I have a lot of fond memories of the time I spent in Bamberg. Most of them involve Bamberger beer in some way. Bamberg's biggest contribution to the world of beer is arguably the Rauchbier style. While Bamberg may not have invented the style, it's brewers perfected it. Again, perfected is arguable since there are a good number of people who don't like Rauchbier or smoke beer in general. I happen to love it. That rich roasted malt, oily charred grain and bacon-like savory flavor is unique and reminds me of all the good time I had in Bamberg. Schlenkerla is the biggest exporter of Bamberg Rauchbier and makes several variations of the style. Actually, all of their beer is a variation of Rauchbier... which is to say all of their beer just has smoked malt in it. I have yet to have a bad Schlenkerla beer and they sell enough of it that there must be something to it...
The bottle says St. Michaelsberg very prominently. When I first glimpsed at this bottle I though, "No way that's St. Michaelsberg from Bamberg..." I'd lived in Bamberg for a year in college and have fond memories of the place. It's a medium sized town in Franconia, halfway between Munich and Berlin. Bamberg had nine breweries serving a population of about 80,000 people back then. It's definitely a town known for its beer, and for good reason... Rauchbier is a style that put Bamberg on the map but Weissbier is what kept me coming back to visit. I knew St. Michaelsberg as a hilltop abbey, not a modern brewery, so I was very surprised to see this bottle and I wanted to know more about the story behind it.
My memories of Bamberg are too fond to allow me to write an unbiased review of one of the city's iconic beers. If the following paragraphs come off as too glowing or whimsically reminiscent, it's because Bamberg beers have cast a spell on me and I'll forever be smitten with them. I will say that, while Schlenkerla is probably the most well known Bamberg brewery outside of Germany, it's probably my least favorite. The tour groups that come through Schlenkerla each hour on their tour of the Altstadt really detract from the authenticity of the experience. That being said, Schlenkerla makes some great beers I'm always excited to drink.
This beer is exactly what I was looking for. Exactly. When I was poking around in the fridge looking for a beer to drink tonight I wanted something that was smooth, creamy and tasted familiar. When I saw this bottle of Mahr's Bräu Saphir Weiss I couldn't resist opening it. If you've read more than a few of my other posts you probably already know that I spent a good deal of time living in the small Franconian town of Bamberg. I may be biased but I still believe that Bamberg beers are the best in their class, and the beers from Mahr's Bräu are no exception.
Mahr's Bräu's Der Weisse Bock is a strong dark beer with a ton of flavor. The beer's name isn't just clever, it really describes the style quite aptly. This beer is a blend of the Bock and Weissbier styles. It's sweet and malty like a dark Bock beer but it's also sour and light bodied like Weissbier. The label on the bottle has a white goat on it, he's licking the overflowing foam from a full glass of beer. The label is almost as a clever as the pairing of the Bock and Weiss flavors. This beer is brilliant, it's smooth and creamy while retaining all the flavor for a Bock AND a Weiss. This beer smells like a butterscotch sunday, and some of that follows through to the flavor. It's sweet and sour in flavor, super creamy and still a bit malty. I'd suggest this beer to anyone who wants a complex and strong beer that isn't as bitter as your usual bock/stout/porter. Keep an eye out for Mahr's Bräu's Der Weisse Bock, you won't regret it.
Rauchbiers and Smoked beers aren't my favorite style. Unless it's the dead of winter and I have a hankering for pork, I generally don't think to myself, "Hey, why not have a couple smoke beers?" That being said, I am quite partial to beers from Bamberg, Germany. I spent the better part of 2006 studying in Bamberg and became well acquainted with the local beers. Rauchbier is Bamberg's local delicacy so I can't help but appreciate it for what it is, a unique style of beer and a bit of an acquired taste. You know the saying about doing as the Romans while in Rome? Well, in Bamberg you do as the Bambergers do and that means drinking a Rauchbier.