While the 13-Brauereienweg might be a bit much to bite off for most beerwanderers not committed to an overnight stay in the countryside, the more compact 7-Brauereienweg is much more manageable. In fact, it’s an easy day trip from Bamberg and to prove it, when a good friend from the US who had become enamored with my website offered to take her son to Germany as a graduation present, I suggested that very hike as his rite of passage. That fact that he didn’t particularly like beer was somehow lost on me. I knew once he’d tried the good stuff, he would change his mind.
rudimentary map of the 7 Brewery Trail near Bamberg
So, I casually explained that the buses into the countryside were often empty. It was possible we’d be the only ones on it. I was at a bit of a loss for words when walking towards the bus, I spotted about eight guys with a wagon full of beer, all dressed alike and obviously waiting for the same bus we planned on taking. So much for seclusion but no matter how you chalked it up, Charlie was surely the only kid who’d just graduated from a US high school to be venturing into the Brewing Heartland that day or perhaps any day soon in these parts.
the guys a few hours later after we got to know them better
Though perhaps looking a bit over eager, we’d not only been among the first on the bus but also had secured seats while our hatted comrades of the beer wagon yore were now sitting on the floor close to the exit. So much for capacity laws. This was after all Franconia and there were breweries to be hiked to. As chance would have it, this gave us a great opportunity to make friends with this merry band who hailed, as chance would have it, from an area near Stuttgart all too close to where my mother’s family had descended from. They sure didn’t need us, they were too busy entertaining the entire bus. The apparent leader was named Merkle though he insisted on bearing no relation to the more famous if not quite as charismatic bearer of their name.
arriving at Brauerei Hönig in Tiefenellern
Charlie, my friend’s son, found it all amusing and that wasn’t easy as he was nursing his first beer hangover. It turned out, he liked the beer, at least in Bamberg, a lot more than he had imagined he would. We’d had a fun night prior to the hike and he was paying for it on the bus trip. He sadly opted for a Radler at Brauerei Hönig, something if he ever becomes the beer connoisseur he might, he will likely regret, having missed out on a classic Franconian Lagerbier before the old brewer hangs it up. No worries that day, he was not only still brewing but manning the barrels in the dispensary just behind his brewpub. Of course, everyone was sitting in the well-treed Biergarten. It was a glorious day. We’d grabbed great seats and watched as our new bus buddies sauntered in 10 minutes after we’d arrived. I guess lugging a beer wagon takes time. Though idyllic, we’d made a pact to stick to one beer per brewery, at least until we were nearer civilization in the form of a train station. That still lie some 20 kilometers away. So, it was time to actually get hiking.
Charlie starting to look chipper after his Radler & the famed Lagerbier of Hönig
The route to Lohndorf was gently scenic. As busy as the bus had been, the trail was fairly empty. Many had stayed on the bus to start the walk closer to the end point and those who’d jumped off with us were still at Hönig. Our newbie beerwanderers were impressed with the rolling landscape and we were at our next brewery in no time. This was the most important one for me, for the simple fact I’d never managed to get into it before. It was always closed, even when it was supposed to be open. Needless to say, I was happy to see cars piled up in front of the obviously bustling Biergarten.
the gentle beauty of the Franconian Tuscany
Brauerei Hölzlein was a surprising charmer, even with somewhat high expectations. The cozy wooden interior and copper beer font would serve me some cold winter evening but this was indeed Biergarten weather so we gladly snapped up a shady table and awaited our bandwagon of Schwäbisch acquaintances to arrive. We’d all decided on the half roasted chicken until we saw the huge obviously homemade schnitzel come out and quickly opted for sharing one of each per duo.
Brauerei Hölzlein lived up to all expectations
Soon after, the boys made the scene and promptly moved into a few songs. Oh, I forgot to mention, they were not only a colorful fun group but also one that sang, resplendent with their very own guitar player. They’d even thought to bring lyric books for the brewery patrons at each stop in case anyone wanted to sing along. Now, that we were nearly in the group, we were expected to be among the willing. The delicious food and beer behind us, we set off on a different route than our comrades. No, we weren’t trying to lose them but there was a brewery not part of the 7-Brewery Trail not so far off the route and since one of the original 7 had closed down, I added it in for good measure.
rousing up some backup vocalists & the trail to Schammelsdorf
The route was perhaps the prettiest stretch of the day, through a dense lush forest. We tackled a few hills along the way and were mighty thirsty when rolling into the tiny haven of Schammelsdorf. Brauerei Knoblach is a personal favorite and well-loved by locals, too. Their small Bierarten was sure to be packed this fine Saturday but on approaching, it was oddly not. It was also not open. A sign heralding “Betriebsurlaub” stood at the entrance. They were closed for vacation and we’d done the off route excursion in vain. My cohorts consoled me with the fact that the walk had been beautiful and were glad they’d done it but that didn’t wet our whistles, nor provide the much needed toilet everyone had been equally looking forward to.
