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Saturday, November 01, 2008

A Morning Visit to Keesmann Brau

Our second day in Bamberg started off bright and early with a trip to Keesmann Brau, where Stefan Keesmann greeted us and played host for a brewery tour and tasting. Keesmann Brau is located in a sandstone building in the Wunderburg section of Bamberg, another area of the city with a rich brewing tradition.

Keesmann is the eighth generation from his family to run the business, which dates back to 1867. The brewery produces 18,000 hectoliters of beer annually, 90 percent of which is a bright and clean tasting Pils that was created in 1979 by Stefan’s uncle Joseph.

According to Keesmann, his uncle was determined to create a pils that would separate the brewery from the maltier pilsner beers from southern Bavaria. He wanted to make a Franconian-styled pils that was dryer, with soft edges.

“We don’t need industrial beer. We have a handcrafted pils,” Keesmann says with a smile. Indeed Keesmann’s Herren Pils is extremely drinkable. At 4.6 percent alcohol by volume the beer is a perfect session brew. The hops in the beer are clear, but they do not bite and a half liter slides down quite easily. This is a clean brew with no place to hide defects. It is one of the best pilsner style beers I’ve tasted recently.

While at the brewery we also sampled Sternla Lager, a 5.0 percent alcohol by volume beer that was relaunched by the brewery in 1998. The amber gold brew has nice malt character and has a smooth mouth feel.

Keesmann Bock uses the same malt as the Herren Pils, just in a higher concentration. The beer is a tarnished gold color and uses slightly less hops, allowing the sweetness to come through with just a slight hint of fruit character. The 6.2 percent alcohol by volume beer is a seasonal treat that offers a bit of a change of pace. The brewery also makes Josephi Bock to mark St. Joseph’s Day in the predomanently Catholic City and to solute Joseph Keesmann, as well as a Weissbier.

Typical of most Bamberg breweries, Keesmann opens at 9 a.m. and stays open Monday to Friday to 11:30 p.m. On Saturday they close at 3 p.m. Beer is an affordable part of German life, with Herren Pils going for just 2.20 Euro per half liter. Pricing on beers in Germany goes up with the alcohol content because of the tax structure. The Sternla Lager is 2.25 Euro, while the Keesmann Bock is 2.60 Euro.

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