Lichtenfels “urbrau”: supermarket with its own beer

Lichtenfels 'urbrau': supermarket with its own beer

"The lichtenfels urbrau has become a piece of my free time", says christian werner, manager of the edeka store in mainau. Since the opening last fall, he has been selling his own beer under the name "bayerisch urbrau". Once a week he drives his audi to kulmbach to the kommunbrau and picks up the beer personally. "The ride, a snack there: that’s an hour and a half for me, when I can really switch off, says werner. Then he loads the one-liter bottles into his trunk, now and then also a barrel. 150 liters currently sold weekly. A crowd about which the coarse breweries only smile. But werner is not alone.

The counter-trend to breweries is taking place in many small brewpubs. Own beer used to be available on every corner – now it’s coming back. In uetzing there is the metzgerbrau, in lichtenfels there is a small kettle in the former butcher’s shop krug, which is now to become an inn. A tenant is still being sought. And there is the "urbrau" from lichtenfels again.

"Our beer is alive, says werner. He means that the yeast is not filtered out – and the beer in the bottle continues to ferment. To stop the cooking process, the beer has to be cooled and still only lasts six weeks. "I am more the fresh one, I like the beer young. With time it becomes more tart and strong. There are also customers who keep it extra long", tells werner.

The idea of the construction site
until it came to this, it was a long way. The idea was born on the construction site. "The conversation turned to the former brewery, which brewed beer on the other side of the railroad until 1971. Where the parking garage is today", says werner. Where has the urbrau gone?? Werner sat down at the computer, started searching and found out that the trademark rights were still held by tucher AG, which bought the lichtenfels brewery in 1970 and closed it down shortly thereafter. "From the dream", he thought.

But as luck would have it, the rights expired just then and were not automatically extended. So werner reported the brand "bayerisch urbrau" under the number 302012 049416 at the patent office. Since 13. November 2012 he is in possession of the trademark rights.

That’s when the problems really started. Werner is a businessman, not a brewmaster. Who should brew the beer? And according to which recipe? He wanted a craft brewed beer. Even the smaller breweries in the district have automated brewing systems. "They had to rebuild properly for my small quantity – no one does that." Once again the dream seemed to be at an end before even the first sip was drunk.

It was one of the craftsmen on the construction site who told us about his share in the cooperative of kulmbacher kommunbrau – and that he was a member of the board of directors. Now werner had found a comrade-in-arms in the local brewmaster alexander matthes. "He still brews by hand – which means that every brew can taste a little different", says werner. Among the members was a brewmaster who worked in the old brewery before tucher took it over. He could help with the recipes. "But no one drinks the beer of yesteryear any more. It was heavy, sub and caloric – as in the monasteries also intended as a food substitute."

How can the urbrau then be saved into the modern era? "We tried different beers of the commune brewery and finally chose the amber beer and gave it its own character", says werner. What met his taste, that should be it. And then there was a tasting with old lichtenfelsers: "they confirmed to us that the beer is like the urbrau was."

The werner family operates a total of four markets, but the beer is only available in mainau. There it is cooled in the checkout area. Werner and the kommunbrau agree: much more can and should not be brewed at all. There remains a piece of history to drink. "Tourists also like to buy the urbrau – we notice that because there are already 1000 bottles of empties missing", says werner. His market is repeatedly praised in the trade press as a modern concept, werner takes visitors from russia, dubai, aldi executives or other business leaders through his market. Someone brought him a bottle of wine – and werner thanked him with an "urbrau".

"Shortly before christmas he came back and got a whole trunk full, because all the drivers have a "urbrau" should get as a gift." So werner and his beer make waves.

How old was the brewery?
Now he is looking for the date of the foundation. Officially the story begins in 1845. But on old labels, the brewery advertised itself as the "second-oldest brewery in germany – since 1132". "If I can find a receipt for this – it would be awesome", says werner, who has been helped by a number of accidents so far.

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