Beer hunting in Fränkische Schweiz

<< 2006-02-12 23:47 >>

The Fränkische Schweiz, or Franconian Switzerland, is a small, hilly area north of Nürnberg between Bamberg and Bayreuth which is full of idyllic small towns and villages, strange rock formations, and small streams and rivers. More importantly, it's also full of small family breweries. After we left Bamberg we headed into this area towards Kulmbach, and after visiting Kulmbach and Bayreuth we headed back in for some sightseeing (and beer research).

The first stretch through the area, northeast out of Bamberg, was flat, nice, and idyllic. Following the instructions in Michael Jackson's indispensable pocket beer guide we stopped in Memmelsdorf after a few kilometers at the Drei Kronen, a small and very nice brewery inn. I bought a bottle of their unfiltered rauchbier (no rating, unfortunately) for 1 Euro and put it in the bicycle pack. Interestingly, in Memmelsdorf (which is really tiny) we spotted four breweries, and in the next town (Schesslitz, which is tiny and very nice) we spotted three. It was too close to Bamberg to consider stopping, though, so we just kept going.

From there it was another 20 flat kilometers through the lovely countryside to a tiny place called Burgellern, where we stopped to have lunch, drink the rauchbier, and chatted with a local (retired) man. He arrived riding on an old tractor, dressed in a shabby gray suit, and carrying what looked very much like a black doctor's bag. Our German was only just sufficient for a short conversation. We initially thought he might be a doctor, but after he said "müller" two or three times, and pointed at the millstones in his garden we realized he was the local miller. He had lots to say on various subjects, including Gerhard Schröder, of whose morals he held a low opinion, apparently due to Schröder's womanizing. He also told us there had been a local brewery, but it was now a book bindery.

Drei Kronen, Memmelsdorf

Lunch in Burgellern

This was the end of the flat stretch, though. The next 7 kilometers were all uphill, culminating in a 13% incline up into a tiny village. Totally drained in the strong sun we stopped at the top, only to spot two brewery-pubs, one on each side of the road. Being tired we chose the nearest one, called Hübner Bräu, which was local in the extreme, containing only three local workers taking their lunch break. The walls displayed the brewery master certificates of father and son, plus a picture of one of them proudly holding a bottle of Hübner Bräu beer outside a Canadian supermarket that apparently sold it. (I've no idea how a tiny brewery in the middle of the Franconian countryside managed to get distribution to Canada.) The beer was nice, but unremarkable.

After this it was all downhill into Weismain, a tiny town so nice we decided to spend the night. Weismain looked very promising initially from a beer point of view, as we spotted four breweries on a short walk through town. However, it turns out that three of the four are now closed, and the last, Weismainer, has become rather large. This, sadly, turned out to be a constantly repeated refrain throughout the trip through Fränkische Schweiz. If Chris really is right, and Franconia has 300 breweries today, I'll bet you anything you like that in 5 years it will have less than 200.

We spent a pleasant evening in a small former brewpub named Wirtshaus Oberndorfer where the owner had a bunch of very drunk and slightly rowdy friends gathered round a table, one of them sound asleep the entire time we were there. Apart from them it was only us. We got to talk a little with the owner (in broken German), who told us that the Oberndorfer Pilsener was still made by Weismainer, and he was clearly proud to be selling that in addition to the normal Weismainer. We tried it, and it was good, with lots of taste, somewhat acidic, which might be deliberate to make it more refreshing.

Strange rock formations

Having spent the night we set out for Kulmbach, which was so close we decided to make some detours to see more of the Fränkische Schweiz, despite having to start with a steep uphill out of Weismain.

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frederick - 2006-11-13 21:01:58


it was a pleasure for me to read your little story. I was born in Forchheim, a little town near bamberg and I spent half of my life in the Fränkische Schweiz. For my studies I had to move to mannheim. I still return every month back to spend some time in this nice region.

Greetings frederick

Lars Marius - 2006-11-14 19:13:27

I remember Forchheim. We bicycled right past it on the way from Nürnberg to Bamberg. If I remember correctly we went past on the opposite side of the canal.

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