Back to Bamberg
But those images were enough to persuade my wife to accompany me on a return visit. She outdid me in the travel sleuthing department, not only finding reasonably-priced hotels but also unearthing one of Europe’s best rail deals—an all-day pass for two, good on local trains throughout Bavaria. The cost: 21 euros.
After another visit to Spezial and Schlenkerla, and a stroll through Old Town—even more charming in the wake of a freak spring snowstorm—we negotiated a maze of cobblestone streets and eventually found Klosterbräu (Obere Mühlbrücke 1-3). As the name suggests, it, too, began life as a monastery. Brewing operations began here in 1533 by decree of the bishop.
The monks are long gone; their home has been turned into a cheery beer hall—a perfect place to spend a long, lazy afternoon. But the bishops are still around. With a puckish sense of humor, Klosterbräu honors them by putting their pictures on glasses into which the specialty of the house, Braunbier, is poured. I counted 10 other beers on the menu, including Bamberger Gold; Schwärzla, the house version of a Bavarian dark beer; a bock; and an even stronger Maibock.
We ended the day at Fässla, where I’d begun my first visit to Bamberg. Its beer hall had a more contemporary atmosphere than its friendly rival across the street, and it didn’t serve Rauchbier. Instead, the beer lineup included several lagers, including Zwergla, a dark beer named for its trademark dwarf; and the formidable Bambergator which, at 8.5 percent ABV, is the biggest beer in town.
Fässla’s customers included working men and retirees, along with a trickle of international beer pilgrims. Perhaps more than a trickle, now that the European Beer Consumers Union has named Bamberg its first World Beer Heritage Site.
My favorite memory of Fässla—the name means “little keg”—was seeing the regulars turn up when it opened at 8:30, then seeing the same people drinking in the evening. I was told that some of them stayed until the owners turned off the lights. Looking around, I could swear that I recognized several faces. And, no, I hadn’t touched a drop of Bambergator.