours. And we didn’t want to wait around. We continued into the courtyard, hoping for a shade place to sit and drink some water and it turned out they were brewing. The brewer came out, said “hi” and asked it we wanted to buy a couple of beers. Um, yes. He came back with two ice cold bottles that cost €1 each. The best deal of the day.

We had some options if we continued on but the heat and humidity was getting to me so we decided to head back towards Bamberg. On the way back we passed close to Pettstadt so you know what that means.

Yep, Schrauder Keller and Löwenbräu Buttenheim. We had some Zwiebeleskäs to go with our beers and all was right with the world.

There were additional Krug’s of beer, but they all looked like the one above.

Back in Bamberg we ended up trying out the Kleehof restaurant in the nearby Hotel Europa. The draft beer was St. Georgen of Buttenheim, Löwenbräu’s larger (and less interesting) neighbor.

Not only is the beer a bit boring, it is served in a .4L krug. I guess they are doing you a favor but it is still irritating to pay more for less.  Anyway the food was very good but the service was very, very slow. They mostly are a wine restaurant and I guess the slow service gives them time to sell more wine while you gaze into each other’s eyes — but that doesn’t work with my brother and I.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Day 12: Sandkerwa

Today was going to be a rest day — for the bikes not for our livers. Bamberg’s version of Oktoberfest (in that it is a Volfestival) is called Sandkerwa. It is held in late August (i.e. now) and this is the 69th edition. All along Sandstrasse and many side streets of the Altstadt there are booths selling food, wine, snacks, and of course beer. Most of the Bamberg breweries have booths as do many of the breweries in surrounding villages.

The Schlenkerla tavern is in the heart of it and they turn the Dominikaner courtyard into a beer garden. We stopped there first.

Of course, the beer is dispensed via gravity from a wooden barrel.

It was really comfortable siting there and I could probably have spent the whole afternoon there but then this would be a very short blog post. So we started exploring. I thought I had read that things kicked off at noon but many of the stands were not yet open. We finally stopped it at tent restaurant that was serving beer from Hausbräu Stegaurach, a relatively new brewery (last 10 years or so) but there is some question about the beers now being contract brewed. We tried the Lager and the Rauchbier. The Rauchbier was the more interesting of the two but both were in the “glad we had it, no need for another” category.

Walking around some more we came to a both selling Drei Kronen Schesslitz and also had a sign for the Hopfengarten Hopefen Gin. I had the Drie Kronen Lager and Bob though he ordered a shot of the Hopfen Gin but he ended up with like a quad shop with some sparking water and some sort of simple syrup. Just the thing you need at the start of a day drinking beer.

The gin was interesting — there we notes of juniper as you’d expect but lots of hop flavor and even some bitterness but that probably was from other “botanicals” in the gin. It was way more than we wanted but it was expensive enough we didn’t want to throw it away, so we bought a bottle of water, drank it, and then put then gin drink in it. We sipped at thru the afternoon.

In our strolls we passed Metzgerei Liebold and picked up a couple of their famous Leberkäs Brötchen. A good price of Leberkäs and really good crusty roll just hit the spot.

We next passed a stand selling Huppendorfer (Brauerei Grasser) and Lohndorfer (Brauerei Hölzlein). The Hölzlein beers have a reputation for some diacetyl and just about every twitter commenter mentioned that but it must have been the Leberkäs because I didn’t really detect any until the very end when the beer had warmed up a bit and even then it wasn’t objectionable. I am usually fairly sensitive to it. Oh well.

We passed a good old American style food truck that had and idea I thought brilliant and I hope they open a version in Los Angeles.

Take.good bread roll, add some meat from a Schäuferla, a slice of kloss, some gravy and sauerkraut on top and you have a traditional Franconian meal you can take with you. The Sauerbraten version was similar, except blaukraut instead of sauerkraut. This was the half size version. It was yummy.

We wandered back around to the Spezial booth and they were now open so we sat and had a couple. Spezial, how I missed you.

Across from the Spezial booth was one from Kapüziner one of the brands of the Kulmbach brewery, majority owned (if not more) by Heineken. There always was a rivalry between Bamberg and Kulmbach so this guy didn’t get a lot of business. It was a smart move pushing the wheat beer because the Kapüziner is a decent enough wheat beer.l I think he sold more bottles of what than beer while we watched.

Down from the Spezial booth was one from Brauerei Will in Schederndorf and I remember liking their Landbier last time I was at Sandkerwa so bought a couple and brought them back to our table (everybody was doing that, so I assumed it was ok).

I like the beer, a bit malty/sweet but tasty.

We decide to head back and as we cross back over the Obere Brücke we passed the stand of Brauerei Eichhorn of Dörfleins. The day we rode by there was the first day of their vacation so we didn’t get to try to the beer. 

