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Saturday, October 20, 2012


BAMBERG. We arrived in Bamberg yesterday, zipping immediately to Schlenkerla to meet with Matthias Trum. He's a youthful 37, but Trums have been running the brewery for five generations before him.

Probably a lot of people are familiar with Schlenkerla, the most well-known of the rauchbier producers. Trum brews on a "new" system (1930s) from barley he malts himself in a smoky beechwood kiln--from which comes the characteristic smoky flavor. The pub is an extraordinary 600-year-old place and the site of the original brewery. Now Trum brews at a location a few blocks away that sits atop a warren of old cellars; that's where the beer is lagered now.

As I have discovered time and again on this trip, freshness is key. Schlenkerla is great in the bottle, but I have never apprciated the nutty, plummy nuances of the malt until having a fresh-from-the-cask "seidla" half liter.

More Bamberg today, with stops at Spezial and Mahr's in the offing. (Next to Schlenkerla, incidentally, is Bamberg'a newest brewery, Ambräusianum, which has an excellent helles.)


  1. Well, first of all, it's "seidla" not "sedla." Secondly, the primary reason you found the beer so good is that it is served Bayrischer Anstich. This is not to say the freshness played no role, but that had it been served under pressure, you would easily notice the difference.

  2. That is probably *a* reason, but it's definitely not the primary one. Age is such a violent actor in beer, and it takes beer quite a while (often through less-than-ideal circumstances) to arrive in Oregon, that the Schlenkelas I've had there clearly bore the signs of the time an journey. It's likely one of the reasons you find American beer to be overrated.

  3. I only drink American beer that I have bought in America. I have also consumed American beer while visiting the US. Admittedly, I only go to the east coast, but then, there are not many beers available there from the west coast. So, to summarise: I taste American beers that are served locally where I am.

    Secondly, in my experience, there is a substantial difference between casked and kegged beer. FYI, the beers you drank at Ürige where certainly from cask and, if you went to one of the better kölsch pubs (I asked, but you never replied), you had that from cask as well.

    I certainly see your point about getting "old" bottles in Oregon, however, I still believe there is a greater difference between what you drank at home and what came from a cask. I'm sure you can find Schlenkerla on keg elsewhere in your travels. Why not try it and see how it compares to the other two drinking experiences?

  4. Freshness aside (not that it is an aside), Bamberg's the tippy-top of my German Beer Bucket List. Color me a copper hue of jealous.

  5. "Bayerisch" isn't capitalised, whereas "Seidla" is, if we're going to get technical.

    Bottled Schlenkerla simply isn't the same beer as it is at the Gaststätte, due to freshness and reasons of gravity pour barrels.

  6. [Tried to post a comment but it appears to have not worked. Trying again.]

    Mike, "Seidla" must be capitalised, being a noun, whereas "bayerisch" is a non-city-name adjective, and so is not capitalised. If we want to be particular.

    Bottled Schlenkerla, both in the US and here, just isn't the same as the draught stuff at the brewery tap. For both reasons of freshness and inferior packaging/serving method.

    Shlenkerla remains my favourite Bamberger brewery, not really because of the beer, but because of the entire package. Though the beer is more characterful than that of the other Bamberger breweries.