Bamberg, a beautiful city of 75,000 people located in the countryside of the northern German region known as Franconia, has long been recognized as the epicenter of traditional German brewing and beer culture. Around ten breweries operate within the city limits, and as many as 125 others are to be found within the outward radius of a good day’s bicycle ride. The majority of Franconia’s 300 breweries are family owned and operated.
For a half-century, SANDKERWA (SAND-kehr-wa) has been Bamberg’s end-of-summer street festival, one that originated as a church-related commemoration in the historic city’s oldest central district. For six days each year in late August, the Altstadt’s narrow lanes are filled with food, beer and people in a hearty celebration that brings Munich’s better known Oktoberfest to mind, but exists on a less crowded, decentralized and more enjoyably human scale.
Sandkerwa is an idea worth emulating, and Bamberg a state of mind worth honoring, hence Sandkerwa New Albany — or Sandkerwa NA. The venue is NABC’s Pizzeria & Public House (3312 Plaza Drive in New Albany).
Again in 2013, NABC’s original German-themed draft beer fest kicks off a few weeks later than usual to allow for a special delivery of gravity-dispense (Anstich) kegs from breweries in Bamberg and its Franconian hinterlands. But now they’re here, and the first Anstich keg will be tapped on Friday, October 4, at 3:00 p.m.
Each one of these Anstich kegs has 40 half-liter (16.9 oz) pours inside it. The plan is to tap one per day according to this schedule. All tapping times are 3:00 p.m. unless noted otherwise.
Friday Oct. 4th
Löwenbräu (Buttenheim) Kellerbier
Saturday Oct. 5th
Weissenohe Bioland Export
Thursday Oct. 10th (tapped at 5:00 p.m.)
Friday Oct. 11th
Weissenohe Monk’s Fest
Saturday Oct. 12th
Bayer Theinheim Landbier
Friday Oct. 18th
Saturday Oct. 19th
Friday Oct. 25th
Mahr’s Bräu Pils
Saturday Oct. 26th
Mahr’s Bräu Hell
As many readers will have surmised, once tapped, Anstich kegs will not keep for long, so they’ll be priced to sell through in an evening.
The Publican on Bamberg, by Roger A. Baylor
In personal terms, my experience with Bamberg dates to 1991, when I visited the Franconian city for the first time. Even before that, there was unmistakable infatuation. I’d read accounts of the city’s beer culture written by the late, great British beer writer Michael Jackson and salivated over his written descriptions of Schlenkerla’s trademark smoked lager.
Long before I tasted it, I knew that Schlenkerla would be an unquestioned, enduring favorite, and my first sip amply confirmed it.
Subsequent encounters with Schlenkerla have not failed to entice and impress, and these half-dozen trips since the first one have confirmed not only that Bamberg is the place to go for smoked lager, an elegant retro-rarity in the world of beer, but furthermore, that the city simply has no serious competition as the finest setting for beer drinking in all of Germany.
The beer is sublime, and available in as many styles and variations as there are taste buds, but the truly priceless aspect of any visit to Bamberg emanates from the opportunity, one unfortunately threatened by the pace of modern life, to comprehensively experience a culture seemingly crafted from only the very best of beer’s numerous virtues.
From the savory and always reasonably priced German cuisine accompanying and complementing my beverage of choice to the city’s many traditional indoor and outdoor drinking and dining venues, Bamberg affords the enhancement of gustatory and olfactory pleasures in a way that larger cities cannot match.
Bamberg’s 75,000 residents enjoy the products of the city’s ten (I’m guessing) remaining breweries (down from as many as two dozen a century ago), and also have the opportunity to sample the selected wares of more than a few of the 125-plus breweries in a fifty-mile radius. Many of these breweries are located in charming small towns tucked away in wooded hills and pastoral valleys radiating outward from Bamberg.
Bamberg and its outlying Franconian environs are to German beer what the Amazon Basin is to species of flora and fauna: A diverse and unfathomable “zymurgo-system,” and a treasure trove of species, many of which are doomed to extinction owing to the relentless march of consumerism and mass-marketing.
In truth, few of these beers equal the mighty Schlenkerla Marzen, the Trum family’s everyday (that’s right, everyday) beer. It is a full-bodied amber lager, and it would be delicious even if it did not burst upon the palate with an assertively smoky flavor deriving from beechwood kilning in the brewery’s micro-malting – a traditional method itself now largely extinct.
But there’s something to be said – and tasted – for each.