On cutting the mustard en route to the Senftenberger Felsenkeller

Why do some brewpubs make it while other don’t? Let me count the ways. If you’re looking to fall asleep, it’s better than counting sheep. Perhaps the better question is rhetorical if you think about small brewpubs in Franconia, managing to make it against all the odds.  Some stop brewing and get their beer contract-brewed. Others keep brewing and close down the restaurant part of their business. Others putter along until the brewer dies with no heirs apparent or willing to do the dirty work.

Gunzendorfer is no more & Meusel Bräu no longer has a pub

Though in no way planning on pondering such things, I recently walked by a couple of old places on a hike to the Senftenberger Felsenkeller. I was enjoying a long weekend with my wife in Forchheim and doing a few new hiking routes to Bierkellers. The previous day was a fun one that passed a cherry orchard on the way to the Hallerndorfer Kreuzberg area. The Senftenberg had been in my sights for a few years but I hadn’t managed to get there. I found a couple routes in and decided to put them together to form a half circuit, putting the German S-Bahn system to use in the process. This wasn’t just for efficiency but also to take in more Bierkellers on both ends.

Buttenheim has two nice Bierkellers

Disembarking in Buttenheim gave us a chance to walk by the former home of perhaps Franconia’s most known prodigal son, Jeans-inventor Levi Strauss. We didn’t have time to tour his half-timbered old digs, instead choosing to check out two old friends on the edge of town: the St. Georgen-Bräu Keller and the Löwenbräu Keller. The former has grown into quite a large regional brewery but many lament the beer’s deterioration. I found their Kellerbier in good form if a tad less complex than it was when I first tried it in 1997. Their brewpub has sadly been shuttered for a few years now but the Keller is still going strong. Löwenbräu was always a bit in its neighbor’s shadow but perhaps more the locals’ favorite. Their restaurant in town was thriving when we passed it and the Keller was doing well too. These are examples of brewpubs that grew regionally, some might feel too quickly but they’re still going. We enjoyed our food in both and it was a good way to start the hike.

Levi Strauss house in Buttenheim

The walk between Buttenheim to Dreuschendorf was on a bike path that mirrored the road but it was nonetheless picturesque with wildflowers strewn along the way.  There’s something about walking by fields of crops used to make beer in spring that works up your thirst.

wildflowers lining the fields of crops used to make beer

Dreuschendorf is home to Meusel-Bräu but I hadn’t paid much prior attention to it, thinking it was just a small regional brewery with no restaurant. It was a Sunday and even if they’d had a tasting room, it wouldn’t have been open. Still, I figured it would be cool to see and the trail passed right by it. I was surprised to see their logo on what appeared a restaurant with what sure looked like a sweet little Biergarten. Once I was a bit closer, it was obviously closed and I later confirmed that it’s sadly been that way for a few years now. This is an example of a brewery who closed the pub part of their business.

Meusel-Bräu must have been a sweet spot & the cute town of Dreuschendorf

The route to Gunzendorf was short but sweet and equally stunning with wildflowers.

more wildflowers en route to Gunzendorf

While I had expected to pass Meusel-Bräu, I’d forgotten about Brauerei Sauer in Gunzendorf. That is, until we entered town and saw its once proud chimney rising up. It’s been closed since 2014. Oddly enough, their beer was once the one served at the Senftenberger Felsenkeller. Actually, once the brewery closed down, the Keller lost a bit of its luster for me.  I’m not sure what brought about its demise but a pity after 400 years of brewing. Some breweries cut the mustard, some don’t.

the old Brauerei Sauer & some sights in Gunzendorf

Memory Lane can only keep you busy for so long. It was time for a real beer. Heading out of the small village, we could see the church atop the Senftenberg so we knew even if there would be no Sauer beer waiting there, the Keller would soon welcome us. Of course, the walk from there was pretty much all uphill but would you have it any other way?

the scenic hike up the Senftenberger Felsenkeller

The entrance to the Keller was a welcomed sight. There was a small sign-in desk, I guess anticipating more people having to do the requisite COVID-19 paperwork of giving name, address and contact number. Once in the Keller, they asked for those details when we went to get a beer. There were some people but not as many as would likely have been there on a holiday weekend. It was pleasant for those who made the pilgrimage but surely not good for the owners.

not exactly crowded for a long weekend and fair weather

They may no longer have Gunzendorfer Bier but there were lots of old signs for it. Thankfully, they have Hönig Lagerbier from Tiefenellern, from gravity dispense no less. One can’t really complain even if lamenting the loss of an old brewery.  I spotted quite a few people drinking Hönig Weißbier so decided to give it a try as I’d never done so when at the brewery. It was excellent and a good way to hydrate before the hike back.

