On Location: Kronprinz
Editor’s Note: This story was first published in the September 2016 issue of All About Beer Magazine. At the time of publication, the brewery’s name was Erlkoenig. The brewery later changed its name to Kronprinz, and this story has been updated to reflect the name change.
Kronprinz was only open for a week, but it already had a regular. “An 85-year-old-lady came in the first night,” says owner Felix Wörner. “She said to me: ‘I drink a Seidla [a half-liter of beer] every day.’ She’s been back three times since then.”
If that lady is intrigued by this new brewery, she’s not the only one. Kronprinz (Gaustadter Hauptstraße 109) is in Bamberg, Franconia, the capital of Germany’s traditional brewing culture, which until March had nine breweries for just 70,000 citizens. Now there are 10, but this new operation is quite different from what has come before.
It’s more like the sort of brewpub you’d find in the English-speaking world. There’s an energy that’s a long way from the easy-going magic that makes Spezial’s gasthof, a dark-wood-paneled classic where the beer is served from wooden barrels and locals joke over games of cards, so alluring. The youthful, good-looking wait staff wear black braces and aprons, the crowd is younger than at Bamberg’s classic drinking spots (despite that 85-year-old superfan), and the 5-hectoliter brew kit—made by Kaspar Schulz in Bamberg—is on public display.
This is as much a restaurant as a brewery. Entering, you’re faced with a counter heaving with cold cuts and different types of bread; there’s a matte-black pizza oven behind that, producing Roggenkönig, a rectangular pizza made with rye bread. On the left is a bar area, lit with salvaged East German cage lamps (it also has lockers where regulars can store their glasses, which are mostly empty at the moment), while to the right is the brighter dining room, with the brew kit in the window at the front.
Brewer Tobias Seidel, 26, makes five beers: two amber lagers (one more heavily hopped, “to show what hops do”), an American-style pale ale, a dark smoked bock and a kölsch. Prices are competitive in a part of the world where beer is cheap: €3.40 (about $3.75) per half-liter, and a tasting board of all five beers (0.1-liter servings) for €3.90 ($4.30). All the malt comes from Weyermann, another Bamberg firm, with hops from Germany and farther afield.
Wörner is the 33-year-old son of the family that owns Kaiserdom, the city’s biggest brewery, based not far from Kronprinz’s home in the former Fischerhof restaurant in Gaustadt, in the northwest of the city. The value of his background is clear from the money spent here; every detail, from the tables (high in the bar area; long, pine-bright and surrounded by IKEA-style furniture in the dining room) to the lengthy paper booklet on each table, filled with details about beer, has been carefully considered. The latter includes Kronprinz’s take on the Reinheitsgebot, Germany’s 500-year-old brewing law: “Although the Reinheitsgebot allows a wide variety of beers … we head from time to time on a path beyond the purity law.”
That path will include barrel-aged beers, of which a number are maturing in the cellar. It’s a new approach for Bamberg, but the owners don’t want to frighten any potential customers. “We want everybody in here,” says Wörner. “That’s what makes it feel good.” Gemütlichkeit (a sense of well-being that derives from good company, food and drink) is easy to find in Bamberg. If Kronprinz wants to thrive, it must have it. The signs are promising.