We've heard that if Bavaria were sliced off from the rest of Germany, the region would exhibit the highest per capita beer consumption in the world. There's good reason for this: the beer is pretty phenomenal. (Don't worry my dear Czech friends, your beer is also phenomenal.)
Although we didn't dive too deeply into the details of Bavarian beer and we don't consider ourselves as fluent in the subject as we'd like, we did discover a great Bavarian beer while tooling around the region: a smokebeer (rauchbier) from Schlenkerla Tavern in the old town of Bamberg.
The history of the tavern, the brewery, and its beer runs deep in a 700-year old cellar. Although the first mention of the brewery and beer is from 1405, the tavern structure dates back to 1310 when it was a monastery. (To whom it may concern, if we are to be reborn, please note that we would not mind returning as a beer-brewing monks.)
So take a spin around the panorama below (open it up for best results) and try to find those glasses of dark, almost black “smokebeer” topped with a creamy white foam. This bottom fermented beauty has a hearty alcohol content of 5.1 percent, but it's not thick or heavy like a stout. It's tasty and toasty, almost light. Certainly unique, only slightly sweet, smoked and — we're hesitant to admit — somewhat addictive.
360-Degree Panorama: Inside Schlenkerla Tavern and Brewery in Bamberg, Germany
Not surprisingly, smokebeer goes nicely with local dishes like roasted goose, sauerkraut and klösse (Bavarian potato balls). You can also try it with bratwurst and sauerkraut. (We did that, too.)
Although Schlenkerla Tavern is a popular stopping point for tourists, you'll also find locals enjoying a late afternoon brew — even on a Sunday. We should note that the tavern was recommended to us by a Franconian (a wine-Franconian, no less).
Wine Franconian and beer Franconian? That distinction, my dears, is for another post.
If you find yourself traveling near Bamberg in northern Bavaria, be sure to treat yourself to a smokebeer.
But be careful: Schlenkerla, the name of the tavern, means “the little dangler,” as in “you might have trouble walking straight after drinking the stuff.”