Now, Uehlfeld might be on the Bierstrasse but it’s hardly on any other tourist thoroughfare even if it lies in the middle of the admittedly pretty Aisch Valley. Even the Bierstrasse (literally Beer Street) was of only passing interest to me until I’d read about the pair of breweries in the tiny hamlet of Uehlfeld. Still, a convoluted trip by a series of trains and a bus had kept me from the area until recently. I had hoped to segue my re-acquaintance hike on the Fünf Seidla Steig into one of my other favorite beery hiking areas but was unable to secure a room due to a festival that weekend.
(Fünf-Seidla-Steig® is a registered trademark of the breweries Elchbräu, Brauerei Hofmann, Lindenbräu, Brauerei Friedmann and Klosterbrauerei Weißenohe)
Of course, I could have just gone home a day earlier but once in Franconia, I tend to want to see as much as I can. That said, following my somewhat rainy trek the previous day, I was more ready to head home than to this small village, even if it reportedly had two very fine breweries. I tried to conjure other reasons for my visit and the best I could come up with was carp. Yes, the fish carp. You see this area is renowned for it. There’s even a walk that takes you past, you might have guessed it, carp ponds.
The Stork Learning Path which passes the carp ponds & Uehlfeld
Though the trip there went well, there was a bit of a scare in Neustadt where I was to switch to my bus, called appropriately enough The Aischgründer Bier Express. The bus was there, but I didn’t see any sign of a driver and worse, no sign of other people waiting for the driver. I looked around and found a much smaller bus with my destination on it, as well. Again, no driver and no waiting passengers. Slight panic started to set in but soon enough my huffing and puffing driver came running out. Obviously, this was standard practice and with no other people waiting, I guess without many complaints. Soon, the two of us were off. I could see why the larger bus was ditched on this cold Saturday in October. A few others joined along the way but it still had a real personal feel with the driver chatting with everyone that got on.
the Pretchtel Brewery & their renowned Kellerbier
I was soon at my destination and I mean my destination as I was the only one to get off. Conveniently enough, the bus went right to one of the breweries. Talk about service! I made sure of the return bus stop and time the next day. As much as I’d warmed up to the idea of Uehlfeld, I certainly didn’t need more than one night there. I was staying at the other brewery just up the street but my room wouldn’t be ready for a couple hours so gladly went into the Prechtel Brewery for a much needed hot meal. The wind was howling. The place was cozy but I was a bit deflated to find only a Helles on tap. I’d been hoping for their much heralded Kellerbier, which I later saw on the menu in a bottle. I also saw the Helles was called “Hopfenstoff,” which sounded a lot cooler. It was pretty good, too. I saw carp on the menu but I just couldn’t get myself excited about it. When I saw Räucherbraten (a smoked pork dish), the carp was unlikely to get out of the pond. There was a busload of senior citizens (probably eating carp!) so my meal took ages but no worries. I had time to have the Kellerbier. I noticed not only the guys at the locals’ table but also the barman were drinking it, even if from a bottle. I had time to deliberate on my choice and found myself guilt stricken for having not ordered the town’s famed fish. All doubts were set to rest, however, when the gorgeous meal arrived: an incredibly moist, tender smokey affair of immense size. I was ready for another Kellerbier but on my way back from the toilet, I saw a sign for a Kerwa beer. These are generally in the Märzen family, amber and malty with a bit more kick, as well. I knew the following weekend was the Kerwa, a church oriented fest celebrated in most small villages. Obviously, the ones I’ve been to have been in brewery towns and in those cases, there’s always a special beer brewed for the occasion. I asked the barman who explained they did have it bottles. It wouldn’t be on tap until the next weekend. I went for it just the same. I certainly wasn’t coming back that soon. It was a marvelous example and I was so glad I had noticed the sign.
Kerwabier & Rauchbraten
I’d managed to kill nearly two hours and was contemplating doing the walk to the carp ponds but I still had my pack and after the hearty fare, I wasn’t exactly enthralled by the idea. It was still about an hour early for my room at the Zwanzger Brewery but I figured I’d give it a try. Worse came to worse, I’d have a beer while I was waiting. It had to be better than carrying my pack around an eight kilometer track passing carp ponds. I was happy to find the room was, in fact, ready and waiting. Much like the previous day, I had to force myself back out rather than lay down awaiting my next feed. Just in case, I didn’t want to do the entire circuit, I did it in the direction of the Bierkeller. You didn’t think I’d actually discovered this walk for the carp ponds, did you? One of the reasons to come to Uehlfeld was to go to the Voggendorfer Felsenkeller, owned by Pretchtel. Unfortunately, I missed it by a week, as it closes the last weekend in September. It’s highly unlikely it would have been open on this cold day anyway. It was still nice to see and I’m sure they have the Kellerbier on tap there and I’ll certainly try to make my next visit in one of the warmer months when it’s open.
The walk was doing me good and the weather seemed to be getting a little better so I decided to continue on the trail to the carp ponds. It was flat and easy walking and with the wind dying down, I was finished in no time. It wasn’t exactly like climbing Yosemite Falls but it was pretty enough, there was some fall foliage and it was starting to peak my interest in having carp for dinner.
The Voggendorfer Felsenkeller & the Stork Area
I got back to my room and took a hot shower to freshen up and put the heat on. I headed down to the brewery for dinner and was glad I hadn’t wasted too much time, it was filling up fast. To be honest, I wasn’t even hungry and explained to the waitress I would eat after a few beers. Their Dunkles beer was quite interesting, with some spiciness to the overall fruity palate. Was ready to order the Vollbier as most of the locals were drinking it but noticed a table of young people drinking the “craft beer” of the month, a hoppy wheat beer called White Marylin. It was surprisingly good, one of the driest wheat beers I’ve tried in Germany. It was also great for getting my appetite up. The menu was extensive and not ordering carp would have been all too easy but I relented though I still had to decide between a whole fish and a filet in a beer batter. I went for the latter, not wanting to deal with bones. It was also quite a bit cheaper and I wasn’t all that hungry. When it arrived, it was quite large and really tasty. I was surprised at how good it was and it went well with their peppery Vollbier. I had one more beer and was happy to be sleeping a flight of stairs away.
Zwanzger & carp fillets
I had a relaxed morning as the first bus out of town was at 10:45. I lounged around after breakfast but had to be out of the room by 10 so went down for one more Vollbier, giving me license to wait inside for my bus. Well, to be honest. I wanted to have another anyway. And besides, who knows when the lure of carp will be strong enough to reel me in once again.
The super Zwanzger Vollbier