Sunday 20 October 2019

A visit to Schlenkerla brewery

As with previous study tours I was once again surprised by which brewery turned out to be my favourite. Which just shows the importance of research.

The Schlenkerla brewery got its name because the original owner would flap his arms around when walking, which apparently made him a "shlenkerla". Who'd have though you'd need such a word? Not me that's for sure, but the next time I see someone in the street flapping their arms around I'll be ready.

Bamberg's nice

The brewery may go back to 1405,

They make their own malt (to a colour of 15-20 EBC) using beech wood though someone on the tour  less gullible than me did point out it's rather small for the amount of beer they make.

The brewhouse is a two vessel system: a mash/wort kettle and a lauter tun. The lauter tun is raised so it can run off under gravity.

They decoct the thick part of the mash twice except for the helles which only has one decoction. The mash is for three and a half hours, lautering  three hours and boil one hour. They mash in at 50°C and mash out at 78°C, the wheat beer is mashed in at 40°C.

The brewery runs for 24 hours Monday to Thursday, with three brews a day. They use 950 kg of malt and three kg of hops for a brew length of 50 hl.

They use untreated town water which is best for the darker beers. Three styles are brewed all year round and seven in total, including a bock in October and a dopplebock in December. Märzen makes up 80% of production. The weiss beer is top fermented. The märzen has an original gravity of 13.5°P (54°S).

The copper parts of the brewery date from 1936, the stainless steel from 1980 and the automation from 1993.

They have sandstone cellars which date from at least 1387. The cellars are at 10°C all year round that makes them great for lager fermentation.

I think that makes them yer proper caves where lagering can have taken place back in the day before refrigeration. Course they have refrigeration now: fermentation starts at 8-9°C and the beer is chilled to 5°C when 3°P (12°S) is left followed by a week where a free rise to 6.5°C is allowed for a diacetyl rest before chilling again to 2°C for four weeks for the märzen and longer for stronger beers.

In their own pubs they sell beer in wooden casks

All beers are filtered except for the wheat, lent and Summer beers. The wheat beer has speise added.

The coveted IBD plaque
It was a fantastic brewery and I've even started to like smoked beers more. After the brewery tour we got to explore some caves.

A rather brave decision from the tour organisers I thought. Fortunately there was only one casualty.

It was great seeing the caves, there were even more impressive than those found in Dorking.

The tunnels had had various uses over the years. Wine was stored in them, then beer once bottom fermentation arrived.

After artificial refrigeration was invented they were not needed for beer.

They were used as an air raid shelter during the second global mass imperialist slaughter, though the bombing of one cave still lead to the death of 54 people.

There was still a little bit about beer in the caves:

Then we got to go to a bonus brewery for which my notes are sadly lacking.

And then, as if we hadn't had enough already, it was time for a beer tasting. No one said this Continuing Professional Development would be easy!

With that the study tour was over and here ends a chapter, but a chapter only, of the history of the revolutionary proletariat of the sea. No, hang on a minute that's not right, that was a century ago in the North of Germany. Our tour of Bavaria had finished though. Next year a trip to the Brett fest looks likely and the year after the next proper tour will be hopefully be to Boston. I'm looking forward to it as I've heard tales from travellers of strange and exotic beers made in barbarian lands which will be interesting to discover.


  1. I was living/studying for 1 year across the river from the Klosterbräu. They brought fresh beer every week to fill a vending machine in the dorm building (1€/0.5l bottle) Great city, great beers, very great year.

  2. Better than Dorking ? You alright hun ?

    Wonderful beer at source,much better than the fizzy bottled version.

    1. The Dorking caves are pretty impressive. There's a entrance next to the war memorial, sorry I mean by the Bulls Head, that leads to steps going down 20m. Apparently the town's riddled with tunnels. Not big enough to fit a factory in though so I think Bamberg edges it.