Friday 17th May 2013
Before I recount the details of this visit can I tell you that I, and the studious members of the Brewery History Society, had visited the works of the Caspar Schultz Company, to the north of Bamberg, earlier in the day. This is the oldest manufacturer of breweries in the world with a pedigree going back to 1677, when they set up right in the middle of the old city. They are still going strong, producing small and medium-sized plants for all over the world.
I would have liked to have been able to provide a separate article but, but because of commercial security we were unable to take photographs of the plant.
It was a fascinating visit and we saw breweries in many stages of construction that were destined for many places: La Rochelle, France; Prištine in Kosovo and another for an Austrian company. They were also hard at work producing extensions and additional equipment to enable existing breweries to expand their plants.
The only brewery we were allowed to photograph was displayed in the impressive foyer and it was on its way to Kazakhstan, see above.
This leads neatly to the Brauerei Fässla, whose brewing equipment was also built by Schultz.
In this case it was installed in 1995 and has been expanded and modernised since then. Schultz has also installed a patented piece of equipment known as a "Schoko". It looks a bit like a giant stainless steel mushroom. It boils the wort, and the strange name is an abbreviation of Schonkochverfahren which translates as "gentle boiling process". Why install such a thing? Well, the answer lies in the fact that it allows energy savings of over 70%.
A lot of money has been invested in the computer controlled brewery and this is reflected in the fact that the amount of beer produced increases each year.
In 2012 it brewed 33,000 hectolitres, making it medium-sized producer, not bad for a brewery that is still located behind its pub. Informed sources also told our group that the quality of the beer had increased over the last ten years.
We were shown the highly automated bottle washing and filling equipment that had been purchased from a Swiss company. This can deal with 3,800 bottles per hour which to me seems to be an enormous amount. The beer undergoes a primary fermentation in closed stainless steel tanks for eight days and then, depending on the actual beer involved, secondary fermentation then takes from four to six weeks. 50% of the hops used are certified organic.
Five regular beers are brewed along with one seasonal. Gold-Pils (5.5%) is a pleasant beer that has a slight flowery hop taste. There is no way that I would describe this as a Pils, even in the dry southern German style, although please do not let that put you off, as it is a very nice brew, and I think it is their best. Zwergla (6.0%) is named after the brewery's mascot and trade mark, more of which later. It is a dark malty beer with no noticeable hop flavour. I've never had it on draught and wonder if it is ever available in this form.
The most popular is Lagerbier (5.5%), which makes up 70% of the brewery's production. It's a Vollbier in the Bavarian style. In other words it's slightly sweet and malty with just residual bitterness. There are beers like this all over southern Germany; fine in their own way, pleasant to drink, but not exceptional in any other sense.
There are two wheat beers brewed: Weizla Helles Hefeweissbier (5.0%) and Weizla Dunkles Hefeweissbier (5.0%). In other words, a light and a dark version. As is true to the style they are top-fermented and available in bottle only. I cannot offer any tasting notes as I haven't tried them. The final beer is only available from October until just after Christmas and it is massive. One day I'll try Bambergator (8.5%), a doppelbock, it must be a great nightcap!
Let me give you some information about the pub itself. It is first mentioned in 1398 when it was sold for one pound. That was one of the many currencies that Franconia has had to deal with over the years. Back then it was a house. I'm not sure when the present beautiful building went up but it isn't that old. It later became a pub and a brewery was added in 1649, just after the end of the destructive Thirty Years War.
Entering through the arched doorway, turn right from the central corridor (photo right) and you will find the main room entrance. This is very typical of taverns in the city, having wood panelling to just above head height and lots of hand-made furniture. Look closely at the chairs and you will see the image of Zwergla, the gnome, rolling a barrel. This is the logo and trade mark of the brewery and can be seen everywhere, from bottle labels to stained glass windows.
About half way down is there an area that contains the serving area. At first sight there appears to be two wooden barrels but all is not what it seems.
The two draught beers, Gold-Pils and Lagerbier, are served by applied gas, not a lot but still noticeable. This is a pity as most of the other breweries serve at least one beer direct from a wooden cask or similar, without any gas added. I asked the brewer about this and was told they own just ten wooden barrels.
Should you enter the pub and continue along what was once the central courtyard you will see, on the left, some more rooms. These are often opened when the main room fills up. There is also some seating in the corridor itself and some standing accommodation. There is a small kiosk on the right where there is some self service available for those standing in the open courtyard beyond where smoking is allowed. It also serves take away beers.
Keep on walking and you will end up in the brewery itself, but it is well posted. The final room on the right is a nice little breakfast room used by hotel patrons.
The Fässla is also a hotel with 26 rooms. I have stayed here and it is extremely good with an excellent breakfast at reasonable rates. It cannot, however, be booked through any of the well-known hotel websites and you have to contact the hotel direct by phone, fax or Email, see below for details.
The Fässla has a lot to commend it and the food is very good, too.
Brauerei Fässla, Obere Königsstrasse 19-21, Bamberg. 96052
Open: Monday to Saturday 08.30-23.00; Sunday 08.30-13.00
Kitchen is open: Monday to Saturday 11.00-14.00/18.00-21.00; Sunday: Closed
The brew pub is located between the Old Town and the railway station. It's less than 10 minutes walk from the ZOB (Zentral Omnibus Bahnhof) and around 10 minutes from Bamberg railway station. Bamberg station is served by trains to and from a number of German cities and it takes about 40 minutes to Nürnberg which there are many more connections, some to other countries. Some bus routes pass along Luitpold Strasse which is nearby.