Try smoked beer in historic Bamberg

Try smoked beer in historic Bamberg

by Jessica Zen
Stripes Europe

The German town of Bamberg, nestled along river Regnitz, is a prime example of medieval and Baroque architecture in Bavaria. In 1007, the Duke of Bavaria became King of Germany and set out to make Bamberg the Franconian “second Rome.” The layout of the town is marked by five churches in the shape of a Latin cross. The imperial Cathedral of St. Peter and St. George boasts four towers and the tomb of Pope Clement II. All three parts of old town Bamberg, the episcopal town, the island town, and the market gardener’s town, are part of the UNESCO World Heritage site. Since the 1950’s, Bamberg has been in a continuous state of restoration. Though it may not entirely live up to the “second Rome” title, it certainly has something unique to offer visitors.

In the heart of old Bamberg, beneath the domineering cathedral walls, sits the historic smoked beer brewery of Schlenkerla, a must-see destination. This brewery was first established in 1405 and is currently run by the 6th-generation of the Trum family. The smoked beer at this brewery is tapped directly from wooden barrels, in accordance with old tradition, and is called aecht schlenkerla rauchbier in German.

The brewery name itself has an interesting history. Schlenkern is a German word for swaying or dangling, an apt term for someone who would perhaps have had one too many drinks after visiting a brewery. Legend has it that one former brewer had a tendency to walk in a strange manner, whether it be from too much drink or a former accident is unknown. Regardless, he was deemed the schlenkerla, or little dangler. Nowadays the term encompasses the tavern, the brewery, and of course, the smoked beer.

The beer itself gets the smoky flavor when the malt is exposed to the smoke of burning beech wood. Once mixed with hops, the brew matures in 600-year-old cellars, deep in the hills of Bamberg. When it is ready, the beer is dark and aromatic and contains an alcohol content of 5.1 percent. As Schlenkerla is quite large, there are three main places to enjoy the taste of smoked beer—inside underneath traditional timbered ceilings, in a former monastery or in the inner court. Regardless of where you choose to enjoy your drink, you are experiencing a way of malting and brewing that is ancient and only found in two breweries today.

Just wandering the streets and admiring the architecture of Bamberg is the perfect recipe for a relaxing afternoon. Perhaps throw in some history, as it’s everywhere you look. Add a half-liter of smoked beer into the mix and the afternoon will only get better.  Bamberg will surely find a special place in your heart after a memorable experience like this. 


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