Culinary Culture, Destinations

Beautiful Bamberg: City of Beer

December 23, 2016
Bamberg, Germany

Bamberg’s Old Town Hall, just one of the highlights of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Bamberg offers many delights – a picturesque old town brimming with medieval and baroque architecture, fine museums, superb music, delicious cuisine…and great beer. Bamberg’s beer culture stems from its long history as a center for brewing exceptional beer. The city’s nine breweries, along with sixty breweries in the surrounding region, produce over fifty distinctive, high-quality beers. These breweries, along with traditional taverns, beer cellars, beer-themed tours and beer-soaked events, make Bamberg a haven for lovers of beer.

Schlenkerla Brewery, Bamberg, Germany

Inside the historic Schlenkerla Brewery, a popular spot for beer lovers. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Bamberg’s Beer History

Bamberg’s beer traditions stretch back over a millennium. There is a record of brewing in town in 1039, and the monks of Michaelsberg Monastery began brewing in the early 12th century. In 1489, Bamberg introduced a Purity Law to ensure only hops, malt and water were used to create beer. Bamberg even appointed a “Bier-Kieser” to monitor the quality of its brews. As a staple of the local diet, “liquid bread” was essential for enduring the fasts of Lenten season. Bamberg beer has been celebrated as “liquid gold.”

Local brews, Bamberg, Germany

Just a few of the local brews for sale at Bamberg shops. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Explore Bamberg’s Beer Culture

Bamberg’s nine breweries can be explored independently, stopping in to taste their unique brews and indulge in traditional Franconian fare. All but one of the city’s breweries are located in the old town and easily within walking distance. Bamberg’s traditional taverns and beer cellars (many of which are centuries old) are also well worth a visit.

Before heading out, stop by Bamberg’s Tourism and Congress Center to pick up their “Bamberg and the World of Beer.” The complimentary brochure includes details about each brewery and beer cellar along with a map. It also includes a “Beer Map of Bamberg County” and information about the regional breweries.

Franconian Brewery Museum, Bamberg, Germany

Old tools of the trade inside the Franconian Brewery Museum. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Delve into the history of Bamberg beer at the Franconian Brewery Museum, located in the cellars of the Benedictine Brewery of St. Michael’s – a site of brewing since 1122. The museum offers exhibits on the culture of local beer, including historic tools of the brewers’ trade and the beer-making process.

Smoked Beer, Bamberg, Germany

Sampling Bamberg’s famous smoked beer. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

A great way to explore Bamberg beer is to purchase the Bamberg Brewery Trail, which allows you to create a self-guided beer tour of old Bamberg. The package includes a brochure with listings and a map of the city’s breweries and cellars, as well as five vouchers that can be exchanged for a seidla (a half-liter mug of beer) or admission to the Brewery Museum. It also includes a souvenir backpack, traditional beer stein, and beer mats (aka coasters) from the local breweries. At 22€, the pack is a genuine bargain. It can be purchased at Bamberg’s Tourism and Congress Center.

Another terrific deal is the Bierdümpl, which offers eight seidla at select breweries in the surrounding region for just 6€. This package is also available at Bamberg’s Tourism Center.

Bamberg brewery, Germany

Very fresh beer on tap at a Bamberg brewery. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Bamberg Beer Traditions

  • Look for the Brauereistern (brewery star) hanging outside the brewery. This means that fresh beer is served within.
  • Bamberg is famous for its smoked beer. The distinctive smokey flavor comes from green malt that is dried over a beechwood fire.
  • Beer is served in 1-liter steins. If that’s too much of a good thing, ask for a seidla, a half-liter mug or glass.
  • Every winter, the breweries introduce their “Bock Beer,” a strong beer that is only brewed for special occasions and in small quantities. Each brewery makes it own Bock beer. The tapping of the Bock beer barrels in October and November is a cultural event at Bamberg’s taverns.
  • When your beer stein is empty, simply lay it on its side to alert the server more beer is needed.
  • Bamberg’s breweries offer great traditional snack and meals. During hours when the kitchen is closed, many breweries observe the “golden picnic rule,” allowing guests to bring their own picnic. The brewery will even provide plates and cutlery. A wonderful spot to get provisions is Max Liebold, a classic Franconian butcher shop (be sure to try to their Leberkäse). Right next door is Bamberger Genuss-Stubchen, a shop selling local foods and brews. Both are located on Obere Sandstrasse, quite close to the Schlenerla and Ambrausianum breweries. 
Ambrausianum Brewery, Bamberg, Germany

Enjoying a seidla at Ambrausianum Brewery. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Bamberg Beer Tours

Bamberg Tourism offers a number of terrific beer-focused tours and experiences, including a group walking tour exploring the history of local brewing, a tour and beer tasting, and the Legendary Bamberg Beer Evening.

Bamberg’s Bier Akademie offers a Beer Seminar led by Beer Sommeliers and Brew Masters. The seminar includes information about beer-making, a tour of a historic brewery and beer tasting. They also offer a Beer Taster’s Tour led Sommeliers that includes a brewery visit, tastings, and snacks.

Fit visitors wishing to explore Bamberg’s regional breweries can take several bike tours. These cycling tours include the Brewery and Beer Cellar Toura self-guided circular route that passes 50 small breweries and beer cellars, the Steigerwald Beer Corner Tour (website in German, so you’ll need a translating browser) covering 46 kilometers, and the 13 Breweries Trail (also in German) which offers two signposted routes through the beautiful Franconian countryside, taking in 10 or 13 breweries.

Spezial Brewery, Bamberg, Germany

The tavern at Spezial Brewery. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Bamberg Beer Festivals

  • April 23rd is Beer Day, during which Bamberg’s breweries offer special promotions for tasting their brews.
  • The Nostalgic Brewery Festival is presented in early July by the Franconian Brewery Museum.
  • While Sandkerwa is not specifically a beer event, there’s always lots of local beer flowing at this traditional fair. Sandkerwa takes over Bamberg the 2nd half of August.
  • Bockbeer season is celebrated at local breweries October to January.

For more information about Bamberg and its beer culture, see Bamberg’s Beer site.

Thanks to Bamberg Tourism for their assistance in discovering Bamberg’s World of Beer.

Schlenkerla Brewery, Bamberg, Germany

The crowds at Schlenkerla Brewery spill into the streets of Bamberg. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

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  • Reply cengiz selçok March 31, 2017 at 10:04 am

    Its so amazing.. Thanks for your sharing.

    • Reply Jeff Dobbins April 1, 2017 at 8:36 am

      Thanks! I loved Bamberg and can’t wait to return. (There’s lots of beer I have yet to taste.)

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