Stumbling upon a great beer is always fun but there are few things greater than finally getting to a beer you’ve had in your sights for what seems forever but really is generally only a matter of years. How I came across Graham Lee’s “Good Beer Guide to Munich and Bavaria,” published by CAMRA in the early 90s is a story in itself but it had a profound effect on me. I had previously felt German beer to be inferior to those in England but his book not only pointed me in a whole new direction, it also instilled in me a fiery desire to seek out the beers of which he so eloquently waxed effusively about.
just a handful of the beers which came my way via Graham Lees
It also shaped what I was to seek out in general. He was a huge proponent of both Dunkles and Weißbier. So, it was only natural that I looked for those too. Unfortunately, I got the book in 1996 and it was already a bit dated. I guess I should have imagined that when I got it at a discount at a CAMRA beer festival in Cambridge that year. No worries, I still found more places still open than those shuttered closed. It was pretty much impossible to get to more than even a portion of what he’d done living in Munich since I was only in Bavaria occasionally at the time. That sure didn’t keep me from dreaming of places, even after having moved to Munich myself in 2010. Sure, I got to a lot more places but I still found it impossible to get to all of them and hold down a job. So, I was happy to be offered the “task” of writing Beer Hiking Bavaria in early 2019. Though I had wanted to write solely about Franconia, the publisher wanted a more rounded book on Bavaria and to fill out areas I had only cursorily explored, I dug out my old Good Beer Guide and saw a beer I’d forgotten about due to its relative inaccessibility via public transport. Thankfully, my wife’s cousin offered to give us a lift if he could join in on a beer hike or two.
ECK in Böbrach
Nestled in the Bavarian Forest, Böbrach is a small village you’d not likely give much notice to even if traveling through the area. That said, just on its outskirts lies the even smaller incorporated village of Eck, where Brauerei Gasthof ECK has been in operation since 1462. You’re likely to be traveling by car if you make your way here so visiting the nearby Bavarian Forest National Park with this great brewery hotel as your base would be a good option. We hope to do just that one of these winters but all we had time for when researching the book was a local circuit hike followed by a meal at the brewery’s pleasant little Biergarten.
scenes along the well-marked route
It was quite a hot day so we were happy to have chosen a largely forested route. The Wanderroute 10 is 11 km and starts a short stroll from the brewery but we found a convenient marked path cutting it in half, which we opted to take due to the heat and fatigue from it and having done a hike near Zwiesel that morning. On a cooler day, it would have been nice to continue along the Schwarzer Regen River but when we made the turn, we all agreed a beer was more what we needed.
a welcomed largely shady route
We passed through the pleasant small village of Bröbrach proper as well as some religious shrines, a reminder of the strongly Catholic area we were wandering through en route to beer nirvana. It was a gorgeous if hot day and the rolling hills provided a perfect backdrop.
Böbrach & its pleasant surroundings
The Brauerei Gasthof ECK was a thirst-quenching sight and while my parched mouth called out for a Helles, I was there to drink their renowned Wilderer Dunkel, which not only did the trick but also lived up to its reputation. This area is very close to the Czech border so it’s unsurprising that hops play a fair part even in the dark beers of the region. It came in a non-branded glass, a problem for book photos. I’d noticed ones with a logo inside for sale so asked the server if I could get one on the next pour, explaining my dilemma but she perfunctorily added I’d have to buy it to use it. I decided a snap of the glass would be enough for the illustrator. I thought it odd a place out in the countryside which has rooms wouldn’t be more into promoting itself but different cultures can’t be analyzed too closely.
Wilderer Dunkel on tap & logo mug
I could just imagine having walked in the snow for a few hours and sitting in the cozy inn with one of these dark beauties and a large plate of Schweinebraten. Well, it was on the menu but despite its being the meal for this beer, we all opted for the fish of the day, a Zanderfilet, the meal for this heat. It was done to perfection and everyone was happy with the choice. We made immediate plans to visit in winter but that was thwarted by COVID-19. From my old guide, their Pils was excellent too but it wasn’t on tap so I opted for a Craft Beer-influenced Saphir Bock, brewed with its namesake hops, for dessert. It was quite good and appears to be available year-round. Oddly, it came in a logo glass. Go figure.
Zanderfilet & Saphir Bock
Böbrach lies in Lower Bavaria (Niederbayern in German). There are five hikes in this region in my book Beer Hiking Bavaria along with another 45 from all over Bavaria. Each includes detailed descriptions of the hikes as well as information on the breweries along the routes plus some tasting notes on my favorite beers at each establishment.