Saturday, November 01, 2008
A Pleasant Lunch at Mahr's Brau
Across the street and just up a couple of buildings from Keesmann is Mahr’s Brau. Founded in 1670, this brewery has been run by the Michel family since the late 1800s. Brewmaster Stephan Michel was nice enough to take us on a walk through of the brewery and sat down to talk beer in Mahr's tavern.
One sign of Mahr's popularity was the constant vehicle traffic during our visit, as locals pulled into the brewery courtyard to buy fresh beer. It is a unique aspect of many German breweries that adjacent to where tractor trailers are being loaded by forklifts, the trunks of personal vehicles are stuffed with a couple of cases of beer straight from the brewery for weekend enjoyment. Nearby, Mahr's traditional pub with its wood fired stove was crowded with regulars looking to warm up and get a good meal to accompany a mid-day brew.
Michel is an interesting guy, a fourth generation formally trained German brewer who also spent time in California during the 1990s. Some of the “California surfer dude” attitude comes through from his days in Santa Barbara. His favorite U.S. beers include Firestone Walker ales, Victory Prima Pils, Samuel Adams Boston Lager, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Red Hook IPA and Santa Barbara Brewing beers. He looks to America as a growth market for the company. Mahr’s already exports to the U.S., but Michel sees bigger opportunities – perhaps by contract brewing at an American brewery.
Michel is a big fan of Hallertauer hops and the flavor characteristics they give to his beer. He believes they lend a “fresh” touch to his beers. Mahr’s also distills traditional beer schnapps. “You drink it warm – at room temperature – after dinner or lunch,” Michel says.
We tried several beers over a lunch of roasted pork shoulder, each with distinct characteristics. Mahr’s Helles is light in body, with a crisp clean hoppy flavor. Mahr’s Festtag’s Weisse is a cloudy amber with upfront banana notes and a touch of cloves. Mahar’s Kellerbier Ungespunder, known to the locals as simply “U” is a lower carbonation beer that has plenty of balanced flavor. E.T.A., a brew commemorating the 200th anniversary of romantic poet Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann’s years in Bamberg is a brown beer with a nice smooth malty flavor.