Since we had three full days in Bamberg, we decided to take a day trip to Kulmbach, which is about 45 minutes north of Bamberg. We went primarily for the Beer & Bread museum, which is also adjacent to the Mönchshof brewery & biergarten. The Mönchshof line was originally brewed by the Mönchshof-Bräu brewery until the early 80s, when it was bought by Kulmbacher Brauerei (who also owns the EKU brand). We get their Schwarzbier here in the states, and I was anxious to try it fresh off the tap to see how it compared to our boat-aged bottled version we get here.
The beer museum was definitely worth visiting. The bread museum wasn’t really that interesting and, as a result, was completely empty save for a couple of unknowing American tourists. We probably spent a good 1-2 hours in the beer museum, though, marveling over all the old brewing and bottling equipment.
|Old bottling system|
The museum brews its own beer (and bakes its own bread), using open fermentation tanks. At the end of the tour, you get “Museumbier” and some museum bread to accompany it.
|Open fermentation at the museum|
|Museum bread in solid & liquid states|
While taking in the sights & sounds, I thoroughly enjoyed my much-anticipated Mönchshof Schwarzbier. This style can be deceptive due to its appearance; it's not rich or creamy, it doesn’t have sharp roastiness, and - as with other German lagers - you won't find fruity esters from the yeast. The version from Mönchshof was lightly roasty, only mildly sweet, and wonderfully dry. It had just enough hop bittering to balance the roast and malt, with a faint hop aroma or flavor (too much would have been unwelcome). Perfect for a beautiful fall day.
The difference between having this beer on tap in Germany vs. from a bottle (or even a mini-keg) in the US was noticeable, but not dramatic. You can find their Schwarzbier in a lot of stores that carry a broad selection of imports.
Or, you can try a similar but more fresh & vibrant version on tap at Gordon Biersch. Put some traditional German drinking songs on your MP3 player, don your headphones, and pretend you're in Northern Bavaria. Eins, zwei, zuffa!