Hönig Postillon Weiße & the great view fro the Senftenberger Felsenkeller

We still had a fair walk ahead of us so we headed out of the Bierkeller on the far side and noticed an atmospheric area in a very lush forest, with actual kellers to keep the beer cold and old tables and benches, some covered in moss. I thought it was merely historical but it was in too good a shape to not be used. I could imagine sitting back there on a very hot day!

gives new meaning to lush Bierkeller

On taking our leave, we saw an temporary barrier and a sign saying entrance to the Bikerkeller from this direction was forbidden due to COVID-19. I was glad we’d decided to go to Buttenheim first, mostly due to the Bierkellers there being open for lunch. The walk back was about the same length but went by quickly due to it being varied.

some scenery on the way to Hirschaid

I had another good reason for starting in Buttenheim and finishing in Hirschaid: the Hirschaid Keller! It opened later in the day and it made a perfect ending to a great Bierkeller-filled day. This cute little Keller has two gravity dispense beers, the local Kraus Lagerbier and Steinfeld’s Hübner Lagerbier. Their Kalterbraten was killer too. Though a relatively short walk from the station, it was appreciated even more after the long walk, perhaps featured in a future edition of Beer Hiking Bavaria.

hirschaid keller

 

 

10 thoughts on “On cutting the mustard en route to the Senftenberger Felsenkeller

  1. Rich,
    Glad to hear you’re back out on the trails! Quick question about getting to the Bierkellers in Buttenheim from the S-Bahn: is there a safer/more scenic route than the one that follows the main road from the train station over the Autobahn into town? R and I took that route in and back in 2019, and it didn’t feel super safe at dusk after a few beers. Sauer: I didn’t know that there was more than one Sauer. I know the one from Rossdorf, which I’ve had at Heerlein in Bamberg. It’s a bit melancholic reading about the reasons that these breweries and Wirtshäuser are gradually closing down, but maybe the renewed interest in quality beer might encourage some of the descendants of these brewers and innkeepers to keep the tradition alive.

    1. Not that I know of, Franz. It’s not the most scenic but kind of typical of the entrance to many of these kinds of hikes. I think it’s fairly safe, though. In general, I feel a lot more safe in Germany than the US but I grew up in Philly so that might have something to do with it. Places closing every day. I just hope the current situation doesn’t speed it up in some cases. I never got to this Sauer but I’ve been to the Rossdorf one plus the Keller out there. Can’t comment on the beer but it must have been pretty decent. I found another Roppelts too and it’s on my list for this summer.

      1. Haha, I meant “safe” not as in “I’m gonna get mugged,” but “safe” in terms of the road’s a Landstrasse so the speed limit is about 80km/h till you hit town, and it’s kind of narrow (no shoulder, as far as I remember). 😉

        I’m always on the lookout for alternative routes that don’t involve Landstrassen so that I can share those with folks when I write blog posts about particular places. St. Georgenkeller and the Löwenbräu Keller are two such places I might end up writing about by the end of the summer.

        Prost!

        1. Ok, I was wondering what you meant by safety. In general, look for bike route signs and they will lead you to about as safe a route as you’ll find. Looking forward to hearing your impression of those once super highly regarded Kellerbiers. Many say they’re much simpler than once upon a beery time.

    1. Yes, it is. Though you see them all over when hiking in Franconia, this was the best example of a whole area, resplendent with tables and benches. It really caught me off-guard and hope to return on a hot day and actually sit back there. D will probably get cold though!

    1. It feels good and we love seeing them too. My allergies were pretty bad on those trips but still enjoyed it. It’s not the flowers but Hollunder and tall grass gets my nose running and eyes itching.

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