Friday, February 22, 2013
The Beers of Franconia
Bamberg -Photo Bamberg Tourismus
Franconia (Franken in German) is an area in northern Bavaria comprised of Lower Franconia, Middle Franconia and Upper Franconia. While part of Bavaria, Franconians do not identify well with Bavaria. The largest city in Franconia is Nuremberg. When it comes to beer, the area has a rich beer culture. During the spring and summer months, numerous towns have their own local beer fests. Nuremberg has two, one in the spring and one in the fall. Erlangen's is during the Whitsuntide season in May-June.
The largest beer company in Nuremberg is Tuecher, name of one of the old patrician families of the city. You may come across some of their beers in specialty beer stores in the US.
Another local beer is Lederer.
Recognizing that it is all a matter of taste, I have found the Nuremberg beers disappointing compared to other German beers. Thus, neither of the above beers is among my favorites. Nor is a nearby brewery called Zirndorfer, named after a nearby town where a major battle took place during the 30 Year War.
Just a few miles north of Nuremberg is the university town of Erlangen, where I spent three years as a US Army MP in the 1960s. Up until the 20th century, Erlangen was a noted town for beer with several breweries, some of which exported their beer abroad. When I was there, there were three breweries, Kitzmann, Erich, and Henninger, the latter of which was founded by the same man who later founded the present-day Henninger brewery in Frankfurt. Today, only Kitzmann remains as well as a reborn brewery from an earlier time, Steinbach. Of the two, Kitzmann is the best and better than the above-mentioned Nuremberg brews. Both have their own restaurants located as part of their breweries. The Steinbach location has an upstairs pub and a downstairs dining room. Their beer is similar to a quasi-hefeweizen taste, which I am not big on-preferring a simple draft pils. The Kitzmann locale is a Stube combined with a small beer garden outside when the weather is good. I highly recommend it.
The most renowned town for beer in Franconia is Kulmbach, which boasts several internationally recognized brews such as EKU (Erste Kulmbacher Aktienbrauerei.). I have only driven through the town once not having stopped to eat or drink.
Another Franconian town noted for beer-at least in Germany- is the picturesque little town of Bamberg (the Town Without Pity, site of a famous movie based on a real-life incident). The city has 7-8 breweries and is noted for its Rauchbier-smoked beer-which is not to my taste. In the 1960s, it had a brewery called Bamberger Hofbraeu, which was a darned good beer. Unfortunately, it was absorbed by Tuecher, which absorbed other local breweries.
Bamberger Hofbrau, like several other local breweries, once had a Jewish owner. They eventually lost their companies under aryanization under the Nazis. Prior to that, some breweries and pubs would advertise under the slogan, "Kein juedisches bier"- No Jewish beer)
When I was in Erlangen in the late 1960s, there were two beers out of Fuerth (next to Nuremberg and birthplace of Henry Kissinger). One was Gruner Bier and the other was Berg Brau. Gruner was served in a few Erlangen restaurants and was quite good. It was also absorbed later by Tuecher. Another Fuerth-based beer was Berg Brau, which was served at the most popular GI bar in Erlangen during the late 60s, a place called Hubertus or more commonly, George's, after the name of the owner. It wasn't that great. What is interesting is that this beer was served at Hubertus all the way back to the years just before the Third Reich began in 1933 when the place was a hangout for Storm Troopers. (Today the place is a Greek restaurant.)
Here is a site I found that highlights some of the region's beers and fests.
Here is something I cross-posted last year from Nordbayern (in German). It lists Franconian beer fests. The dates are no longer valid since it was last year, but it gives you an idea of when and where they occur.
All in all, the Franconian region is great for beer drinkers.