How to find beer at the end of the rainbow

Hiking in the rain doesn’t have to be an awful thing but most people certainly don’t seek it out. I’m no stranger to walking long distances in wet weather when I’m backpacking, especially to escape the wilderness and return to civilization but I don’t, however, choose to do a day hike in it. Of course, when you are going out of your area and have a room reservation that can’t be cancelled, you don’t have much choice if hiking was your original intent. Last year, I was away nearly every weekend to research my book on beer hiking in Bavaria. Many of the areas are quite popular and unless you book a room fairly far in advance, you’re out of luck. One such area is the brewery rich landscape surrounding Greifenstein Castle.

Greifenstein & the first Märzen tapping at Brauerei Grasser

I planned this trip to coincide with Brauerei Grasser’s Märzen Anstich as it was one of the seasonal beers I hadn’t had on tap and I figured I could get some material for a blog while also collecting hiking data for the book. The thing I hadn’t thought about was it would be a popular weekend and their rooms were totally booked out. I couldn’t find anything in Oberleinleiter either but did happen upon a nice looking and very reasonably priced place in Brunn. It was well-located to cut the rather large Tummler Brauereienwanderweg in half, allowing me to fit more of the great breweries in the area into the one brewery per hike format of the beer hiking guidebook series.

three great breweries await

Getting to Brunn didn’t look too difficult on the map, a flat map I should say. The plan was to get the bus in Bamberg for Oberleinleiter, grab lunch at Brauerei Ott and hike to my room in Brunn. After dropping my extra gear off, I could knock the bottom half of the Tummler hike out. Of course, when the bus driver explained that the road to Oberleinleiter was under construction, I wasn’t overly surprised. The unexpected is the expected in Franconia and the hike from Burggrub to the brewery was an easy one kilometer stroll. Lunch was great and the beer even better than remembered.

a tasty lunch at Brauerei Ott was most welcome after the long  and pretty journey

It would have been nice to walk upstairs from the pub, lie down for 20 minutes and head out without my three-day size pack but that wasn’t an option. Instead, I hoisted the pack and began the trudge up to the Krueztein. It was a steep but short ascent and the views from the top were great. Little did I realize how many times I’d stand in that spot on this trip.

scenic viewpoint

the views from the Kreuzstein

The walk from there to my room in Brunn was pleasant but with a few hills thrown in, I wasn’t really in the mood to hike after checking in. I didn’t have a lot of choice as I not only needed the hikes for the book but also there wasn’t anywhere to eat in Brunn and though my lunch was ample, I’d be hungry later. I set off for Greifenstein Castle and the weather, if not glorious, was fine. The initial scenery was that of open fields but as the route drew closer to my first stop, it became a lush forest which featured an old ruin of a Gothic Chapel.

the route to Greifenstin & a view of Brunn from it

The castle wasn’t as impressive up close as from afar, majestically atop a hill but the slight detour revealed a cute little Biergarten and though not the right weather for a stop, I noticed they had Huppendorfer Vollbier on tap and a small menu of food. There was a small hut and it had evening hours so I made a mental note. The Burg Klause would surely get some business from me. I made my way to Oberleinleiter via the Tummler route to complete my circuit, just in time for dinner. I again found myself wishing I was staying there, followed by yet another climb up to the Kreuzstein. It was actually even prettier in the early evening light and the walk back to Brunn was glowing as the sun got lower in the sky.

the walk back in beautiful light

The next morning looked a little gloomy and after a hearty breakfast, many people would have been happy to read a book in the comfy living room of my B&B, waiting for a nicer day. Despite the less than enticing weather,  I was excited for the hike, as any Franconian beer fan headed to Huppendorf would be. The route across the middle of the area was very familiar to me now but I can’t say I was unhappy to take the right fork towards Heroldsmühle, a quaint old stone mill. From there, the route passes through the Tummler area of karst springs the trail takes its name from.

a pretty slice of Franconia en route to Huppendorf

I’d been to Huppendorf quite a few times prior and had even hiked in once from Tiefenellern but this was still a special day for me. The very first time I’d been there, I had picked up a brochure on the Tummler Brauereienwanderweg and had wanted to do it ever since. It had never come to pass so when the opportunity to do the book came up, this was a high priority hike to finally complete. The actual Märzen Anstich would be later that day but with the dismal weather, it was less then certain to take place. The owner had assured me in correspondence that the beer would be on tap that morning too so I’d decided to do the hike early. It was a superb Märzen and I enjoyed my half-chicken too.

just reward for hiking in less than ideal conditions

The route back was nice: passing the ever so small Laurenzi Chapel, vast yellow fields of rape, the landscape dotted with the occasional church tower of a rural village. Despite the threat of a downpour and a few drops of rain, a couple of Märzens made the weather seem that much nicer than the walk in.

