It's a good job the bins are brown

Thursday started very well, what with waking up in a fucking brewery 'n that. They throw in breakfast, in a hard to find fr├╝hstuck zimmer tucked out beyond the outdoor bit where some fellas were already on their morning beers. Good work, Germany.

Breakfast consisted of a difficult "tea or coffee?" conversation followed by mountains of meat and cheese. Like a round of the Unbelievable Truth, Geoff tried hard to convince me and Jon that cheese cures hangovers because calcium receptors and some other shit. I can't say that it really worked. Jon totally flaked out after pushing cheese around the plate a bit, and Mike took his place. Then time for a shower and some blog writing before reconvening at 1045.

There's barely any wifi in Bamberg. I don't mean free wifi or even pay wifi, I mean wifi at all. No networks found, virtually anywhere, and since I couldn't tether either I got a bit angry about my inability to post the blog. Mind you, I hadn't even finished writing it by the time we left so I shoved everything in a bag and we set off.

Jon was late down, still feeling delicate, so we three spent a few minutes outside reading the sign explaining how the road on which we were stood used to have 22 breweries but now sadly only has two. On the flip side was a roll call of all breweries in Bamberg past and present, with the existing 9 highlighted. This included our first stop of the day, Keesmann.

About a 15 minute trek from where we were, I directed us the sub-optimally picturesque route past terrible looking sports bars and endless housing before, oh, hello, a big cathedral and then two breweries opposite one another. Inside Keesmann there's no signs of life and the serving window is shut, so Geoff knocks and they open and sell us 4 beers. Huzzah!

Geoff is concerned that we didn't alert him earlier to the literal egg on his face moment when he had egg on his face. Conversation rages about how to live or perform literal metaphors and then I wheel out my tired old idea of getting my friends called Mark to pose for photos with Spencer, and Karl, and ...

MAN BEER

We're meant to be at the Mahrs brewery across the street at around midday, but meh. We get another 4 beers in, this time one of each of the brews they make. An old guy comes into the brewery with a crate of empties and then asks Geoff to help him to the car with his new crate of full bottles. We share each different brew by drinking a quarter of a pint each and then rotating them around, and everyone agrees the dark beer is fantastic and the best.

Mahrs is very busy when we finally get there and someone buys a bunch of beer, 4 of the same flavour. Jon, Geoff and Mike all agree that it's the greatest beer they've had all week and oh wow it's fantastic etc; I take a sip and go, meh. It's OK. I don't hate it. But it's not special. We wonder where Steffen is and spot his photo on the wall in several places, because it seems we accidentally made friends with not just some employee but the head brewer. And then he appears, busy on the phone but shakes all our hands.

A second round is bought, everyone having the same except for me - I want the chocolate stout. Or was it coffee stout? I dunno, but this really IS the best beer of the week. It's staggeringly nice and everyone else agrees. The aftertaste lasts forever and as I type this I regret not getting a takeout for today's journeys. Grr.

As always seems to happen when I'm around, talk moves to wrestling as Geoff and I argue about who recalls Mick Foley's famous 1998 bump the best. Mahrs gets empty as it seems most people had just been there for lunch (though who knows what time they started - the place opens at 0830) and once we finish we head outside. A friendly American lad who said he'd spotted us last night offers to take a photo of us outside the brewery, and all of a sudden we are joined by Stephan (and, briefly, his dad), whose name changes spelling when he gives me his business card.

He gives the 5 of us a very long talk about which breweries he's collaborating with, the flavours he wants to make, the malts he sends around the world, his aborted attempt to do good things in Denver and Portland, and how he's partnering with restaurants and wine outlets in London. Later that night he's off to see Five Finger Death Punch because he's mates with them. Proper brewmance going on here.

