Monday 7th April 2014
This venerable brewery was founded in 1617 and located on Obere Nabburger Gasse, a narrow street in the heart of Amberg's od town. It is still on the same site today. At one end is the Narbburger Tor (Narburg Gate), an old stone gate that once part of the town's wall. Its image adorns the labels of many of Winkler's bottled beers. The brewery was known as Weißbräugesellschaft or Wheat Beer Brew Company. This was the only style of beer at this time.
The King of Bavaria Friedrich V, also known as the Elector, granted sole rights for Amberg to the brewery during the same year. In this respect the period from the 17th century to the 19th century was very important to the Bavarian crown as taxes raised from brewers contributed a large amount to the royal coffers. By the mid-17th century the company had become the largest volume brewer in Amberg.
At this time two wagons of beer were despatched to the city of Nürnberg and the brewery also supplied the Duke of Württemburg. However by the mid eighteenth century the taste for wheat beer had declined in favour of brown, bottom-fermented beers. The brewery was the Kommunbrauerei of the town and with the cessation of all wheat beer brewing in 1807 it was renamed to Bürgerbräu Amberg or citizen's brewery of Amberg.
In 1913 Josef Winkler purchased shares in the brewery and also bought a restaurant at Unterer Nabburger Gasse 34. This was the next street across and the brewery tap can still be accessed from both streets. After the First World War the brewery became fully owned by Josef Winkler. He installed new fermentation and maturation vessels in 1930. His widow had to continue running the company after he died in 1931.
His son, another Josef took over in 1948 after leaving the army. He had acquired a brewing diploma and set about rebuilding the brewery. It and the restaurant eventually re-opened in 1949.
In the late 1970s Josef Winkler III took over and in 1984 the brew house was automated along with the fermentation process. A new bottling and filling line was installed. Wheat beer was re-introduced at this time.
A sad event in 1994 was the closure of the Schiessl brewery, a little further along the same road. I remember visiting this wonderful place in the early 1990s when Linda and I sat outside in their yard on a hot summer evening supping cool Schiessl beers from one litre ceramic krugs, the only measure offered! Some of their beers are brewed by Winkler and I understand that their old restaurant is still open, but I bet it has changed since we visited it 20 years earlier. Nevertheless, I wish I had known that it was still open on this latest visit, as I would have visited.
Another brewery closure occurred in 2009 when Brauerei Winkler of Vilseck brewed its last beer. Their beers are also now brewed at Winkler, Amberg. I guess, as the name is the same, there is a family connection at work here. In 1961 the pub I was in was leased and that remains the situation to today.
I can hardly remember the pub from my last visit but whatever it was like before, it was now very different. It is a strange hybrid, having an open rather minimalist look but achieved in part by using traditional materials.
The good is represented by the dark wood wall panelling and the scrubbed wooden tables.
The bad is undoubtedly the modern lighting with plain shades over lamps that are too bright. The shiny varnished two tone wooden floor doesn't help, either.
Well, what was the beer like; actually it was quite good. I asked what beers were available on draught and was told that there was Dunkel (dark), Hell (light) and Pils. I ordered a small glass each of Dunkel and Hell. The former was quite malty with just some bitterness. The Hell was very light and had reasonably bitterness. I had understood that this pub served a Winkler version of Zoigl but it wasn't offered. Looking at the photograph reproduced here the colour of the beer offered as Dunkel is exactly the right colour for Zoigl, I wonder.
Amberg is a beery town that is well worth visiting and whilst here you won't find a better range of Winkler beers then in this pub. So that is the best reason to visit, but be warned, it is a little sterile. However they offer a full menu with regional Oberpfalzer specialities.
Winkler Bräu Wirt (Brauerei Winkler), Unterer Nabburger Strasse 34, 92224 Amberg. Tel: 09621 913455
Open: Wednesday-Sunday 09.00-24.00; Monday 17.00-24.00. Tuesday: Closed
The pub is located in the heart of the old town and is around ten minutes walk from the railway station. Please consult a map because it is very difficult for me to describe the route through the narrow streets.
Amberg station is served by an hourly RE (Regional Express) from Nürnberg to Schwandorf with trains continuing to either Fürth im Wald on the Czech border or Regensburg.
Update October 2017. Hours: Wednesday to Sunday: 10.00-24.00; Monday: 17.00-24.00; Tuesday: Closed.
Additionally the pub is closed all day on Mondays in the Winter.