Beer Culture

Stories about great beer from the countries that invented it.



Let’s say you’re about to get married and, hypothetically, you like beer. (Use your imagination for the former, if not the latter.) Let’s also suppose, hypothetically, that your beloved enjoys a good pint as well. The day arrives; you finally say “I do.” Where on earth do you go for your honeymoon?

That is precisely the question that faced us last week. After several years of traveling around Central Europe, taking photographs and writing about travel and food and drink, Nina and I were finally married last week in Libeňský zámek, the chateau in our corner of Prague. After the ceremony, we had lunch with family and witnesses at the neighborhood brewpub, Richter Brewery, then headed home, grabbed our bags and hit the train station for a honeymoon in the region’s most beautiful city for lovers of great beer.

That is to say: Bamberg.

I’m surprised that more hasn’t been written about the connections between Bamberg and Prague. Not only are there historical ties (a house near Bamberg’s Obere Brücke has a sign noting that Albrecht von Wallenstein stayed there; Prague’s Wallenstein Palace is the home of the Czech senate), but the beer culture is similar in both cities, as is the cuisine — we had a very good goulash, for example, at Schlenkerla. Furthermore, the travel connections can be as difficult as falling off a log: a fast train from Prague to Nuremberg (with enough time there to pick up a delicious snack of Nürnberger Rostbratwurst), then a 45-minute regional express to Beerville. Total minimum travel time: 6 hours, 8 minutes.

Of course, there are plenty of hotels in Bamberg, and most zymurgical tourists will want a guest room at a brewery like Spezial or Fässla, both of which have decent lodgings at moderate prices, with both breweries almost directly facing each other on Obere Königsstraße. However, we wanted something a little more memorable, so we took a recommendation for Hotel Sankt Nepomuk, a reconverted mill on its own island in the Regnitz with a panoramic view of the Rathaus, the river, the bridges and the cathedral, and named after the Czech saint who was drowned in Prague in 1393. (Seriously, the connections are practially Swedenborgian.)

We were a few days too early to try Schlenkerla’s Fastenbier, which was only tapped this week, and which I loved last year. Instead, our second bryd-ealu was the pub’s standard Rauchbier, that not-so-far-from-Bohemian goulash and a couple of perfect Schnitzels, followed by a pint of Schlenkerla’s Rauchweizen. (I’ll write more about the beers in a separate post.)

In any case, Bamberg was an excellent choice. Lest you think it’s all about Rauchbier, the city is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, due to its pristine Gothic and Baroque architecture and rich history. It’s also home to great pastries like the Bamberger Hörnchen, reminiscent of the best croissants you’ve ever had, only flakier and more buttery. There’s a lively pedestrian zone with lots of cafés and bakeries along and around the Grüner Markt, with the Bamberger Dom, founded in 1004, overlooking everything from the top of the hill.

If you do go, give yourself enough time to wander the city’s narrow lanes and cross the many small bridges over the Regnitz. Check out Ron Pattinson’s Bamberg Beer Guide online; Fred Waltman’s downloadable Bamberg Beer Guide booklet is very highly recommended. And I would especially suggest contacting the Bamberg tourist office, which is open seven days a week and which offers maps, books and self-guided beer tours to the city’s 10 functioning breweries.

Even if you aren’t crazy about beer, Bamberg is a lovely place to visit. And if you do enjoy a good pint, you’ll probably feel the same way we do.

Best. Honeymoon. Ever.


Pivovar Platan


Bamberger Rauchbier


  1. I’m a huge fan of Schlenkerla’s Helles, but the Rauchweizen?! Haven’t seen that in the States, and I’ve gotta know more.. especially about the style in general. I’ve heard of German smoked wheat beers, but have yet to come across one. I should be in Prague during the end of May, and I may be able to do some of my own investigating.

  2. Congratulations!

    I took Bailey to that very hotel for a birthday a couple of years back. Marvellous hotel, beautiful city. And we weren’t even *that* beer-obsessed at the time!

  3. Thanks, Boak! It was a great trip. And what a coincidence that you two stayed there as well!

    E.S., Schlenkerla’s Rauchweizen is definitely worth tracking down; I’m looking forward to the Czech version forthcoming from Pivovar Kocour Varnsdorf this spring. I’ll post more about these soon.

  4. honza

    We plan several verisons of weizen beer at Kocour, including the rauch one. And yes, the first beer of this kind I had at Bamberg…amazing beer, that glued me to rauc beers:).

    If everything goes well, than in May we will have the rauchweizen with tasting seminar for readers of my web site in Prague’s Pivovarsky dum…

  5. Honza, have you thought of trying a Grätzer or Lichtenhainer style of sour, smoked wheat beer?

  6. honza

    Well, to be honest, I did not hear about those style before. I tried gose, berliner weisse, but those not. Any link to get more info? We are open to everything,and sour beers are planned as we have oak barrels from Tokaj in Hungary. MAy be a sour sweet flamish red?…we will see

    I just returned from Bamberg yestreday with smoked beer samples and rauch malt from Weyermann…

  7. Ron is The Source when it comes to obscure European beer styles. Here are some links from his pages:

    I’d vote double for a Grätzer, Honzo — Varnsdorf is one of the closest Czech cities to Grodzisk, and the style seems to have picked up a lot of interest lately. Michael Jackson describes it as “made in both a low-alcohol version and at a conventional strength (4% by weight, 5% by volume). It was an extremely pale golden beer, with a faint haze of sediment, a dense white head, and a surprisingly light body. It had a sourish, sappy, oaky aroma (like a box that had held smoked herring), and a smoky, dry, crisp palate.”

  8. honza

    Look interesting. If we could get more info, I think that we would definitelly try it:)

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