Franconia is a little bit crazy. There are just far too many breweries and never enough time. How do you choose which ones to visit? Random guesses seemed as good a plan as any.
Looking at the maps in the <a hrefhttp://www.german-breweries.com>Good Beer Guide to Germany we found a nice line running northwest from Pottenstein towards Aufseß with breweries every few kilometres. It seemed downright convenient, so our decision was made.
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We spent the previous night at Brauerei Mager in Pottenstein, which is a place of incredible beauty (the town, not the brewery... though that’s nice too). The town is home to two breweries and one ex-brewery.
After checking in we quickly downed a fantastic Mager Dunkel in the small courtyard before heading to the old Brauerei Wagner where they commission an absolutely amazing beer from St Georgen-Bräu in Buttenheim called Höhlentrunk and serve St Georgen’s Kellerbier in fantastic condition. We couldn’t believe our luck at just how good the beers there were, doubly so considering we randomly stumbled across the place.
We grabbed dinner at Brauerei Hufeisen’s incredible biergarten at the base of a rocky cliff-face. The Dunkel here was also brilliant, and the Weizen and Pils quite serviceable too – it’s surprising this brewery doesn’t have a better reputation.
<IMG border=0 SRC=/images/features/hufeisen.JPG> Biergarten at Brauerei Hufeisen
Our attempts to return to Wagner for another beer were sadly thwarted. A private function apparently. We tried to sneak in anyway but they were onto us. Bastards.
Before returning to Mager for a few nightcaps, motelpogo spotted a bunch of unusual beer bottles in the window of an ice cream store. His attempts to stock up were frustrated by the lady informing him that they were actually made of chocolate.
After trying Mager’s Pils and Hell – which were nice enough beers in their own right – we quickly got back on the Dunkels before retiring to our room to lighten the load for the following day. Scheyern Doppelbock was quite a solid beer and Gottsmannsgrüner Whisky Bier wasn’t nearly as bad as it sounds, but both were easily outshone by what was on television. “Naked and Funny” is Russia’s answer to Candid Camera, only with more nudity and sexual harrassment. It’s pure entertainment gold – check out this <a href=http://www.aflproductions.com/Camera.php?part=Naked%20and%20Funny>link <IMG border=0 SRC=/images/features/n&f.jpg> Naked and Funny – guaranteed hilarity
Despite a late night watching train-wreck TV we were up early for a big day of bierwanderung. Being the man of considerable style that he is, mullet packed his clothes into a plastic shopping bag for the day’s walking. This generated a good deal of amusement for motelpogo, who had opted for the more orthodox choice of a backpack. mullet claimed motelpogo was jealous, but was reassured it was in fact a combination of mirth and concern about being arrested for vagrancy.
The walk began with a few hundred metres of steep upslopes just getting out of Pottenstein. It’s never a good sign to need a rest five minutes into a day where you’re supposed to walk 24km. The hard work was at least rewarded with some nice views back over the town.
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<IMG border=0 SRC=/images/features/pott10.JPG> More Pottenstein
Soon we were cutting a swathe across the Franconian countryside headed towards Held-Bräu in Oberailsfeld. motelpogo amazed mullet with his ability to relate almost everything to selection of cricket teams, though including Stuart MacGill in his hypothetical Australian team was a controversial one.
Oberailsfeld was notable for two reasons – the brewery was setting up for some kind of festival, and for a tiny town it had an inordinate number of good-looking women, which temporarily halted motelpogo’s complaining about the unattractiveness of Bavarian women.
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Oh yeah, they also had beer. The brewery tap had an unusually young crowd for 11am – perhaps it was because of the festival but we were surprised not to find the customary senior citizens playing cards. Instead it was groups of twenty-somethings and parents with young kids. Held-Bräu’s Weizen was quite solid but the Dunkel really stole the show. It had a lot more hop aroma and noticeable chocolatey roastiness than the dunkels in Pottenstein, even if motelpogo was feeling a bit too tender to really enjoy it.
Back on the road and we were heading to Brauerei Heckel in Waischenfeld. It turns out that saying “I could really go a Heckel Vollbier” over and over again makes you quite thirsty, so when we got into town we could really have gone a Heckel Vollbier. Unfortunately, of the 514 times mullet took the Good Beer Guide out of his bag on the day, he only noticed that Heckel closed at 1pm after arriving there at 1.15pm. And the brewery is the only outlet for the beer. It wasn’t our finest moment, but after a few tears we managed to pull ourselves together.
<IMG border=0 SRC=/images/features/heckelclosed.JPG> A heart-breaking sight
We wandered hungrily through town looking for somewhere to eat which would also serve us some interesting beer. This wandering took us right through the middle of a wedding party but mullet refused to accept the town’s many other beer offerings, forcing a starving motelpogo to walk a few more kilometres to the next destination, Nankendorf.
As is always the way when you are famished, Brauerei Schroll in Nankendorf wasn’t serving food. Luckily, this being Franconia the old Polster brewery was directly over the road and they did have food. The bar was a typical old lady’s front room-type affair, made all the more creepy by the fact that we were the only customers. Tasting the beers gave some insight as to why that was the case. Before heading off the kitchen the landlady proudly put on her “Licensed to Grill” apron, which pleased motelpogo because the Czech Republic doesn’t have such strict food regulations, leading to some fairly dodgy grilled food. Oddly enough the Polster beers are contract-brewed by a brewery which isn’t even in Bavaria. Weird.
Our stomachs laden with hearty Franconian fare we headed back across to Schroll, which was also an old lady’s front room, but with a bit of a truck stop vibe for good measure. There was also a small biergarten so we headed out there and had a Helles and a Dunkles Landbier whilst perusing the map we finagled off the lady at Polster. There was no excuse for getting lost now! The Schroll beers were pretty plain, but at least they washed the flavour of the Polster beers out of our mouths.
