Bamberg beer tours - Beer & Bikes!

After many requests by beer hunters to have a tour, which combines beer and bicycling, I have come up with the perfect location to make this happen; Bamberg, Germany.  Home of the famous rauchbier (smoked beer), Bamberg and its surrounding district of Franconia has the highest concentration of breweries in the world.  Join us as we spend eight days exploring this last bastion of old world beer culture.  The spring tour lends itself to being more bike-centric because of the weather.  The fitness level and physical mobility of the group, and weather is also taken into consideration for each tour.   At the most, we generally bike only three days of the tour and we stay in the same hotels all week.  You may opt out of any bike portions of tours and get to most places by alternate means.

No one season is better than the other, it mostly depends on what works for your calendar.  One thing is certain, once you do one tour, you will want to return for the other.  Bamberg is just that good!

There are ten breweries within the city of Bamberg, some within walking distance and all within easy biking distance.  And with an extensive system of bike paths, many of the breweries in the scenic Franconian countryside can also be easily reached by bike by a person with minimal fitness capabilities.  This is great, to be able to combine great beer, exercise, fresh air, scenery and no driving or riding in a car.  The nice part about basing in Bamberg and beer hunting on bike is, we end up back at the same place we start each day, so we don’t have the hassle of packing and moving luggage each day.  It’s a pleasure to come back from a long day of beer hunting and bike riding to your room and all your belongings right where you left them (strewn across the room like a tornado hit it).

We’ll also do part of the week off the bike, too, including, train, bus and van, depending on the itinerary.

The number of breweries and beers brewed in the region is overwhelming (somewhere around 300), so beer hunting there is for most people, never-ending.  You are always exploring, learning, stumbling across breweries in all the little towns and villages of this northern part of Bavaria, although, the Franconians have no fondness or allegiance to Bavaria.  They historically have been and are their own people and for them Bavaria reflects only invisible lines on a political map.

Put aside your expectations about what beers should be.  Most of the beers in this region are lagers.  That’s going to lose some of you right there, but it shouldn’t, because these lagers, unlike many premium brand lagers in the United States, are fresh, full-flavored, pure, complex, chocked with character and do not contain adjuncts such as corn, rice or any other chemicals.  And, they are not all rauchbiers.  It’s a whole different beer culture than say that of Belgium, with its wide range of styles, creative brewing ingredients, processes and bottle conditioning.  It’s not better or worse, just different.  But to the true beer hunter, these lagers will prove to be intriguing, fascinating and most of all enjoyable.  Bamberg opened my eyes to just how good lagers can be.

Of course, Rauchbiers, are what this region is perhaps most famous for and they are interesting, flavorful, full-bodied beers.  At first, they may taste like drinking a glass of beef jerky, but as your palate matures and adjusts, you begin to appreciate the qualities of this unusual, smoky, ancient beer style.  I like to introduce people to rauchbier with food, as it softens the initial meeting with the palate, then once you know what you are in for, you can drink a rauchbier on its own.  Some people, alternately, gravitate to rauchbiers immediately and can’t get enough.  It is interesting to taste the rauchbiers from different breweries.  Shlenkerla, for example, is one of the most intense ones, while the rauchbier by Brewery Spezial is kinder and gentler.

Another fun beery aspect of this area is that there is a large network of brewery hotels, where we stay right at the brewery.  There’s nothing like ending the day in the beer hall of the brewery, enjoying some beers and German cuisine, then simply walking upstairs to your room.  Then, in the morning, breakfast and hot coffee is served downstairs in the breakfast room.

We will plan to visit all nine of Bamberg’s breweries on both tours.  We will not take tours of the brewing facilities of all the breweries in which we go.  You can only handle seeing so much stainless steel and so many bottling lines.  That’s one of the beauties of these small German breweries, you can move directly to the tasting room without a tour, unless you want one, then they are generally eager to show you around. 

“Honestly, Bamberg is one of those places that fully lives up to its reputation. It’s a different world from most of Germany, and that’s what makes it special. The beer is better, the culture more unique, the architecture unspoiled. It’s just about perfection for the beer lover, and the fact that so few people actually get to experience it only makes it better – you’re joining a special club of beer lovers when you take time to roll through that countryside and explore Bamberg beer.”
— Beer Writer Josh Oakes

Do you have to bicycle on these tours?  No, in most instances, you can also walk to, take the bus, train or taxi to the breweries and bars on the itineraries.  In the unlikely event we are going to a brewery that cannot be reached by public transportation, you may always opt out of that day and beer hunt on your own in Bamberg.  There is no lack of breweries or atmospheric bars.  Most people of basic athletic ability, however, will enjoy riding a bike to visit breweries and the beers taste even better when you arrive on a bike for some reason.
The bike-riding portion of these tours will be relatively easy, slow paced; all ages and skill levels are welcome.  If the group is moving too slow for you, you may ride ahead and get there early.  Rides will also be dependent on the weather, so we may to have some flexibility in the activities of each day.

Bamberg is also a UNESCO world heritage site and full of great architecture, museums and other points of interest.  It was left relatively unscathed from the World Wars.  Bamberg is easily reached by flying into Nuremburg or Frankfurt, then taking trains, which run frequently and a very user friendly.

I’ve enjoyed scouting these tours and look forward to sharing Bamberg with fellow beer hunters. Bamberg Beer Me! Beer Tours is based in the United States and welcomes beer travelers from around the world.  Special thanks to Fred Waltman (Franconia Beer Guide), Josh Oakes, Sunshine Kessler, Todd Ashman, Don Scheidt, Gerhard Schoolman, and Hans-Ludwig Straub for their contributions in creating these tours.  All tours begin and end in Germany.