Friday 17th May 2013
In a city packed full of historic breweries Brauerei Keesmann is a veritable youngster as it celebrates its 150th birthday in 2017, having been established in 1867. It is also different in another way as its top selling beer is a Pils, an unusual style to find in Bamberg. I was on a trip with the august members of the Brewery History Society and I was a little late in joining their group at Brauerei Keesmann.
The brewery was founded by Georg Keesmann, a butcher who at the age of 51, went to university and obtained the necessary brewing diplomas required to start his new business. The family are still in charge almost 150 years later, the only brewery in the city to have contiguous ownership from its inception. Coincidentally the next premises is a butcher's shop, I wonder if there is any connection?
The plan of the day was for the BHS members to walk from the Brauerei Spezial to Keesmann via the old brewery of Maisel (closed 2008) looking at former breweries on the way. Well, as is often the case, I wasn't walking very well on the day (nothing to do with the beer!) and thought I would go there by bus. I arrived with a bit of spare time and decided to nip over to Brauerei Mahrs which is opposite, to photograph it during its quiet afternoon period. We were visiting later when it would be very busy on this Friday night, and it certainly was.
Well, they decided that they weren't going to walk to the old Maisel brewery and arrived at Keesmann earlier than planned. So I walked in the pub expecting to meet them and they were nowhere to be seen. Luckily I had my thinking head on that day and went to the yard at the rear of the pub and I could see the group through a first floor window.
Through an open door and up the stairs and I was reunited with the other members. I hadn't missed too much as they were opposite the copper and mash tun at the time.
I presume the person conducting the tour was brewer Christian Lange. This brewery has had considerable investment, as apart from the brewing vessels, there was a lot of new stainless steel equipment including four large primary fermentation vessels.
The ten secondary fermentation tanks were also very new. They obviously host a number of tours as they have created a small museum area. There is a display of old wooden barrels and brewery equipment. This brewery is quite large by Bamberg standards and produces around 15,000 hl per annum. They distribute to a number of pubs in the area and I would guess that a large amount of the output is in bottles. They also have a modern bottling line and kegging plant.
The brewery's most well known product is Bamberger Herren Pils (4.6%) and this pleasantly bitter beer accounts for over 90% of the brewery's output. Other beers available on draught all year round are Sternla Lager (5.0%); an interpretation of the southern German Vollbier style, yet I think it is more bitter than that.
There is also Weisse (4.8%); I believe it is available on draught here. Interestingly Hell (4.5%) is only available in bottled form. Bock (6.4%) is offered from mid-October to the end of the year.
A big deal is made of Bockbieranstich in breweries all around the area. It's the day that Bockbier is tapped for the first time and the pub is packed for this. There is one other Bockbier and that's Josephi-Bock (6.2%), once brewed for St Joseph's Day in mid March. It has evolved into a Lent beer and is sold from Ash Wednesday till it runs out.
As mentioned earlier, the brewery is a large separate building to the rear of the pub.
We walked back to the pub through the Brauhof-Garten. This is a relatively small biergarten, seating about 100 customers, created from part of the yard and now fenced off from the access road to the brewery. It has green seats and tables and these blend well with a few shading silver birch trees.
Entering the pub there is one of those corridors you often find in Bavarian pubs. There are a few barrels converted into tables. This is known as the "Schwemme" (watering place) and it is frequented by regular visitors who are here for just a beer or three. They are known as "Stehbammler" (steh means standing but that is as far as I can go) and they are served from a window signed as the "Schänka" (a local dialectic version of schänke meaning outlet or place of sale).
From the street you turn left through the door into the Gaststübe which is the main room and holds 80 customers. There is a small serving area on the right. There's also an adjacent room known as the "Hofstübla" that accommodates a further 45. There is light wood panelling to above head height.
Well, I remember it when it was a light colour on its installation around twenty years ago. Years of permissible smoking had caused it to turn to a medium brown colour. However, this is no longer allowed in pubs within the state of Bavaria, so please have no concerns about enjoying a good beer in optimum surroundings in this pub.
The main room has a painted ceiling and above the panelling there are more wall paintings along with the almost obligatory deer antlers. The members of the BHS all dined here and the consensus of opinion was that the food offerings were very good indeed.
At this point we were met by Michaela Knör. She is based in Berlin at the university (VLB) and is the librarian of its Lurberg Library of brewing technology and also is the secretary of the GGB, the German equivalent of the Brewery History Society.
This was the last brewery visit of our four days in Bamberg and although we went across the road to drink at another brewery, some members were leaving, so this was the real end of all of the visits.
Thanks to the BHS and especially Chris Marchbanks and Christian Kestel, the Bamberg connection, for organising it all.
Brauerei Keesmann, Wunderburg 5, Bamberg, 96050. Tel: 0951 981 9810
Open: Monday-Friday 09.00-23.00; Saturday 09.00-15.00. Sunday: Closed.
City bus 905 runs from Bamberg ZOB (Zentral Omnibus Bahnhof – Central Bus Station) to Wunderburg up to 19.00 at mostly a 15 minute frequency. After then it is served by the 936 service with less frequency.
Update October 2017. Hours: Monday to Friday: 10.00-23.00; Saturday: 09.30-15.00. Sunday: Closed.