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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Where There’s Smoke….

In July the navigator and I hosted our extended family from Maine for their first trip to Germany in more than two decades. Not surprisingly beer played a major role in the visit. Two days into the visit we found ourselves in Bamberg, home of Rauch Bier (Smoked Beer). Suffice to say Rauch Bier is damn near the ONLY beer offered anywhere in Bamberg. Home to nine breweries and a malting facility  a 24 stopover visit is not nearly enough time to visit every brewery, much less the malt house. Obviously a return trip was in order.

Weyermann Malt House
In mid-August we returned to Bamberg, focusing not on breweries, but malt. Weyermann Specialty Malt founded in the late 1800’s, originally malting grain as a coffee substitute. Today Weyermanns is the world’s leading malt producer with 85 different varieties of malt.  Each Wednesday Weyermann offers a facility tour, including beer samples from their pilot brewery for 15 euro per person. Yes Please!
We arrived at the Weyermann fan shop an hour prior to the tour, perusing the wide variety of gifts, craft beer, and liquor. By 2 pm approximately 20 people had gathered in the shop at which point the shopkeeper informs us that the tour will be divided into two groups, English and German. Much to my surprise at least 14 people opted for the English tour, four American’s and 10 Italians with Gregor, the self-proclaimed “Beer Pope of Slovenia” as our tour guide. Our tour started with the malting facility where locally grown grain is cleaned and repeatedly soaked in water to start the germination process. The grain is then sent to one of several germination boxes where the grain is slowly dried over a period of days then sent on to several large dryers for kilning and roasting.  More than 500 local farmers supply Wyermann with approximately 110 tons of grain at their offsite grain silos.
Pilot Brewery
Following the malt house was the pilot brewery, a 2 hectoliter system producing small batches to not only test the grain quality but also allow customers to try new recipes utilizing Wyermann specialty malts. Current production is limited by fermentation capacity in the form of six small horizontal lager fermenters (Lager Jacks). Because they are designed primarily for lagers it’s difficult, but not impossible to brew ales. Planning is underway for the addition of a conical fermenter, improving their ale capabilities.  
The fa├žade of the 137 year old buildings comprising the original Bamberg facility have been designated historical landmarks, preventing the company from modifying the exteriors. Weyermann is a family owned business with the current owners occupying the second floor of the original Weyermann home, while the quality control lab occupies the basement.  Every truckload of grain, some 15 trucks a day, undergoes multiple quality tests prior to unloading. During one test grain samples are warmed with a heat lamp, drawing out any insects that may be present. The entire test process takes approximately 20 minutes, resulting in rejection of approximately one percent of all deliveries. No production facility is complete without distribution. The Weyermann distribution warehouse is a brewers dream with 25kg bags of malt stacked floor to ceiling, wall to wall. On average 40 truckloads of malt are shipped daily. Most impressive was the automated malt palletizer,   palletizing 800 bags of malt per hour.  
Beer List
Our tour concluded in the tap room which consisted of a standard size bar with six taps and a large seating area. Included in the 15 Euro tour fee were full pours (330ml) of any and all of the beer produced in their pilot brewery. Choices included, but were not limited to, a lager, bohemian pilsner, and of course two IPA’s. Gregor was both tour guide and bartender, pouring sample after sample as he shared his brewing and malting expertise.  It quickly became apparent that as long as we continued to drink, he would continue to pour. One beer in particular became a subject of conversation. Bamberger Hofbrau was purchased by a large Nurnberg based company and then subsequently closed 3 years later. In 2007 Weyermann purchased the Bamberger Hofbrau trademark, resuming production of the classic German pilsner, a testament to the importance of Weyermann to the Bamberg community.
In conclusion, I encourage anyone interested in beer or brewing to take the Weyermann tour. The process, facilities, and more importantly the people, make this one of the best tours I have taken. Where else can you sample as much beer as you want, served by none other than the Beer Pope of Slovenia!
Without malt there can be no beer
Until next time,

Sunday, August 13, 2017

German Craft Beer Scene-Going Nuclear

Gundremmingen Nuclear Power Plant,
Approaching my one year anniversary overseas I have a better sense of German craft beer, and the influence of the American craft beer explosion on German beer culture. While Berlin is considered the epicenter of the German craft beer scene however craft beer seeds are sprouting in other parts of the country. Enter Camba Brewery. With three locations Seon, Truchtlaching, and Gundelfingen Camba is definitely an up and comer in the German beer scene. With temperatures plummeting and autumn just around the corner I could think of no better excuse than a day trip to the Camba Old Factory in Gundelfingen.

 Approximately 100 km east of Stuttgart is the town of Gundelfingen, home of Camba Old Factory. As I soon discovered Gundelfingen is also home to the Gundremmingen Nuclear Power Plant, a mere 5km’s from Camba. Fortunately I wasn’t there for the water. We arrived at the Old Factory moments before their 1600hr opening ensuring we were the first customers. With rain in the forecast we bypassed the robust outdoor beer garden opting for the climate controlled inside seating.  As we entered the building I was awe struck at the sheer size of the building. Like a kid in a candy store I scurried to the nearby brewing equipment in what I can only describe as one of the most amazing tap room/beer gardens I have ever visited.  In addition to the brewing equipment, a bottling line, barrel room, restaurant, and beer store fill the cavernous factory.  Approaching the bar my eyes fell upon nearly 40 taps, the most I have seen since leaving the states. So many beers, so little time. 

Not knowing where to begin, and knowing I would have to drive home, I opted for their “Tasters” selecting two of the Camba IPA’s and one New England IPA, winner of last year’s Camba homebrew (Hobby Brauer) competition.  All three beers rivaled many of the American IPA’s I have tried. With ABV’s ranging from 6-9% I couldn’t help feeling I had found my new beer home away from home. Over the next two hours I sampled two more Camba IPA’s, barely scratching the surface of Camba beer offerings. Of course, what would a German beer garden be without food. Fresh baked pretzels, curry wurst, pulled pork, and schnitzel just to name a few.

Unlike many stateside tap rooms Camba Old Factory has a robust international beer offering including beer from France, Belgium, and of course the U.S.  In September Camba Old Factory will host its annual homebrew competition, a three day event featuring nearly 80 homebrewers and 100 beers. I'm not only planning to attend the event but I'm also participating, entering my award winning IPA in what promises to be an epic event.

In conclusion if Camba Brewing is indicative of the German craft beer scene then the future is not only bright, dare I say its “Radiant”. In the coming months I will not only return to the Camba Old Factory but also visit their other two locations, with any luck, as the winner of their homebrew competition.

Until next time,

Bleib Schlau!