All aboard the Hallerndorfer-Keller Express

The Kreuzberg area ten kilometers northwest of Forchheim in Upper Franconia has been a site of religious pilgrimage since at least the 1400s and the church that stands on that hill has been there since 1462. As any astute beerwanderer knows, where there is a monastery or place of pilgrimage in Bavaria, there is generally a brewery somewhere in the vicinity. In this case, there are still six in what is the municipality of Hallerndorf. Two are in the village itself and the others are scattered around the hill in various villages which have the same postal code. It’s a small area and can easily  and quite enjoyably be traversed on foot.

Breweries & Bierkellers are the main attraction in Hallerndorf

The villages are simple but make a great affordable base to explore the gently pretty landscape, with rolling hills, lush forests and many ponds where the area’s renowned carp are raised.  The village of Hallerndorf makes a particularly good option as it has two breweries as well as two Bierkellers. It is also within walking distance of the Kreuzberg Bierkeller area, where there are an additional three Kellers. There are lots more in adjacent villages, reached more easily by bike but certainly within the hearty walker’s range.

both Brauerei Roppelt & its Bierkeller are worth the walk & don’t forget the carp

The Hallerndorf-Keller Express is a very convenient bus that runs from Forchheim. While it is possible as a day trip, staying in the area is well worth it, especially since some Bierkellers are only open late afternoon at least during the week. Always make sure you are reading the bus timetable correctly. My very first time in the area, I had chosen a school bus (perfectly okay as they are public buses and anyone can ride on them) and it was a school holiday so there was no bus. Since then, I’ve never had a problem but to be safe, try to pick a bus at least one earlier than the last one out.

there’s lots to keep you busy so spend the night

Of course, once I had the buses down, I became more interested in hiking in. I figured if the religious pilgrims did it, why not the beery ones? I found a couple tracks and when a client asked about hiking in the area, I suggested one of them and we were set to go in May 2020. My plan was to go up and do it on my own first but COVID-19 came along and not only did I not get to go up beforehand, but the tour was obviously cancelled too. Once things opened up, I went up with my wife to spend a few days in Forchheim. It was a holiday weekend so we had off and I had an apartment rented for the tour which I’d kept in case Bavaria opened up travel. Luckily for us, it had the day prior, albeit in a restricted fashion for safety.  With it being the first weekend, the trains were quiet for a holiday weekend and the Bierkellers, while not empty, were certainly not as full as they would have otherwise been.

the early part of the route was on small paved roads but pretty nonetheless

The early part of the trail was just walking through a couple small villages but it was pretty nonetheless and crossed the Main Donau canal. It was a nice day, sunny but not too warm and though there were a few hills, nothing was prolonged. It took longer than it perhaps should have but there were lots of wildflowers and my wife loves to stop to smell the roses.

wildflowers lined the route once out of the quaint villages

The route got a bit tricky at one point and I was glad I had my GPS but it was the best part of the hike. My wife particularly liked walking by a cherry orchard and picking a few from stray trees not in the enclosure.

the varied trail to the Kreuzberg

Once past the orchard, you could see the church of the Kreuzberg in the distance. As is typical in these parts, crossing the valley is a down and then up affair but we were soon waltzing by it and to our first Bierkeller. Well, after we donned our masks. In Bavaria, one has to wear a mask and maintain a 1.5 meter distance. It wasn’t overly busy and even though half of the tables were closed off, we had no trouble finding a spot in the sun. We chose Rittmayer as we’ve always have great food there and we’d worked up quite an appetite. We split a Schäuferla and plate of sliced fried potato dumplings and a couple of their beers. If you’re only going to have one beer, go with the Kellerbier.

the Kruezberg across the valley, a very tasty Schäuferla & a Rittmayer Krug

Right next to this is our favorite on the hill: Lieberth’s. I thought they only had small snacks but noticed a full menu this time around so will have to try their food the next time in the area. One thing that is for certain, it is the best beer on the hill. It’s also the only one that is still served gravity dispense.

atmospheric Lieberth’s Keller & their super Kellerbier

We were meetings a friend from Bamberg at the Roppelt’s Keller, just downhill from the Kreuzberg area but had a bit of time to kill and that is just what we did. Though I’d heard the beer at Brauhaus am Kreuzberg had gone south, we ventured over for a quick one. Their Zwickl was oddly sour and my wife said her Imperial Porter tasted like rum & coke. We’d wasted time and money but we weren’t about to waste our beer capacity on these two lame products and I brought them back to the service area nearly full. No worries, we were soon at Roppelt’s enjoying their fine Kellerbier and some mixed cold meats. They had a new for me Märzen too. This was by far the busiest of the Kellers but it was under control space-wise and again, masks were in place at all times not seated.

Roppelt Märzen & some great cold cuts

Our friend had to cycle to Hirchaid and when he left, we got on our way towards Lieberth’s Dorfkeller in Hallerndorf. This was new for us and I’d only really learned about it when visiting their Brauerei Gasthof a few months earlier. That closes in the warmer months and the Dorfkeller takes over. You’d have thought we might be Bierkellered-out but the walk over was lovely with the sun going down and the cute little Keller was a great find as well. We got a hot meal to fend off the chill in the air and soon after that, the Keller was closing up. It was pretty slow and even the half tables that were open were mostly empty. To be fair, it was getting pretty cool and it was only about an hour earlier than was allowed with the restrictions in place at the time. They had just extended the outside seating hours to 10 from 8 pm the day prior so probably not easy for scheduling. This is just one of the things surely making it tough on small businesses.

the best walking is when the sun is low in the sky

Even with the early closure, we’d missed our planned bus and the next one wasn’t for two hours so we decided to walk. When we got to Schlammersdorf, I looked at the schedule and the next looked to be coming in about twenty minutes. We had another good hour or so to walk so we decided to wait it out. Brauerei Witzgall was right around the corner but I didn’t dare bring up going for another beer and risk missing this bus too. When we finally jumped aboard the Hallerndorfer-Keller Express, it wasn’t going to a Keller but even I had to say it wasn’t going the wrong way. Sometimes home is the best destination, especially in the time of Corona.

If you’re looking to get a taste of the Franconian countryside and to visit some small regional Bierkellers, the Bierkeller Extravaganza is for you. Book now to ensure your spot. Also available from Bamberg. 

Another beer hiking tour option, especially if traveling in non-Bierkeller months is the Dorf Breweries Express.

Heading to Bamberg for the first time? Don’t leave home without The Pocket Guide to Bamberg’s Best Beer.

If going in the warmer months, consult The Guide to Bamberg’s Best Biergartens.




2 thoughts on “All aboard the Hallerndorfer-Keller Express

  1. These places have been on my list for some time now. I didn’t know about the Hallendorfer Keller Express bus. That sounds like a great way to mix Bierkellers and hiking! What’s the accommodation situation like if you miss the last bus back to Forchheim?

    1. There are some places out there. Check Willersdorf on my towns page. We stayed there and it was nice. Mosquitoes were a problem, no screens but hopefully they’ve rectified it. Otherwise, go in autumn! haha The bus is a classic. I have a whole story about our first driver but it made the blog too long. I’ll find somewhere to put it someday. He was a huge influence on the rest of beer hiking for us.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.