rural scenery on the route to Geisfeld
No rest for the beery, it was time to march on to Geisfeld. This would be a long stretch. As recently as 2015, the Brauerei Winkler in Melkendorf would have broken the journey but that’s the year they sadly stopped brewing. So, the route seemed a lot longer and hotter but good things come to those who hike, and Brauerei Krug was not only open but nary a shady table was free in their obviously popular Biergarten. Then we spotted them. Our singing compatriots were not only seated at a big shady table but were also readying to leave. Due to our excursion, they’d leapfrog-ed in front of us. We promptly jumped in their beery graves. This was my wife’s first time at Krug, another elusive and often closed rural brewery. It was a fine beer and place but we had two primo Bierkellers to get to, and besides we wanted to catch up to the surely serenading band now out in the lead.
the crew enjoying a much deserved brew at Brauerei Krug in Geisfeld
We marched by Geisfeld neighbor Brauerei Griess, fully intent on drinking their beer in the Griesskeller just down the road apiece. It was busy but we easily secured a nice table in the shade. Oddly, our new friends were nowhere to be seen. We hadn’t stayed all that much longer at Krug and it was hard to imagine they’d skip such a beer nirvana as the Griesskeller. We tucked into a few beers just the same and were somewhat relieved when they arrived not so much later. As it turned out, they’d stopped at the brewery for a quick one. They joined us and we enjoyed a few plates of cold meats, washed down with the classic Griess Kellerbier.
in front of Brauerei Griess & cold roast pork at the Griesskeller
We still had some ground to cover so bid them farewell, fairly sure we’d see them at the next stop: the Roßdorf Felsenkeller. With the sun starting to sink, the light was about as good as it gets on the next stretch of trail. You could really see how they came up with the Franconian Tuscany moniker to describe the area. I guess a few kellerbiers didn’t hurt though in my choice of using a little used circular polarizer on a very wide angle lens, it probably did.
a bit too polarized but still the gorgeous Franconian Tuscany landscape
No worries, we were soon closing into our last planned stop of the tour. We settled into the second nicest Bierkeller on the route like we’d never left the first. It might have been wise to leave after one but a band had started playing and we were sort of waiting on some friends. We’d all but given up hope when their lead man literally shuffled in to the band’s music, his merry entourage parading behind him. They joined us yet again so there was little talk of either leaving or not having another. In fact, they left before us saying they’d meet us at the next keller or back in Bamberg. We enjoyed our last brew and the music before setting off.
the very scenic Felsenkeller & their formidable Lagerbier
Though it was the height of summer and the days are long in Germany that time of year, we entered a fairly long stretch of dense forest and whatever light there was, wasn’t filtering in. I decided to pull out my headlamp and I could imagine my wife waiting for me to say I told you so. She’d laughed a bit when I asked if I should keep it in my gear. It had been in there since I did a fall trip when the sun sinks earlier. Since it was so light and I was likely to forget the next time I’d need it, I left it in. Now, even she was glad I had. It was dark in no time and though we’d have surely found our way, the beam certainly helped keep everyone stay in a better mood.
an old friend meets our new friends at the Felsenkeller
The next keller was oddly closed but you could hear an unmistakable hum of music in the distance. There had to be a festival going on and the closed keller indicated something was going on somewhere, too. We thought about going to it and if the trail had crossed where it was, we probably would have but the station came up first so we hopped on the next train to Bamberg.
My wife saw a message on her phone the next day. Our newfound friends had gone to the festival and had called when they’d returned to Bamberg, at around 1 in the morning. Thankfully, her phone was off. They were hoping to have a one more beer with us. I guess for some, even seven breweries aren’t enough. No matter how you looked at it, we sure won a few friends that day but what about influencing Charlie. Well, he’d grown to appreciate beer. It might not be his first choice when he gets back home but he enjoyed what he drank and the overall atmosphere even more so. We talked about life along the way and when he asked why I’d never done anything with my photography, I said I had though it hadn’t made me any money yet. I told him to major in something practical, learn SAP. You can take a whole lot more pictures of a lot of different things in more places if you have money. I’m not quite sure he’ll take my advice when it comes to all that but he surely knows who to consult if he’s looking for his next Franconian beer.
Charlie contemplating life on the 7 Brewery Trail