This past August, our biking group began its Central European program of roadwork with three “training” days in Bamberg, a city that most of you know remains my favorite in all of Europe, and is the thriving epicenter of the remarkably prolific craft brewing region of Franconia. We enjoyed fortunate timing, as the city’s annual Sandkerwa was winding down.
It was raining on Monday when Kevin and I arrived, so we huddled beneath the archways and savored copious portions of Schlenkerla.
The weekend festival, which dates back at least half a century and originated as a modest neighborhood parlor fete, now takes place throughout the venerable, narrow streets and flower-festooned petite squares in the UNESCO-listed old town, just below the stunning hilltop cathedral and ecclesiastical area and near the famous island-built town hall that splits the Regnitz.
It was my first time to Sandkerwa, and as with the city itself, there can be no doubt that many return visits will be made. It should be sufficient recommendation to note that during the 360 days a year when Sandkerwa is not running, Bamberg is the finest city in the country for sampling traditional Bavarian beer and cuisine, with moderate prices, inimitable quality, and marvelous people who will return your interest in their home with unparalleled hospitality.
To place a yearly street festival in the midst of everyday excellence, with streetside booths vending aromatic and succulent foodstuffs and bountiful offerings of flavorful local beer styles is just lacing on the glass … and, as a bonus, drinking from a glass is exactly what you’ll do at Sandkerwa. No plastic cups are to be seen. Rather, a deposit equal to the price of the glass is made, and it comes back to you when you’re finished drinking.
And so, finally, to the point of this digression.
For quite some time, I’ve been looking for an excuse to devote a Public House festival to a huge lineup of draft beer from Germany, but although Oktoberfest is a worthy concept, it’s been done to death. After all, I’ve always advised travelers to spend as little time at Munich’s internationally famous version of Oktoberfest before taking the three-hour train ride to Bamberg and finding a much more user-friendly experience, as well as simply better beer.
As such, then why not a new tradition here: Sandkerwa NA.
Ours will begin in late August, when Bamberg’s does, and it will feature those of the city’s beers available to us here in the States: Schlenkerla, Spezial and Mahr’s among them. There’ll be other Bavarian beers representative of those available in Bamberg, i.e., wheat ales from Schneider and St. Georgenbrau Keller Bier from nearby Buttenheim.
Maybe … just maybe … we can use the Prost room to offer a sampling of Bavarian-style cuisine, although I’m here to tell you that no American alive today prepares sauerkraut the way its cooked in Franconia, and it may be difficult to do Schweinehaxe right.
No matter. Look for Sandkerwa NA in late August, 2007. While it won’t be a substitute for the real thing, it sounds like fun.