Most people pick their travel destination before looking for places to eat and drink. It’s the sensible way to do things. I find myself doing it the opposite way more often than I’d care to admit. I went to Vietnam in 2004 after having eaten their cuisine since the late 70s. I really enjoyed the country but I’d be lying if I told you the first thing on my agenda wasn’t a bowl of Phó. Beer works that way too. I can’t even count how many great places I’ve discovered by going in search of beer at the source. It always seems to taste better there and while in this age of globalization you can get just about any beer back home, there are more than enough that can’t be had anywhere else. Franconia is full of them. It’s full of a lot of pretty towns too, ones you’ve likely never heard of. Well, for sure I’d never heard of them.
recently discovered gems: Marktbreit & Ochsenfurt
A recent example is typical. A few years back I’d read about a small brewery which reportedly makes a great Pils. So great evidently that it’s the only beer they brew aside from a winter Bock. I like Pils but it’s not a beer I generally go out of my way for. The brewery is Düll and it’s located in Gnodstadt. Chances are you’ve never heard of either and it’s doubtful Gnodstadt was on your radar as a travel destination either. It wasn’t beyond a long day train trip from my hometown of Munich but unfortunately, the pub was only open in the evenings outside of Sundays, so the trip kept getting pushed off. While researching my book Beer Hiking Bavaria, I’d found a nice 14 km circuit which took the small village in but my deadline came before I could venture up.
Braurei Düll in Gnodstadt & their lovely Pils
The hike also took in the much larger towns of Ochsenfurt and Marktbreit. Of course, I looked for breweries in both to make the trip more worthwhile and discovered Ochsenfurt had two. Both primarily brew Pils. Despite the region being far more noted for wine cultivation, it appeared Pils was also popular. With a chance to meet the person who’d written the piece about Düll I’d read, I decided an overnight trip was warranted and with no accommodation in Gnodstadt, I chose to stay at the Gasthof Kauzen, one of the Ochsenfurt breweries’ official taps.
charming old town of Ochsenfurt & Gasthof Kauzen
After a 3.5 hour trip from Munich, I arrived in Ochsenfurt in time for a late lunch. The walk down the town’s main street was littered with some fine architecture, invoking an illustrious if faded past. After checking in, I decided to head over to the town’s other brewery’s tap, Zum Anker. It was a gorgeous day and they had what sounded like a nicer Biergarten area. They also had a Schwarzbier in addition to their Pils. I opted for their signature dish called Ankerbraten which was a lovely Kummelbraten. If you like caraway, this is for you and the sauce was made with the Schwarzbier I’d also come for.
a brief but satisfying stop at Zum Anker to try Ochsener Bier
The Pils was a lot better than I’d expected and the meal was very good too. I wasn’t as happy with the Schwarzbier but it certainly wasn’t bad. At any rate, I didn’t have a lot of time and headed back towards the train station. When I passed by Gasthof Kauzen, I surmised I had just enough time for a quick Pils there. Admittedly, it was a rushed tasting but I didn’t find it as good as their town rival’s.
a quick Kauzen-Bräu Pils & a pretty house near the train station
With little time for contemplation, I soon found myself on the train to Marktbreit. I’d passed through it on the way in but hadn’t seen anything to prepare myself for just how stunning the old town would be. To be honest, I’d thought about starting the hike in Ochsenfurt and just finishing in Marktbreit, foregoing the section between the two towns which seemed to mirror the train tracks. Once I strolled around a bit to the beginning of the trail, I was glad I’d not succumbed to laziness.
Marktbreit proved a stunner
My route started down by the Main River, across which you could see a vineyard, a reminder that this area has cultivated wine since the early Middle Ages. With each turn, there were also architectural gems, revealing how wealthy and important in trade it once was. With absolutely no preparation, I was left to wander around with no particular aim aside from following my hiking trail’s start. I later learned Alois Alzheimer was born in Marktbreit though he wouldn’t discover the disease named after him until long after he’d moved away.
charming Marktbreit & the surrounding vineyards area
The beginning of the hike proved a nice introduction to this quiet gem of a town but I was soon out in the countryside on my way to Gnodstadt. Even though part of the initial route did follow the tracks, there were plenty of pretty sections nonetheless. There’s something about walking along a field of grain, often used in the brewing of beer, on the way to a small rural brewery that works up your thirst.
the hike to Gnodstadt
Though I arrived in the village a bit later than I’d hoped and was late to meet a German, who was surely there on time, I was glad I’d done the full circuit. Gnodstadt was prettier than I’d imagined too.
final stretch of trail & entering Gnodstadt
As expected, Jürgen was waiting and was already eating at Brauerei Düll. I was about 45 minutes late and he’d come straight from work and had a fair drive to get back home. I felt bad but he made apologies unnecessary. I quickly ordered their signature Pils and a Schnitzel. Both were excellent as was the company. He said the beer seemed to be lacking something but it was easily the best beer of the day for me. There was no doubt which was the best of the three area Pils.
great beer, food & company at Brauerei Düll
Three beers later and it was time for him to leave. I’d have liked to stay for another but still had a 4 km hike to get back to Marktbreit. One good thing about arriving a bit late was leaving a bit later too. The glow on the buildings in town was enchanting.
late afternoon light in Gnodstadt
Of course, the countryside was aglow too and the walk back went quickly other than quite a few stops to try and capture the colors of the Franconian landscape.
the hike back to Marktbreit was splendid
Walking back at that hour was about as perfect an ending to the day as I could have scripted. I caught the last rays of light on some of the higher towers of Marktbreit too. Of course, by stopping to take pictures of them, I wound up missing my train but an extra hour there wasn’t going to kill me. Another Düll Pils would have been nice but even though it’s only 4 km away, I wasn’t going to find it even in this little gem of a town. That’s one of those beers you can only get at the source.
seek the glow, find the glow