Mahr’s Bräu is a German brewery in the suburbs of Bamberg, a UNESCO World Heritage City. Bamberg is almost directly east of Frankfurt and is one of the region’s historical beer-brewing centers. Today, the Franconian Brewery Museum which is located there offers visitors a view into that long history. Situated in a former monastic brewery, with a history dating back to 1122, it seems fitting this museum was established in a town with a population of just over 70,000 people and nine breweries.
At Mahr’s Bräu, the first documented mention of brewing dates back to 1602, with the brewery having been established in 1670. Fast-forward to 1895 when a farmer named Johann Michel Jr. (the grandfather of the brewery’s present-day owner Ingmar Michel) purchased the brewery. To brew their beer, the Michel family use two-line summer barley, wheat and hops that are grown and harvested in the Frankonian and Bavarian regions. Their emphasis is on quality over quantity and they aim to brew with “care, ability and passion.”
Although made year-round, it is difficult to source Mahr’s Bräu’s lager at any other time of the year than the autumn. Perhaps because that’s when they are ramping up production in anticipation of Oktoberfest? We are able to stock the brewery’s flagship beer: Ungespundet – Lager Hefetrüb. It is an unfiltered lager with an alcohol level of 5.2% by volume. Hefetrüb translates to “yeast” (hefe) and “turbulent” (trüb), intimating a cloudiness to the beer. Ungespundet means “unplugged” or “unbunged” and tells folks that the beer has been fermented in casks that are left partly open for a period of time, allowing the carbon dioxide to dissipate somewhat, leading to a softer carbonation in the beer.
“Soft” a word to keep in mind when drinking any Mahr’s beer, but especially this lager, because it is so supple and pure, so balanced and almost creamy, so centered and honest. Try it with some smoked Austrian speck and a serious German cheese, like Anton’s Liebe Rot. It will undoubtedly change your mind about lagers, as it did mine, but now it’s the only one that will do. It is that good.
Among the many hats he wears, Eric Meyer is the beer buyer, grillmaster and a cheesemonger at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.