Wednesday 15th May 2013
Following a fascinating tour of Brauerei Heller, I and the august members of the Brewery History Society emerged from the brewery's yard into Sternwartstrasse. As the day's "business" had now been concluded we needed to unwind and, as the Spezial-Keller biergarten was in the same street, what better place?
We set off uphill and within a hundred metres came across the impressive entrance. But actually, it was only the entrance to the path that led uphill to the Keller!
I have to say it is a very pleasant walk with a great view of a meadow full of wildflowers. When I had been here previously this field had been cultivated so this was obviously a rest year.
The buildings of the Keller were in view all the time and that only added to the anticipation of the beer to come.
Also in sight were the two towers of the Bamberg Observatory which dates from 1889. Each tower contains a refracting telescope.
There is an alternative route available by road which is possible by continuing up Sternwartstrasse although it should be noted that parking is extremely limited.
We finally arrived under the plane trees that shade the tables. About 700 drinkers can be seated outside and the service seemed to be both by waiter and self service.
As we were eating I guess that's why we were served at our table. It's perfectly feasible to use the kiosk to keep yourself topped up with beer.
Food is what you'd expect with all the Franconian favourites available. The beer is equally predictable as it is the excellent Spezial Rauchbier Märzen (5.3%) served direct from a wooden barrel. Other beers are available in bottle.
The Keller was established in 1830 by Georg Ott to store the Brauerei Spezial's beers in caves during the summer months.
Later an ice-making factory was built to assist further with the cooling of the beer during secondary fermentation. In common with the history of so many kellers in this part of the world, what started as purely a storage facility soon became an outlet in its own right.
The trees planted to keep the ground cool performed the same function for human beings enjoying a drink in the warmer months.
The storage of beer ceased here in the 1960s with the advent of more sophisticated cooling equipment at the brewery. The keller is owned by the Lohr family and the 3rd generation are in control now. I would guess that the family took it on when the brewery ceased using it.
Where the Spezial-Keller differs from most others is that it is open all year round. This is possible because it has an outside covered terrace and two inside rooms. These are more or less the same as what you'd find in a normal pub in the city with dark wooden panelled walls and the ubiquitous green tiled stove.
The view from the Keller is why a number of people make the trek out of the city to eat and drink here. It is certainly stunning with four cathedrals / churches in view over the rooftops.
Spezial-Keller, Sternwartstrasse 8, Bamberg 96049
Open: Tuesday to Friday 15.00 onwards; Saturday 12.00 onwards; Sunday 10.00 onwards.
Because of its location there's no suitable local bus service.
It is around 15 minutes to walk from the old town.