the route back to Brunn

Back in my room, I downloaded the gpx files and relaxed.  If there had been a restaurant in the village, I’d have surely gone there but as evening crept upon me and the chicken wore off, I was back on the route to Greifenstein. This time, however, it was in the rain. I knew the route well and was happy when the open fields welcome in dry weather turned into the dense forest, the lushness of which was even greener with the precipitation. I shared the trail only with snails who relished the wetness engulfing us.

snails abound & the Burg Klause on a sunnier day

By the time I walked into the small hut, I was positively dripping. Locals looked at me like I was crazy but the owner graciously took my soaked raincoat to place closer to the much welcomed fire. A cold Huppendorfer Vollbier never tasted so good despite my being anything but warm. I enjoyed a hot soup and soon I was dry and warm enough to eat a very good plate of Dosenfleisch. While meat in a tin can sounds pretty awful in English, I can assure you the German version is quite tasty.  I hated to leave but I still had to walk back and though the rain had eased up a bit, it was still coming down. I walked fast to stay warm but I was nonetheless drenched by the time I got back to my room. I left my soaked muddy boots downstairs in the hallway and scampered upstairs to my warm and waiting bed.

the route to Greifenstein on a less wet day

I awoke to mostly dry clothes thanks to my putting everything near the heater and sleeping with it on, unusual for me. Another hearty breakfast and my host’s compassion for my wet walk and understanding of my boots being left in the downstairs hallway had me ready for yet another hike. This was an open day but the weather looked pretty good and I was unhappy with the route the first day. I redesigned it to use the best part of the bottom of the Tummler and added the Panoramaweg. It would be shorter and more scenic.  I set off once again towards Greifenstein on the now very familiar path and it was so nice out, I decided to have a quick Huppi at the Burg Klause. It was a lot different experience than sitting inside, wet.

who could resist a quick Huppi?

I then dropped down to Neumühle before climbing back up to the Panoramaweg. Sadly, the sun had gone in so the views of the castle were not as good as my first time on this route years ago or if I’d not stopped for the beer.  I trudged on, kicking myself in the ass,  and rather than get better, it started to rain, followed by tiny hail. When I looked back, the castle sat ominously on the horizon. I guess good and bad views are relative.

rainy Panoramaweg

I was glad I had some old photos I’d be able to use for the book and I was, after all, collecting the gpx file I’d need but I still wasn’t exactly thrilled with the cards I was being dealt. My wife called to see how I was doing and amazingly, the rain stopped and the sun started to peek through the clouds. I’d been walking pretty quickly so had to backtrack to get what would be even better photos than I’d got years ago. Actually, any photographer knows that often after dreadful weather, the best light comes.

Greifenstein after the storm & the Panoramaweg to Oberleinleiter

After that seemingly other-worldly experience, I marched gleefully down to Oberleinleiter. I hadn’t been to Brauerei Ott in a couple days and I was more than happy to tuck into another great meal there.

a very tasty Krustenbraten & their signature brew Obladara

If this weren’t enough to evoke a déja vu, I soon found myself climbing up to the Kreuzstein again but at least then I didn’t continue on to Brunn. I instead cut across to Reckendorf to gather all the gpx data I’d need for the book before then going back to Brunn. Once there, I took another shower and rested up for yet another excursion to the Burg Klause. Even though I’d had a very large lunch and probably could have survived to the next day without eating, I couldn’t resist another Huppendorfer. I knew this route very well now and got there in no time and was relatively dry. They had a special smoked trout on the menu so happily ordered that to go along with a few Huppis. Of course, if the weather had remained dry, it would have been too easy and I alighted from the hut to find the rain I’d almost grown accustomed to. I plied the lush forest like it was my backyard, careful not to trample the snails I could now call friends. As I approached Brunn, I saw the sun trying to peak through the dark ominous clouds even though it continued to rain steadily. As I turned towards the village, I looked to my left to see an incredible rainbow forming. I had to smile. I would have surely missed this if it weren’t for my making the unnecessary trip back to the Burg Klause.

a rainbow I would have missed

I checked out of my room the next morning. Brunn is a cute little village, my B&B homey and my hosts very warm and welcoming, but I was ready to move on. I’d be staying in Heiligenstadt i. O.Fr. that night. There were a few restaurants in the town and even more importantly, there was a brewery. Brauerei Aichinger would provide a great meal and beer. The best part would be, I’d only have to walk 100 meters to get home. Even if it snowed, I could handle that.

For more information on hiking and breweries in the Greifenstein area as well as all of Bavaria, please consider consulting my book, Beer Hiking Bavaria oder auf Deutsch: Bierwandern Bayern.

beer hiking bavaria book coverbierwandern bayern buch


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