Beer from Franconia A Unique Variety of Traditional and Modern
In the novel „Kolk’s blonde brides“, the first part of Frank Schulz’s award-winning and, above all, totally worth reading Hagener Trilogy, the narrator reflects on the perfectionist beer drinking culture of the main character Kolk. Said Kolk is of the opinion that, among other things, beer must „be drunk quickly“, so that it does not become „stale and pale“ will, and does not resemble „Uhrienprohbm“ [sic]. The consequence: Kolk often becomes drunk much quicker and severely than he originally intends. Whoever has grown up in Franconia can quickly analyse the problem: the story takes place in Hamburg and Lower Saxony. For any Franconian beer patriot – and at least up until about 20 years ago this may as well be a de facto state at birth for a Franconian – it is immediately and intuitively clear that this yellow liquid that is called ‘beer’ in the north of our republic, which can logically exclusively be consumed cooled, because it would otherwise lack of any qualities that are associated with beer in Franconia. In other words, Kolk’s tragic drinking habits appear to the common Franconian – though perhaps not in the sense of the narrator – completely understandable. He would likewise drink North German „beer“ equally as soon as possible, with contempt of death, so to speak – and then only if it is absolutely unavoidable.
Sure, tastes are different. This is why it cannot be said with certainty that certain contemporaries, despite the knowledge of various products of Franconian brewing, actually prefer the likes of Jever, Beck’s or (at the very least) Astra. It is undeniable, however, that Franconia has a globally unique density of breweries of all varieties, producing barley juice in the most diverse flavours – of course, strictly according to the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516, requiring beer to contain only hops, malt, yeast and water. Currently, there are still about 267 breweries in Franconia.
Alone in Upper Franconia, the centre of this beer Eldorado, about 1,000 different types of beer are brewed. These include natural light, pilsner and dark beers, but also special beers such as the “Schlenkerla Rauchbier” from Bamberg, which tastes strongly of smoked ham and rendering any side dish, like a typical “Brotzeit” bread, superfluous (at least by taste). There are, among others, the unfiltered and ‘ungespundeten’ (low pressure, low carbonation) gusset beers, for example, of the Bayreuth beer brewery, or a variety of seasonal and festival beers that are brewed only on special occasions.
Just as diverse the beers of Franconia, so are the breweries. In addition to many medium-sized companies, many small and micro-enterprises exist to this day, down to municipality or guest house breweries. It is not rare for the latter to distribute beer directly into customers’ own containers at the brewery door. Equally unique and simultaneously symptomatic of the Franconian beer culture is the small village of Aufseß in Franconian Switzerland. This is where the legendary breweries Kathi Brau, Stadter, Reichhold and Rothenbach produce – for a town of about 1500 inhabitants. This is, verified by an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records, the highest density of breweries in the world.
The bulk of the Franconian breweries has a long tradition. The oldest still existing brewery “Weißenohe” monastery brewery in the Upper Franconian district of Forchheim, which began brewing in the year 1100. Just 35 years later, the brewery “Worm” in the Middle Franconian town of Bieswang on their operation. However, brewing in Franconia is not only a longstanding venture. There are also young companies that excel with high quality beers and have quickly become, at the very least, well-known regional institutions. An example is the “Schanzenbräu”, founded in 2006 in Nuremberg’s trendy district of “Gostenhof”, which has quickly established itself among young hipsters with a range of tasty spicy beers.
The diversity of Franconian brewery landscape is alive – even despite alcopops and binge drinking on the one hand and declining beer consumption on the other. This is thanks to the fact that a high quality of the beers appeals to connoisseurs regardless of current trends. However, what is also responsible for this success story is a further Franconian characteristic: a mixture of stubbornness, obstinacy and sometimes surprising creativity that is otherwise probably only still be found in a Gallic village.
Image source: Bierland Oberfranken e. V.