Bamberg is a frequent and familiar port of call & not just for its amazing beer
Working as an English teacher in Munich and talking about beer a lot while doing it has led to many a good natured discussion and perhaps the most popular (and difficult) question I get is what my favorite beer is. I always say the next beer, which gets a few laughs but then I explain it’s the beer I haven’t had, I know about but is hard to get to. One beer that may not quite epitomize that but still falls into the category is Klosterbräu’s Schwärzlabock. It’s not a classic as those are generally from small, hard to get to by public transportation village brewpubs. Their beers are only available there and they often have odd opening hours to boot. No, Klosterbräu doesn’t fall into that group, being situated in very easy to access Bamberg, a town I go to a few times every year. I’ve been to Klosterbräu numerous times and had tried all of their brews aside from this elusive amped up version of their also highly renowned Schwärla, a roasty dark beer unlike any other brew in town.
the scenic area around Klosterbräu in Bamberg
Klosterbräu has a fair size portfolio of regular beers and their fall Hellerbock and spring Maibock appear like clockwork and hence were easy enough to sample on a number of occasions. The Schwärlabock proved a lot harder to time. We were most commonly told it came out on Christmas Eve when we asked on our annual visit in December for my birthday. When we came back on the 26th , we were told it hadn’t come out yet or was already gone. Then it seemed to be tapped on The Three Holy Kings day (January 6th), a big Catholic holiday in Bavaria. Indeed, one year when returning in January for the first time due to a friend celebrating his 40th birthday in Bamberg, we called to inquire about the famed bock being available and finding out it was, booked a table for ten for our arrival lunch.
The birthday boy & his entourage arrive in Bamberg and soon after, Klosterbräu
Of course, when you come up empty-handed so many times, you still don’t believe it’s going to work out until you have the beer in your hand. Well, we got there and indeed, the beer was on and I more or less insisted everyone have one, even those who claimed to hate dark beers. It came out pitch black with a dense tan rocky head. It smelled of dried fruit and Christmas pudding. When you wait so long for something, your expectations are usually sky high and more often than not, not met. This one was everything I had hoped for, perhaps more. It’s rare for a beer of this strength (7%) to have such a long dry finish and that it did. The best part was, everyone else loved it, too, even the ones who generally didn’t like dark strong beers! The absolute killer Schäuferla didn’t hurt, either. Actually, the best part was my wife claimed it as her favorite beer ever.
Everyone was very happy with the Schwärzlabock & the Schäuferla
That was three years ago. We return on our anniversary in early January every year and three years in a row now, we’ve found the elusive Schwärlabock ready and waiting, a perfect way to celebrate our union. I’m pretty lucky and I’m not stupid enough to be talking about the admittedly great beer. It’s still my wife’s favorite and it’s hard to not be grateful when your wife enjoys the things you do, too.