From this point on the walking became a lot more pleasant as we were off the main roads and onto walking tracks, though a few determined souls seemed keen to prove that cars can in fact handle the terrain of a walking track. The walk to Breitenlesau was mostly through farmland with small sections of forest in between. As we approached the town the number of country folk riding on tractors and the smell of animals increased sharply. That’s always a good sign.
<IMG border=0 SRC=/images/features/krug.JPG> They have very handsome waiters at Krug-Bräu
Like most places in the middle of nowhere in Franconia, Krug-Bräu was packed, though the crowd seemed to be visiting cyclists more than locals. The cyclists were definitely onto something though – this place is fantastic. The biergarten is basically a bunch of picnic tables plonked under a few trees which lie in the brewery’s courtyard between the brewery and the gasthof. The queue for beers constantly extends outside of the gasthof into the courtyard, but beers are dispensed quickly which is just as well because the drinkers dispense of them quickly too. Krug-Bräu Lagerbier, Weisse, Pilsener and Kellerbier were on tap and all were absolutely first-rate. Picking a favourite was a very difficult task. The thought of going without beer until the next brewery was equally difficult, so we grabbed a bottle of Dunkel Weisse for the road.
Next stop was Brauerei Reichold in Hochstahl, the first of four breweries in the greater Aufseß area. It also had the first buck’s party we had run into for the day. Awesome. We grabbed a seat outside on Hochstahl’s main street to watch the world go by, but it soon became evident that we were at the only place of interest in town because the only traffic that came by stopped at the brewery. The Zwickel and Weizen were solid beers without being particularly spectacular, so we weren’t too disappointed to leave our buck and friends behind and hit the road again.
<IMG border=0 SRC=/images/features/reichold2.JPG> Most of the residents of Hochstahl are in this photo.
Kathi-Bräu in Heckehnof is another Franconian classic. A large, tree-covered deck serves as the main drinking area in summer, with some other picnic tables scattered around. For some reason this is a bikies’ place – two thirds of the people there must’ve been in black leather. And we must commend them on their taste – the dunkel here is fantastic, which is just as well because it’s all they serve. We grabbed a table next to a delightful fellow who was short a few teeth and spoke a rather indecipherable local dialect. He told us the Rothenbach beers in the next town were “damendrank”. A fantastic cheese platter which we intended as a pre-dinner snack was big enough to serve as dinner for the two of us. Typical Franconia really.
<IMG border=0 SRC=/images/features/kathibrau.JPG> Fantastic photography at Kathi-Bräu – check out that cropping!
After a couple of Kathi-Bräus, motelpogo decided to strike up a conversation with some German women doing a pub crawl of their own and we were quickly enlisted as burly protection from the rampaging groups of buck’s parties. It turns out that the district of Aufseß promotes pub crawls between its four breweries and after you get a stamp at each for drinking a beer you are awarded with a fancy certificate for your efforts. We hadn’t realised this until we had already left the second of the four and it was looking unlikely that we’d make it to the fourth (Stadter in Sachsendorf) so the ladies added our names to their own list. Once we arrived at Brauerei Rothenbach in Aufseß proper, we were bestowed with our official beer-drinking nicknames – “Exxi” for mullet, “Prosti” for motelpogo – before the graduation ceremony where we received our certificates and gave our acceptance speeches, all the while keeping the marauding buck’s parties at bay. Fortunately for mullet it was all conducted in English, even the other guys were considerate enough to argue with us in English.
After a decidedly tasty Aufsesser Zwickel (not “damendrank” at all) we realised it was dark, about 10pm and we had nowhere to stay. After summoning all the brain power we possessed at the time, we went inside to the bar and after if they had any rooms free – not surprisingly, they didn’t. This made things rather difficult as we were basically in the middle of nowhere. After an extended session of drunken head-scratching we decided to get a taxi and get it to drive around until we found somewhere which would take us. Much like the story of Jesus’ birth, really. Sagely, motelpogo convinced mullet to buy a few bottles of beer on the way out.
Our third stop in the taxi was a large hotel in Heilegenstadt which, to our relief, had somewhere for us to stay. All that sitting in the taxi worrying made us thirsty, so after dumping our bags we walked out the front of the hotel and spotted a brewery! Told you Franconia was a special place. Brauerei Aichinger’s brewery tap is a delightfully run-down affair with lace tablecloths and one beer – Aichinger Spezial. Spezial indeed, it was an intensely fruity and hoppy kellerbier-style number which really jumped out at our jaded palates.
Back at the hotel we couldn’t resist checking out the bar before going to bed. Seeing that they served Löwenbräu Buttenheim beers was more than enough to twist our arms. It turned out that the hotel was hosting a wedding reception, but they were happy to sell us beer regardless, though we got more than a few dirty looks from wedding guests the next morning at breakfast. We made friends with several drunken middle-aged folks, including one character who took a rather disturbing level of interest in mullet, including (but not limited to) trying to get him to marry his daughter and repeated head-stroking. It turns out that nodding and saying “Ja” when you don’t understand isn’t always the best policy. After an Ungespundetes Lagerbier and Weizen each (not bad beers to have at your wedding reception!) it really was time for bed, so we went upstairs and drank our bottles of Aufsesser beers – Festbier, Dunkel and Hefe-Weizen – which were all quite delicious but struggled to make much of an impact on our tired palates at that point.
<IMG border=0 SRC=/images/features/aufsesserbeers.JPG> For a hard-earned thirst