Since we're now 4 beers in and it's gone 2pm we figure maybe it's time for solids. In the bleak weather we take the not-quite-picturesque route parallel wth the river but on the opposite pavement, which pleases me no end. Conversation on this leg becomes pretty one dimensional, revolving entirely around Mike's overwhelming desperation for a shit. We cross the bridge onto the island and main town centre and Geoff directs us past numerous closed restaurants, which amuses three of us no end. Laughter turns to tears upon Jon's use of the term "shitzkreig", a happening which is narrowly averted because in the nick of time we do find a boozer.

It's called Zum Sternla and they sell beers from most of Bamberg's breweries, including one which doesn't have a tap room so obviously we go for that. It's a Bohemian Dunkel, lovely, and comes with bread and black pudding. Nom. Numerous sausages are ordered and we attempt to decipher some of the Franconian writing on the newspaper-style menu. Franconian looks a bit like Finnish.

During this meal I become newly fascinated with Geoff's 12 month aim of having at least 1/3rd of a pint of 1,000 different beers, checked in via Untappd. I think this is a bit of an unhealthy goal even for me but I'm tempted to go for 365 in 2016. Perhaps. Hmm.

As we finish up we're trying to formulate a plan. There's some tourisms nearby, as well as 3 breweries, but consensus is to do the former and then go back to our home brewery for a kip, before assaulting the brauhausen in the evening. The tourisms are pretty good (half a face, a river, some painting on a wall) but everything is wet and bleak and not very photogenic and, oh, we've accidentally reached the breweries. Since we're here...

Look! Wifi!

The first one, Ambra├╝sianum, has wifi. Fuck yeah. I finish my blog post and upload it, causing disagreement about my characterisation of our state the previous night as "riotously pissed". My blog, my rules.

We each have a tasting paddle of 3 beers each, light, wheat and dark. I'm pretty unimpressed with all of them. Next door, though, is Schlenkerla, purveyors of my favourite beer ever, the amazing bacon-esque rauchbier. I mean they're not the only rauchbier vendors, what with Bamberg being that style's home, but they are (currently) my favourite.

YES YES YES

We find a seat in one of the side rooms because we can only drink the Urbock up there, not in the first room by the entrance. No idea why. The beer comes and is amazing, but, ... Mike has been describing this place as my own personal beer nirvana all day, but I'm not so sure. It's still bloody gorgeous, though I'm struggling to place it above my mate Stephan's chocolate stout.

More beer comes, this time like animals in the ark, two by two. Two pints of the black white beer, and two pints of the black lager. The lager is pretty ordinary but the black white beer (which is neither black or white) is decent. A woman from the table across the way comes to ask me if I'm Australian because apparently I sound it. Huh. She tells me they are in Bamberg because they got scared of Paris or something. I understand nothing about the entire encounter.

It's now, I dunno, 7pm or so. Clearly we're powering through without a kip, so decide to go to the last brewery in this part of town, directly opposite, quickly saying hello to Johnny Denver on the way. Stalker. It's a restaurant not a pub and due to unhappy events we aren't allowed to bawl or sing. Thankfully we're in the mood for food, and lots of it arrives; I have goose, Mike and Geoff had venison goulash and Jon had something whch I just asked him to remind me while typing ths sentence, and now can't spell. Something sauer.

Told you.

It properly hit the spot, and as with everything, was daft cheap. We paid like 30 quid between us for great beer and plates of wonderful food, including tip. And now it's very dark and time to walk back for a nightcap in Spezial. Geoff and I bluff that we know the right way to walk, and Mike delights in proving our confidence to be misplaced. The trot back involves a lot of whistling, for reasons I can no longer recall. No shops are open at all. Nowhere to get a soft drink at all. Bamberg has priorities largely right, but, come on now. Play fair.

At Spezial I have some sausage beer, in the same seat as the previous night. It's great. Again Mike and I are the last men standing, havng a pint of Bock - unlike the previous night, despite that being what we ordered - as Jon and Geoff retire. We've managed an 11 hour stint drinking in 7 breweries (sort of) in the town which invented smoked beers and life is good, though I'm looking forward to a decent kip.

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