Friday 4th April 2014
Brewing in the city of Bayreuth can be traced back to 1454. Back then every full citizen was permitted to brew beer but obviously, not all of them exercised this right. This was where the bakers come into the picture, no doubt because of their experience of using yeast. Thus the profession of Beckerbrauer, in the Franconian dialect, came about and it is said that this is the origin of this particular surname. Usually, a becher is a container for holding drink and is the origin of the English word beaker.
This pub and brewery is to be found in the Altstadt, which I guess is the oldest part of the city. Its appearance nowadays is of a leafy suburb with a few pubs.
The first record of this brewery was in 1781 and in its early years it was associated with the Korb family and this continued to 1880 when Johan Korb died. He had done a lot to develop the brewery by planting hop gardens in the area to supply his needs.
In 1881 it was acquired by Johann Heinrich Becher and presumably it gained its title around then. In 1918 control passed to his son Hans. He died and his widow took over the reins but she passed away in 1955 and there was no heir. The brewery was sold to Hans Hacker in that year and he retained the old name. He instigated a program of modernisation of the building between 1956 and 1958. His son, another Hans, took over in 1979 and remains in charge to this day.
One thing that surprised me considerably was that the Becher Bräu beers were once brewed at a Kommunbrauhaus located in Erlanger Strasse and the wort was then transferred to their premises for primary and secondary fermentation. It is not known when this practice ceased although it is implied that this was done until relatively recently. I didn't ever know that there was a Kommunbrauhaus (Commune Brew House) in Bayreuth once, or when it ceased production. It is confirmed that there was a brewery on site in 1985.
One thing that is very apparent about the present day situation is that brewing is most certainly done on the premises. You cannot miss the shiny stainless steel equipment located right next to the main entrance. As there was no room for it inside it has been constructed on the outside of the old building and is encased in a two-storey glass structure a bit like a greenhouse. This brewery plant is quite new. There is a small biergarten at the front of the pub; nice in the warmer weather.
Although this all looks very modern from the outside the pub is staunchly traditional on the inside. The main bar room is quite small with the service area on the left as you enter. There is wooden panelling on the walls up to around shoulder height. The furniture is wooden but the seating is cushioned. The walls are adorned with lots of old photographs, presumably family members from times past.
The room can be doubled in size by the simple expedient of sliding a wooden door open. Because of the time of year the tables had bowls of brightly painted eggs upon them.
The pub is a meeting place for many societies and clubs, some of them involved in competition, and there is a display of their trophies in glass-fronted cases on the walls. Unseen by me, there is a very large room on the first floor that can hold 300 people and this is used for functions and even theatre evenings. There is certainly a lot going on in this pub.
As I sat down I asked for a Helles (light) beer; a safe choice as I didn't know exactly what the draught offerings were. I was very pleasantly surprised as, even though this was served from a font, it came without any added CO2, and was so much better for it. It is known as Becher Original (4.5%).
There were only two draught beer dispenses and I believe the other served Kräussenenpils (4.7%), an unfiltered Pils. They also have a filtered version (4.7%) and a Dunkel (dark) (5.4%), but in this pub they are in bottles. They also produce a range of seasonal beers.
So, should you be in Bayreuth for the Wagner Festival maybe; it might be well worth your while to take a break from the high culture and seek out some low-brow amber nectar to sooth the soul. In my personal and humble opinion, this is the best beer the city, so why not?
Becher-Bräu, St Nikolausstrasse 25, 95445 Bayreuth-Altstadt. Tel: 0921 68993
Open: Wednesday-Monday 09.00-24.00. Tuesday: Closed.
The pub is easy to get to by bus. The route to use is the 305.
It runs past the railway station and calls in at the Central Bus Station (ZOH) on the way. You need to catch it with the destination Mayernberg Nord; it runs every 15 minutes through most of the day.
The stop at the station is on the opposite side of the road. You need to alight at Freiheitsplatz.
Continue in the same direction as the bus is travelling. Turn right in to St Nikolausstrasse and you will find the brewery about 250 metres along, on the right hand side.
Update October 2017. Hours: Wednesday to Monday: 10.00-23.00; Tuesday: Closed.