The last three or four years I made a habit of spending some days on the Franconian countryside. Visiting breweries, picking up the local beers and visiting the Biergartens, enjoying the local food and drinks.
This time my wife Diane and I decided to take our bicycles with us. With our car packed with luggage and with two bicycles on the carrier, we left off to Elsendorf. In this tiny village near Schlüsselfeld we would spend two nights in the Brauereigasthof Sternbräu. We left the Autobahn early to visit some breweries on our way to Elsendorf. The first stops weren’t rewarding: Brauerei Wolf in Rüdenhausen was closed for the day and Brauerei Rückel in Oberscheinfeld, that was listed as still brewing only produced mineral water. An elderly man pointed us two breweries on the Market Square: Rückel and Münich. "We had four of them", he said painfully. "All have closed down. No more own beer. Das war einmal", he added with a painful sigh.
We were more lucky in Münchsteinach. Brauerei Loscher proved to be a somewhat larger brewery with a charming little Gaststätte, serving good food and a wide assortment of its own beers, including a brand new Weizenpils, a mix of hefeweizen and pilsener. Also Windsheimer in Gutenstetten proved to be a source of beers to take away, although the landlady charged me 6 Euros for 3 bottles. Way above the normal price.
In the late afternoon we arrived in Elsendorf, checked into our room and quickly went into the Biergarten. This Thursday was Bockbieranstich. The brewery ground was already totally filled with locals who enjoyed the Bockbier, served in half litre "Seidl" and litre "Mass" Steins. The Bockbier was excellent. Malty, powerful and heavily hopped. A mouthful of good beer. No wonder the brew was consumed in large quantities, and accompanied by typical German Biergarten fare: sausages, kraut, haxe and roasted pig. Late in the evening the casks were empty and the locals staggered home from the brewery ground, loaded with sausages and beer.
Next morning Diane and I picked up our bicycles and started the day with a steep hill climb to Possenfelden. Brauerei Scheubel was reported to be closed down. The reports were right. A glance through the windows learned us that the brewing and bottling equipment seemed to be in working order, but the place was totally deserted. We cycled on to Burgebrach (the Schwanenkeller was still closed) en then to Mönchsambach. In Brauerei Zehendner I tasted an unfiltered export and was allowed to take home one of the last bottles of Maibock. In the late morning sun we enjoyed our drinks, smelled the fresh malt odor of a working brewery and watched the endless rows of cars picking up their crates of beer to take home.
Just as we passed Brauerei Ibel in Kappel a heavy rain started to pour down and soaked to our bones we reached Schlüsselfeld. On the Market Square we had a late lunch and I was able to taste a brand new beer from this brewery: Adler Weisse. Bottled only and no more than decent. The standard Adlerbräu is better, although you have to like the buttery character of this beer.
Back in Elsendorf I was allowed to drink one of the very last bocks. The caramelly dunkel soon followed, accompanied by an excellent Brotzeit.
Saturday morning we left Elsendorf. On the way to our next stop, I took the tourist route and halted in Stettfeld. The local Adler Brauerei seemed to be active, but I doubt if all beers are really produced by this brewery, I saw the sign of Weiss Rössl in Rossstadt at the wall of the Gaststätte. Indeed no longer producing was Krug in Ebelsbach. There were still beers under own label, but Werner in Poppenhausen brewed these beers. Hertlein in Staffelbach was closed for the day. The friendly brewer couldn’t fill up my swing top bottle with his tap only beer, because all available beer would go to a party later on that day. I had more luck in Dörfleins. I was able to buy bottles of all available beers from Brauerei Eichhorn. I was also able to buy bottles from Brauerei Höhn and Brauerei Drei Kronen in Memmelsdorf.
We had an early lunch in my wifes favourite Brauerei-Gaststätte: Grasser in Huppendorf. I enjoyed my sausages with kraut in the bleak sunshine with a small glass of dunkel. One hour later we arrived in Gasthof Müller in Reundorf, just north of Bad Staffelstein, quickly checked in, took our bicycles en left off for an afternoon ride. A steep hillclimb brought us to the Trunk Brauerei in Vierzehnheiligen, next to the monastery. Franconian Roman Catholics like a short prayer and a long drinking session, so the brewery tap next to the church was filled to the brim with people. It took some time to pick up a glass of Trunk Urdunkel, but the malty sweetness and the strong barnyard character made the effort worthwile. There was also a bock and a festbier on the beerlist, but when I asked for a bock the barman looked at me as if I had made an indecent proposal. "Season only", he muttered, poured me the Urdunkel, and also sold me a lager to take away.
A quick downhill brought us to Brauerei-Gasthof Dinkel in Stublang. In the pouring rain we arrived and I ordered their tap-only Dunkel, served for only € 1,50 in a half-litre Steinkrug. The beer was very nice and the service quick, despite the staff being very busy attending wedding guests.
The rain had stopped and we rode off to Bad Staffelstein, were I had roasted duck in the former brewery Grüner Baum, accompanied by an rather mediocre Mönchshof Kellerbier from tap. Later that evening we stalled our bicycles in the Gasthof in Reundorf, decided we were still hungry and went in for an evening snack: an excellent cheese platter. Müller in Reundorf had a good assortment of local beers from tap. I had an excellent kellerbier from Grasser in Huppendorf and a Heller-Schlenkerla Rauchbier.
Due to circumstances beyond our control, we had to leave very early the next morning to travel home. So there was no time left for our scheduled visits to breweries like Wichert in Oberwallenstadt, Murmann in Untersiemau, Hartleb in Maroldsweisach and maybe some others. But no doubt we’ll return for another tour, another beers and other surprises. We’ll be back!