Regular readers of this column will know by now that I have a deep fondness for good lager. The more astute of you may remember that when it comes to lager, there are few genres that I hold in higher esteem than the kellerbiers of Bamberg and surrounding Franconia. (Admittedly, however, my resolve was sternly tested on a recent visit to the Czech Republic).
Franconian lagers differ from their Upper Bavarian counterparts in that they typically lean heavily on their malt flavours and less so on the herbaceous snap of noble German hop varieties. That malt, produced in Bamberg itself, has a particular character to it too. I often describe it as a “juiciness”, not referring to the joose of modern IPA, instead describing a rounded flavour that makes your mouth water. It’s a bit like sucking on a boiled, caramel-flavoured sweet; one your grandparents may have been fond of.
I know not every fan of German lagers will agree with me, because to be fair, Munich-style lagers, especially those from Tegernsee and Augustiner, are very special indeed. Thankfully I think I’ve found the perfect beer for us to meet halfway on.
Established in 1867 by the Keesmann family in Bamberg, this brewery has been heartily enjoyed by those in the know for decades. Although many come to this idyllic German town for rauchbier – the smoked beers brewed by the likes of Schlenkerla and Spezial – they stay for Keesmann’s Herren Pils. For me, the brilliance of Herren Pils (and believe me, it is brilliant) is in its unity of the rounded, juicy malt character of Franconian lagers with the peppery snap and bite of German hops. The word drinkability gets thrown around a bit too much these days, especially by me in this column, but hot damn if this is one beer I couldn’t put down. Its effortlessly dry character practically commands you take another couple of large gulps as soon as you finish your last.
Honestly, the only negative feeling I have about this beer is that I never seem to keep enough in the house. Don’t make the same mistake I did and stock up while you still can.
Matthew Curtis is a writer, photographer and editor of Pellicle Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis and @pelliclemag. Pick up one of the last bottles of Keesmann Herren Pils here and to be first to read articles from Matt and our food writer Claire Bullen, why not subscribe to our All Killer No Filler subscription box?