It was a fitting end to a fun day. We people watched while drinking our beers and the Altstadt was getting quite full of people. That is the one thing I hate about Sandkerwa — narrow streets crammed to the max with people (many who have had one — or six — too many beers)

Back to riding tomorrow.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Day Eleven: Wagner Merkendorf

One of Bob’s (and my) favorite places is the Biergarten in back of Brauerei Wagner in Merkendorf. It is shaded by mature trees, the beer is good (very good!) and the people friendly. There were on holiday the first week of our trip and only reopened this past Tuesday. You may remember we where headed there and aborted the trip because of rain.  So today’s plan was to ride to  Wagner Merkendorf, drink beer, ride back. Ganz einfach.

So after 11km or so (and a slight uphill from Drosendorf) we were there.

There is a small sign and a beer mug flag out front telling you the garden was open. I probably sat at those benches drinking a beer not realizing there was a Biergarten in back.

As is typical, the beer is self service. The food though is table service — they come by and take your order and bring the food. Very civilized.

We started with the Ungespundetes Lagerbier. It was good as expected.

Next up was the Pils. I think I like this a tad more than the Lager, but ask me on a different day and I might reverse the order.

It was time for lunch and they had a special menu, I gather as their Kirchweih was starting the next day. I had half a Gögerla — took a bit of online research to determine it is a chicken prepared a special way. Our table mates told us the chicken can from a nearby farmer — none of the genetically engineered monstrosities you see in the US. It came with Kloß and Wirsing. Bob had sauerbraten with blaukraut and potato salad instead of Kloß. The Gögerla was amazing. If it wasn’t the best chicken I have ate, it is up there with the best (Juan Pollo of Ontario, CA)

They also had goat sauerbraten. I thought about it but passed. Makes sense as marinating the goat in vinegar for a few days will tenderize the meat.

The other beers they had on draft were their Weizen and Jubiläumsbier (originally brewed for the towns 850th anniversary and is a bit stronger at 5.5%). Bob went with the “Jubi” while I had another Lager, fresh from a new barrel. 

The Jubiläumsbier I find to be a bit on the sweet side but Bob liked it and had another, while I went back the to Pils.

There was another round of Pils (maybe two) when we decided we’d better head back before it got too much. As we passed Brauerei Hummel it was clear their Kirchweih celebration was already underway. We almost stopped to listed to a brass band play, but that might have lead to beer drinking and things would have gotten worse from there (I was going to say “downhill” but down the hill was were we actually wanted to go)

A very mild 23km and 6 really good beers meant it was a great day.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Day Ten: BIg Day to Mürsbach

Our destination for the day was Mürsbach, home of Sonnebräu, roughly 20km or so north of Bamberg. On the way back were opportunities for visiting a number of breweries.

Just before you come to Kemmern, there is a bench and the sign below. Behind the bench is a babbling brook and if it isn’t too windy out it is very calming to sit and listen to the “River music.” (If there is wind you mostly hear the rustling of leaves in the trees). I made a recording with my phone but the microphone isn’t really good enough for this and it mostly sounded like static.

Brauerei Wagner in Kemmern doesn’t open until 3pm so we saved it for the return trip and continued on to Breitengüßbach, home of Brauhaus Binkert.

They have ten beers on tap, most of them under the Binkert name but they also do contract brewing for a number of German “Craft” brewers and will occasionally have some of those beers on tap as well. I went with the Kellerbier, which is reportedly just an unfiltered version of the Pils. In any case it was good.

As you can see, quick a varied list of beers. Worth a longer stay be we still had a ways to go.

The route I usually take was plotted from an old paper map prior to the days of smartphones. I just happened to check options on Google Maps and found there was a bicycle route from Rattlesdorf almost to Mürsbach rather than the country roads I usually took. So we tried it and it was a good choice, one of the best surfaces I’ve ridden in these parts — smooth, not bumps, gradual ups and downs, no sudden sharp drops or steep climbs. Also tree shaded and away from the highway it was a very enjoyable ride.

Soon we were at Mürsbach and Sonnenbräu. 

They have two standard beers (Kellerbier and Weizen)  and a rotating seasonal, this time the “Hopfenblümla” which they describe as a 3.5% Session IPA but that designation really doesn’t do it justice. Lots of late hopping and flavor and you don’t really notice the lower alcohol.

For lunch they we had Flammkuchen, a sort of flatbread pizza-ish thing. Delicious!

One thing I like about Sonnenbräu is they have a board with details about the current beers — when they were brewed, packaged, etc. You can see the Hopfenblümla was lagered for about half the time of the Kellerbier.

We decided to get back on the nice bike path and rode down to Freudeneck, home of Brauerei Fischer.

Their beer as had their ups and downs over the years. Ten-twelve years ago with was really good. Then there was a spell were it was still OK but not as good as earlier.  I enjoyed it when I was here last year and it was good today as well. From reactions on Twitter they win the prize for favorite krug.

