Fraenkische Schweize (3) – the most idyllic beer garden in the world?

“Idyllisch” is a word our Wanderfuehrer likes to use. A lot. But the place that deserved it most, in our humble opinion, was the beer garden on top of the Staffelberg, a hill outside Bad Staffelstein.

The picture is our attempt to capture the view from the beer garden, across the valley. It doesn’t really do it justice. On tap is the wonderful hop-bomb that is St Georgen-Brau Kellerbier and the almost-as-good Pilsener. They also have Weissbier from the nearby Staffelberg-Braeu in bottles (not so exciting, but cold and refreshing enough). There are a few snacks available, including some very tasty and cheap home-made cake. What more can one ask?

Notes

To get there, it’s a steep hike uphill from Bad Staffelstein (follow the Mainz-Donau way) or a more gentle hour and a half walk along the Jakobsweg from Vierzehnheiligen.

Fraenkische Schweiz (2) – Brauerei Trunk / Vierzehnheiligen

Want to get some of that Franconian village Hausbrauerei action without much of a hike? Then Brauerei Trunk is for you. Because it’s behind the monastery at Vierzehnheiligen, there are frequentish buses and short, well-signposted walking routes from Lichtenfels and Bad Staffelstein.

Being next to a tourist attraction, the Alte Klosterbrauerei (as it’s also known) is open every day, so you don’t need to worry about going all that way for nothing. Our Wanderfuerer makes some kind of snotty remark about “viele Senioren-Busreisen” (lots of old people’s bus excursions) but we thought it was quite nice to go somewhere where there were some other people.

It’s a lovely beer garden, which overlooks the Basilika. The beer’s pretty good too; we had the Dunkles-Export and the “Ernte” Bier. The latter (“harvest beer”) is made with three types of grain including rye and was very tasty, with a wonderful fruity aroma and hints of cherries in the taste. There are also snacks available. It’s all self-service, with a deposit on the glasses.

The obatzda is so dirty. Mmmmmmmmm… dirty obatzda.

Notes

Lichtenfels and Bad Staffelstein are on the main Bamberg-Coburg railway line; more trains stop at Lichtenfels. To pick up the path from Lichtenfels, turn right out of the station and keep following Bamberger Strasse until the town runs out — it takes a while, but don’t give up. There’s a MacDonald’s on the outskirts, and about here you’ll see a sign off on the left to the monastery. It’s a 30-40 minute walk in total from the station. Or you can get a bus or taxi.

Basilika Vierzehnheiligen itself is architecturally significant and built by Balthasar Neumann. If you’re into baroque tat, you’ll love it.

Exploring the Fraenkische Schweiz (1) – Brauerei Meister, Unterzaunsbach

Contrary to what some guidebooks would have you believe, you can explore the Fraenkische Schweiz and get to many of the little breweries on your own two feet. There’s a useful branchline from Forchheim to Ebermannstadt, and loads of local buses. Best of all, there’s a network of (fairly) well marked paths, so with a good “Wanderkarte” you can improvise as you go along. Nowhere is particularly steep or tough going – you don’t need hiking boots or even expensive anoraks

There’s even a “Brauereien und Bierkellerweg” you can follow – it’s more designed for cyclists, but is a useful reference point

As a starting point, we bought “Ein neuer Wanderfuehrer fuer Biertrinker” by Dietrich Hoellhuber and Wolfgang Karl. They suggest 22 walks and profile around forty or fifty breweries and beer gardens. It’s a very useful little book, with hand-drawn maps, and important information about opening times of the breweries, and beer reviews too. Our German is not that great, but it’s not that difficult to follow the gist, although I do suggest getting a proper map of the area with the cycle/ walking routes marked to supplement it and work out where you are if you get lost

We tried walk 21, a circular walk from Pretzfeld to the supposedly amazing Penning-Zeissler brewery in Hetzelsdorf, having checked with the book that the day wasn’t a “Ruhetag”. It was a really lovely walk, through orchards of pears and cherries and fields of barley. Unfortunately, when we got to Hetzelsdorf, the brewery had decided that Monday was going to be a Ruhetag as well as Tuesday. Moral of the story – phone before you leave

However, having a look at the map and the book, we improvised a new route back, via the little village of Unterzaunsbach. After an hour or so of getting lost in a wood, we found ourselves outside the front door of Brauerei Meister. It appeared to be open.

We went in, slightly nervously. There was an old lady sitting at the table, who must have been over a hundred. After greeting each other, she shouted into the kitchen, and a younger lady (still over seventy) came out to serve us. She was slightly bemused by us, but spotted our “Wanderfuehrer”, said something in an impenetrable local dialect (probably “I know your type”) and smiled.

The brewery does a Vollbier and a Zwicklbier on tap. We think that the Zwickl is an unfiltered version of the Vollbier, i.e. not a different recipe. Both were amazing, obviously. Very ale-like, both in colour and bitterness. Very full malt flavours infused with orange and perhaps some smokiness too. With the Zwickl, you seem to get the different flavours more slowly.

We said nice things about the beer, and she gave us a beer mat and a box of matches.
They do food and bierschnapps too. Incidentally, there’s a bus-stop over the road, so I imagine you could get a bus directly here from Forchheim too. But I bet the beer wouldn’t taste as amazing…

Boak

Brauerei Meister is at Unterszaunsbach 8, D-91362 Pretzfeld. I was very surprised to find that they have a website, which you can find here. I don’t think it’s been updated for a while, though.

Here’s a link to find out more about the Fraenkische Schweiz, including a list of 72 breweries in the area.