Thursday 16th May 2013
Ten o'clock saw me meeting up with the personable members of the Brewery History Society at Bamberg's Central Bus Station, ZOB (Zentral Omnibus Bahnhof). Events Secretary Chris Marchibanks was ready with an all day bus ticket that was shared between two travellers at a considerable saving over normal fares. And so it was that we all set off on the 10.13 journey on route 907 for the 20 minute run to the village of Memmelsdorf.
This has two breweries on its main street and we intended to visit both. There used to be a third here but the Brauerei Leicht sadly closed over ten years ago, a big loss as I thought their beers were really good.
We entered the comfortable Brauerei Gasthof Höhn and ordered a beer. Chris explained that he had E-mailed the owner requesting a visit but had received no reply. When the waitress brought the beers he asked her about it. It transpired that she was the owner's daughter and her English was excellent as she'd done some of her training at a hotel in South East England.
Well, we were well into our second beer when the owner and brewer, George Höhn, arrived. It really didn't matter as there was considerable relief as we had got our tour in the end.
The history of this brewery is remarkable as it has been in the same family since its inception 230 years earlier. It was founded by Jeremiah Höhn in 1783 who purchased Hauptstrasse 11 and 13 for 1180 Florints. In 1811 it became the Mondschein (Moonshine) Inn yet it is not known when it reverted to the current name, although the moon image is still to be found in the design of the beer mat. It continued its trade uneventfully through the intervening years until the 1960s when there were massive changes. In 1962 the old inn was demolished and the erection of the present building commenced. The upper floors were added in 1964.
During 1966 the old brewery was knocked down and immediately replaced by a new building. This was what we were about to visit. The restaurant was redesigned in 1979 and in 1990 the courtyard remodelled. In 2000 an old cellar was converted into a room for meetings and seminars, we visited it later. A 60-seat biergarten was added in 2003 and a wall at the rear of the property was removed to provide a better view. 2008 saw celebrations for the first 225 years.
As we commenced our tour Georg mentioned that they hadn't filtered their beer for over 25 years. It is a remarkable brewery in many ways. For a start the copper is heated by wood and the BHS members were very interested to discover that the wort passed through a cool ship. This is where I showed my ignorance and they explained that this was an old method of cooling the beer before primary fermentation. It looked like a shallow open fermentation vessel. The beer remains here for about 24 hours until it is the right temperature. Apparently there is still one in the Hook Norton brewery but it is no longer used, this one was. Modern heat-exchanging equipment had made them obsolete in most breweries.
He also explained that the total production went to the pub and keller and that there were normally twelve brews per year with annual production about 300 hl. Although some of it was put into returnable flip-top bottles (bügelflaschen) for the take-home market.
He adopts the double decoction method of brewing and the main beer uses mostly pilsner malt and some caramalt. Only whole hops are used and the primary fermentation is in an open vessel. What starts out as a 40 hl brew ends up with about 32 hl of beer. He also distils Bier Schnapps and he told us that 100 litres of beer made about 6-7 litres of schnapps.
The pub is a very agreeable place indeed, consisting of a large room to the right of the main entrance. Here I noticed the small hotel reception.
As said, there is a lot of space, yet this room opens out into another which was all laid out for diners, and I guess it may have been readied for a group.
On this subject, the pub likes to advertise itself as a venue for conferences and seminars and I must admit that I was earlier surprised when Georg led us from the fermentation area in the cellar (i.e. old world brewing) through a door to a room that was laid out for meetings or workshops with its own bar, see photograph.
Most of the year there is just one beer known as Görchla (4.9%). This is a naturally cloudy, unfiltered mid-brown beer that is full of taste. They say the recipe has been handed down from father brewer to son brewer.
It is a very likeable beer indeed. The name of it has now been registered and can only be used by Höhn. The title is also extended to cover the beer schnapps which is now Görchla-Brand.
The only exception to this single beer policy is Görchla Bock (8.4%) which is sold in the pub on draught from October to January. One day I'd like to visit to try this immense beer.
Some of the food offered is of the Franconian type but there is also a more international flavour to the menu. It certainly looked tempting. This pub is just 20 minutes away from Bamberg on the 907 bus so must be considered for a day trip out of the city.
Brauerei Gasthof Höhn, Hauptstrasse 11, Memmingen. 96117. Tel: 0951 406140
Open: Wednesday to Monday 10.00-24.00. Tuesday: Closed
Kitchen: Monday/Wednesday to Saturday 11.30-14.00/17.30-21.30;
Memmelsdorf is served frequently with bus 907 from Bamberg ZOB every 30 min to around 19.00 on Monday to Saturday and hourly to about 18.00 on Sunday and Holidays.
Routes 917 and 927 at irregular times supplement the 907 Monday to Friday.