A bit down the road (and up a sharp climb at the end) is the village of Höfen and Brauerei Endres, also know as “Goldener Adler”

At times their beer has been very good and has a bit of a cult following. I have also had some less than stellar examples and sadly today’s was in the latter category. About the first quarter was fine but there was a little off flavor in the middle and that bad flavor just continued to build. By the time I was halfway thru I really didn’t want to finish it. If there had been a convenient large plant nearby (and no witnesses) I might have just dumped it. But we finished it. 

Continuing on we passed Binkert again but decided to press on to Kemmern a Wagner Bräu. Hopefully well make another go at Binkert this weekend.

They do a number of good beers here but the Pils is my favorite and it did not disappoint.

It was getting close to dinner time so we decided to have a Schnitzel, which also did not disappoint. Another Pils to wash it down then it was time for the ride back to Bamberg.

Because of construction and some detours the route was a little longer than planned but with the weather and the beer it was a glorious day. Just a tad over 50km

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Day Nine: Merkendorf, busted!

First a note about lack of river traffic: It turns out both the Danube and Rhine rivers are too low for most boats to navigate. That may explain why the cruise boat we saw seemed to be empty.

Our plan for the day was to head for Brauerei Wagner, Merkendorf. They have been closed for a few weeks on holiday and this was their first day back open.

But first we stopped in at Cafe Abseits for lunch and beer. The beer of the month was the Gänstaller Kellerbier, so I had that and Bob had the always excellent Mönschambacher Lager.

Gerhard also brought out a couple of beers he thought we might be interested in. The first was a “Fränkisches Rotbier” by a new contract brewer BroBier, run by two brothers. Their beers are mostly brewed by Binkert in Breitengüssbach. It was fine but not particularly special.

Next was a Maibock from Meine Bräu in Hof. It was very good. A bit maltier in the finish that a typical Maibock, there were enough hops to make it very drinkable.

We felt a few drops of rain and Bob checked is weather app...

It looked very much line we’d probably be riding back from Merkendorf in the rain, so we bailed. Gerhard mentioned that Hopfengarten did have their brewery up and running and technically they were open so we headed over there.

Behind the building is a whole complex of greenhouses and large garden patches, growing everything from herbs, tomatoes (200+ varieties), chilis and hops (hence the name). They basically specialize in taking a base Helles Lager and flavor them with “botanicals.”  The effect is usually fairly subtle — you can taste the underlying beer, but the added flavor come thru.

First up was Minz-mann — flavored with mint. You are going to get tired of reading this, but it worked but I can’t explain exactly how. A beer with a bit of mint in the nose and in the background flavor.

Next was the lemon Zitronic. This one did not work as well for me. It was more a lemon oil aroma and flavor which to be brought “Lemon Pledge” furniture cleaner to mind. I sort of expected more a “Radler” character and it wasn’t that.

Third was Himbo,  raspberry. You’ll notice the beer isn’t pink. It had a nice bit of raspberry in the nose and just a hint in the flavor. It was very enjoyable.

The final beer was Gurki — you guessed it — a cucumber beer. If you like cucumber water you will like this beer. Imaging brewing a beer using cucumber water and this is what you’d get. It was the strongest flavored of the bunch. Bob really liked it, but it was a bit too much cucumber for me.

We didn’t get a chance to try “Tomaten Joe” their tomato beer. Some Swedish beer friends had tried it and really liked it. Next time! The also make a Hopfen-Gin which also sounds interesting and will have to wait for the next visit.

They were in the process of (hand) bottling a batch so I couldn’t get a good shot of their brewery but they do have one. It is small, what you might expect a restaurant that wanted to brew beer to install.

They also had flowers growing everywhere — this picture doesn’t do it justice — it was a wall of color.

It wasn’t raining yet so we thought we check out one more place. Along the canal side bike path/sidewalk near Wunderburg is a little snack bar stand that has been there forever. Usually as I’d ride by there would be sketchy looking people drinking cheap beer from the bottle and I never stopped. I notice that it had been renovated and upgraded and was now “Kiosk Kunni” and they have a couple of beers from Brauerei Hönig in Tiefenellern on tap — their Pils and Lager.

I later learned that initial that had just one beer but was served via a gravity barrel (Bayerische Anstich) but had switched to regular kegs, which I understand because I’m sure their sales depend on the weather.

Both were in good shape. As we sat down, the rain started, so we sipped slowly and waited for a break. One came and we made it back to the apartment relatively dry.

We decided to walk down to Fässla for dinner but they were absolutely packed. So we had a Pils (was OK but a little softer, less hoppy than usual) in the schweme.

Dinner was a excellent Döner from Imbiss Maramiss up the street.

I am almost embarrassed to post the map, but in the interested of transparency, here it is