Sometimes, things just go well. Maybe not perfectly, and often lacking the spectacular but so without-a-hitch that it seems you’re gliding through an otherwise ordinary day. Well, as ordinary a day as it can be when you’re walking through a foliage infused forest and just when you get a little thirsty, you find yourself at a brewery, enjoying a beer that’s been brewed for at least a century.
new Beerwanderers Todd & Brian make their way
This past weekend was the 10th Anniversary celebration of the Fünf Seidla Steig®.
(Fünf-Seidla-Steig® is a registered trademark of the breweries Elchbräu, Brauerei Hofmann, Lindenbräu, Brauerei Friedmann and Klosterbrauerei Weißenohe)
What’s the Fünf Seidla Steig® you’d be forgiven for asking. It’s quite possibly the most popular beer hiking trail, though walking to breweries in the countryside of Franconia is nothing new. What’s Franconia? It’s a northern region of Bavaria but don’t tell that to a Franconian if you want to stay on their good side. And that you just might want to do as this is the side of German beer you don’t want to miss. If you’ve been to Germany and had a generic beer and wondered what the fuss was about, look no further than this timeless landscape where some 300 breweries are densely dotted across the rolling countryside.
the route passes through forest and quaint villages
Now, it’s nearly impossible to get lost on the Fünf Seidla Steig® but you sure can get turned around, especially after a few beers. You’ll likely always find all five of the breweries along its route but doing the full circuit is worth making the effort and staying on course does involve making a few key turns. I had group of eager beerwanderers with me for the Anniversary hike and though it wasn’t a picture perfect sunny day, it was a good one for hiking, with temperatures in the 50s. The foliage was surprisingly well-preserved for early November and the overcast skies actually made their colors stand out against the gray backdrop.
Brian & Todd ready to tackle the Fünf Seidla Steig
The guys were eager to do the full hike and despite the shortness of the autumn day, I opted to start where I find it most dramatic, Kloster Weißenohe. Disembarking from the train here generally means a much less crowded start as most go to Gräfenberg, the next stop up. The brewery wasn’t open when we arrived at 10:15 but I already knew that and sometimes it’s best not to be tempted. I find the Kloster a better place to finish the walk. I also like the way the hike starts from here, with a steady gradual climb through a nice forest prior to opening up to a more rural landscape. The views of Gräfenberg as you descend to town is also more striking than when you get there by train.
the walk to Gräfenberg
The guys were thirsty when we dropped down into town so we tucked into Friedmann’sBräustüberl for their very tasty Pils. We’d shed our jackets on the uphill trudge but had cooled down considerably on the descent so sat in the cozy old world pub rather than brave the temps outside. It was a quick pit stop as we had a fair amount of ground to cover.
Views back towards the Kloster from the trail, Friedmann Pils at the Bräustüberl
After making our way through the quaint market town with requisite square, we also walked by my favorite brewery on the circuit: Lindenbräu. I explained it would make more sense to hit it on the way back and with no belly-aching whatsoever from Todd or Brian, we were soon walking through a few narrow streets before delving back into the forest.
heading to the market square of Gräfenberg
Once at the crossroads of the hike, it’s important to veer to the left. Most will be going right and that will certainly get you to the breweries more directly but the Variant path is quite scenic and once you cross the road, and walk along the street for a short distance, you are again in a nice dense forest. This is a much less crowded part of the hike and the guys enjoyed it.
heading to the variant
It does rejoin the main trail but rather than walk directly into town on it, we opted to take a short detour that rises slightly but affords great views of the Thuisbrunn castle as you enter the northernmost town on the hike.
a peaceful stroll in the fall foliage
We manged to get to the castle viewpoint though in a more roundabout fashion than I’d have liked. In fact, Brian wound up on a very steep off trail route. We were following him but I soon saw the trail and made my way to the less adventurous but sure route. Todd followed Brian and was surprised to find me on top when they got there. Shorter is not always faster. The route back was more obvious and eventually we exited through a driveway. It was exactly where the map seemed to say to go but who would have thought you would go through a private driveway to reach a public viewpoint. Well, in Franconia, all things are evidently possible.
Thuisbrunn Castle on the approach
At any rate, we were hungry from all the energy expenditure and Elch-Bräu was in full swing, with a small tent erected where the Biergarten normally stands. Again, we opted for the cozy interior of their rustic pub. Three Dunkles were in front of us in no time, followed by two Schäuferla. This, the signature dish of Franconia, is pork shoulder and these were quite good ones. Todd had opted for Karpfen (carp) as he’d never had it and seemed to enjoy it, too.
Elch-Bräu Dunkle, Schäuferla & Karpfen
A rotating group of musicians were making the rounds of the various rooms, playing traditional music to the locals’ delight. We went out to the tent to see if we could get some seats but it was full so we decided to get back on the trail.
festive traditional music at Elch-Bräu for 10th Anniversary Celebration
No worries, Hohenschwärz is only about 20 minutes walk away and I was delighted to not only find a short cut I’d done the last time out but also a special Festbier on tap at Brauerei Hofmann. This was a beer I’d never had the pleasure to have and it was a real beauty, too. Dark, rich, malty but with the ample hopping a stronger beer needs to be moreish. The now familiar strains of the accordion were in full swing here, as well.
temps dropping, time for a great Festbier!
As much as I’d have loved to have a Schnitt (half pour final beer), the afternoon had flown by and it was time to make our way back to Gräfenberg. The walk back went quickly and now on the main trail, there were many other beerwanderers en route in both directions.
the scenic walk back to Gräfenberg
Lindenbräu had become very busy in our absence so we were happy to find an open table. Minutes later, a constant stream of people arrived to no such luck. With yet another traditional band playing, we enjoyed their amazing Vollbier from gravity dispense but with darkness on its way, we took a shorter trail back to the Kloster Weißenohe and were seated in its warmth in no time.
the last stretch into Gräfenberg and Lindenbräu’s atmospheric pub & Vollbier
Their Altfränkisches Klosterbier would have been a great way to end the walk, five beers in five breweries but we’d have had to slam it and run to make our planned 5:40 train. Instead, we enjoyed it at our leisure and got a greenMONKey for good measure. This is their craft beer offering, a new age hoppy Pils that shows they can brew outside their box when they want to.
cool house en route to the Kloster Weissenohe & their greenMONKey
This also gave Todd a chance to buy a 10th Anniversary souvenir mug. Be sure to get a stamp card and at each brewery, to stamp it. At the end, you show it and pay 7€ for a nice mug with the Fünf Seidla Steig® logo on it and this year’s was quite nice, commemorating the momentous event. The trains went mostly without a hitch, too though we did have to run a few times to make the tight connections. It was all worth it, though when we arrived home some 17 hours after we’d left. Memories are to be savored but you have to make them first and the best ones usually take some effort.
Beerwanderers at Lindenbräu in Gräfenberg