Franconia Germany

Help us plan our holiday

We’ve off to Germany again in a couple of weeks. We’re big enough to admit we don’t know it all, and we’d be honoured if you could share some of your tips with us. In particular:

(1) What are your suggestions for beer-related (and even non beer-related) day trips from Mainz, Heidelberg and Bamberg? They have to be do-able by public transport. We don’t mind a bit of a walk.

(2) Has anyone else experienced unwillingness to sell you a small beer, even when it’s being served on tap? I’ve seen it more in southern Bavaria and Munich than in Franconia, but on a few occasions I’ve been told they only serve in half litres, and on one occasion (at a beer festival) that they only serve in litres. Is this because we’re obviously gullible tourists, or is there some other reason for this, and has anyone had any luck in convincing them otherwise? What’s German for “My government recommends that as a woman I only drink 2-3 units a day and therefore I can’t possible manage a litre?”

(3) Does anyone know what a Haarschnitt (?) is in relation to beer? We had a very confusing conversation with someone in Munich where they explained that they could only serve beer with a Haarschnitt. My guess from context is it means they give you a small portion in a big glass with a massive head, but I’d welcome clarification.

(4) Are there any common beer or pub-related pitfalls / cultural faux pas that we might not be aware of? We now know to look extra hard for Stammtisch signs but we’re embarrassed to think we’d been merrily sitting at them unawares…


11 replies on “Help us plan our holiday”

Most of the Franconian pubs I was in recently had 0.5 and 0.3 litre measure. I’ve not been in a pub that only sold litres. At the Annafest they do, of course. But the standard measure is a half litre.

If you’re in Bamberg I would visit Forcfhheim. There’s a direct train connection and Forchheim’s four breweries are all right nest to each other. Of course I’m biased. I just love Hebendanz and Neder, Two of my favourite pubs anywhere. The Kellerberg (site of the Annafest) is worth a visit, too. Some of the Kellers are open all year.

Most of the same rules of pub etiquette apply. Staring at fellow customers that sort of thing.

I thought Mainz was a dump. Only slightly better than Frankfurt. (That’s about the faintest praise I can muster.) Not much in the way of beer, either. One fairly dull modern brewpub, Eisgrub. It’s the sort of place you could find anywhere in Germany. It’s one of the few German cities I’ve visited that I couldn’t be arsed to do a pub guide for.

You do get Äppelwoi in that area, sort of German cider. The Frankfurt suburb of Sachsenhausen supposedly has a few good places. Finnish Kris was telling me last night about a tasting he did of 15 different Äppelwoi. He put the results on the internet, but it’s all in Finnish. He said one of the producers was much better than the others. Can’t remember what their name was. I have a couple of Äppelwoi places in my Frankfurt guide that the late John White recommended to me. He gave me so many good tips. I really miss him.

Cheers Ron. What’s German cider like – sweet, sour or something else?

I stopped off in Mainz during the World Cup and I really liked the place, and it seemed handy as a base for exploring the Rhine. I remember the brewpub as having a rather tasty dark beer. It’ll be interesting to go again.

We had some Neder “Schwarze Anna” in one of the Landbierparadies in Nuremberg, and loved it, so Forchheim is definitely on the agenda.

Heidelberg had boat tours up the Neckar, that was kindof fun. I would avoid the castle, a bit touristy to extreme. I enjoyed in Heidelberg walking down the main city path and just turning into a random, German bar. The one real knock I had against Heidelberg was while I was there and this was the early 90s, I saw a major American tabloid sitting on a newstand.

I think Appelwoi can be all of those. Kris said that Google have just added a Finnish tranlator, so if I can find the URL, you could see what his tasting panel found. I’ve drunk it once myself and that was years ago.

Neder’s brewery tap just has Export. A really lovely beer, especially served like it is there, straight out of the cask.

Half a litre slips down so easily that 0.3l is rarely desirable. Well, apart from when you’re on a mammoth week-long beer tour and you feel compelled to drink. Even then the small size is a foolish choice as you’ll have the piss taken out of you relentlessly for ever more by those present.

On the non-beer front Coburg is quite a good day trip from Bamberg, I really liked the castle, great photo op. Mainz Cathedral is interesting but if beer is the main objective I’d spend as much time as possible in Franconia. Lots of the village breweries around Bamberg are really easy to get to and provide memorable experiences. Pick out the Franconia postings on my blog for more detail.

Enjoy your trip, I’m jealous already.

I can’t really answer for Mainz or Heidelberg though you could do worse than spend an hour and a half on the train and go south to Wurzburg for a very nicely restored city, Germany’s second oldest Hofbrauhaus and lovely scenery in the midst of wine growing country.

For Bamberg, a trip to Nurnberg is easy and for me, worthwhile for nicely restored buildings, a very good atmosphere and some quite decent beer. From Bamberg itself, get a bus map and/or hire a bike and check out the Franconia Beer Guide site for all you need to know about where the breweries are and how to get there. Link on my blog site.

You have already committed the main cultural faux pas with your stammtisch caper – incidentally apart from a sign (obvious) – other less obvious clues are the only free table in a packed place, the only table with or without a tablecloth, the table to which the staff retreat for a sit down etc.

In my umpteen visits to Germany, apart from the odd place that just sells litres or half litres only and you can usually spot it before you purchase/order, I have never come across a reluctance to serve small beers otherwise. You just have to accept it’s their rules. Don’t like it? Go elsewhere.

There are other things that are difficult though not impossible. These include getting the beer in the kind of glass you’d like rather than the one they like. (I don’t like handled glasses, no matter what the beer.) Usually it is because it is the only glassware they have.

Anyway, I’m off there in August for two weeks to the Allgau. Can’t wait!

So none of you experts know what a Haarschnitt is then? Must have just been something they made up to confuse the tourists.

As for the only-selling-large-measures – I was just interested as to whether there was a legal backing for this. For example, when we were in France last autumn, the French government had produced a handy leaflet for British rugby world cup tourists, explaining lots of interesting rules, such as the fact that it is illegal to refuse to give you tap water or sell you a smaller measure.


Just found this blog and it’s great! Most likely any comments are too late now as you are in the Heidelberg area already but some remarks: I’m from germany (born in the northern parts but now living in Heidelberg) and I’ve never ever heard “Haarschnitt” (haircut) in connection with beer. Regarding problems to get some smaller amounts of beer I’ve had that problem in Bavaria once. It was really crowded and they ran out of small glases. At normal business hours you should get a small one. But there is one problem: they have to sell everything in glases marked with a line indicating the volume of the glas (Eichstrich). And if they just don’t have 0.3l glasses they can’t sell you that. (If you ask nicely and tell them you are a journalist for a international beer magazine they will 🙂 )

Have a nice stay!

Thanks Jan – that explains it a bit more. We still came across a few places where they explained that they “only served in 0.5”, because of the glasses / krugs that the beer came in. Mind you, we also went to one place where they served us small measures in a 0.5ml glass (is this therefore illegal?)

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