The first time I saw the Walberla, it caught me entirely off guard. I was on a bus to Leutenbach, primarily to check out Brauerei Drummer but planned on doing some hiking there, as well. I’d taken two trains to Forchheim from Munich and was surprised at how smoothly the transition to the bus had gone. I certainly wasn’t expecting a scenic ride, but that it was. I saw a flattish hill en route and it captured not only my attention but my imagination. It was a dismal day but even in the grayness, it stood out and had some kind of magic. After lunch, the sun came out and on my hike to the next village and brewery, I saw it again and though it wasn’t quite as enticing from that angle, I vowed to one day walk upon it.
the Walberla en route to Hetzelsdorf
I later learned its name and more importantly about a spring festival called the Walberlafest. It was reportedly the oldest spring festival in Germany and the Walberla itself had a long history, from pagan worship to Erlangen law students partying. No wonder it had stirred me so deeply. The festival looked amazing but something always came up. My wife, who is not a big festival fan, was less than enthused about going. When I took on the task of writing the book Beer Hiking Bavaria, my wife was even more understanding of my beer hiking obsession than she usually is. So, I planned a research trip to do hikes in the area around Leutenbach and quite naturally timed it for when the festival would be.
the raising of the Maibaum is how it all gets started
I found a great apartment in Leutenbach but the festival is right on top of the Walberla so if you want go to to it, you have to hike. Well, we found out once on top that some people take a taxi from the other side to fairly close to the top. We weren’t having any of that and did a proper hike from Leutenbach. The weather was far less than ideal, quite cold for May but we enjoyed the fact that the crowds were surely smaller because of it. We got there in time for the raising of the Maibaum, the May 1st tradition still common in Bavaria and certainly a big deal for this historically significant spring festival.
some of the great beers and food at the Walberlafest
Despite the cool and gray weather, it was a nice small scale festival with a great variety of beers from the region, including not only Drummer but also Hetzelsdorfer, Meister from nearby Unterzaunsbach and Huppendorfer. Many breweries had gravity dispense beers, even those that don’t normally do it at their brewpubs. Along with the typical food stands you get at nearly all these festivals, there were a few local variations and mixed plates of meats and cheeses, perfect for trying different beers. We got lucky just as the sun was going down, it peeked its head out to shine some beautiful light on the rock outcroppings of the Walberla.
finally a little sun on the Walberla
One brewery surprisingly missing was local Brauerie Alt from Dietzhof but that was on our agenda of places to check out since we’d never been there. So, down the Walberla we hiked and the beers there were very much worth the walk.