One thing usually leads to another and when it comes to beer, especially so. The Walberla and Brauerei Drummer came into focus around the same time. I’d had the beer from the latter at the Fränkishes Bierfest in Nürnberg and when making my first trip to the actual brewery later that year, I saw the latter looming above the area like the pagan place of worship it turned out to have a history of.
the magical Walberla & Drummer Dunkel
After my lunch at the brewery, I was tempted to climb the flattish peak but I’d planned another route which would take to me to Hetzelsdorf. It was a pretty hike with autumn foliage dotting the hills and Brauerei Penning-Zeissler was surprisingly even better than my first stop. The Vollbier was about as good as it looked and was certainly one of those pours which became iconic of Franconian beer for me.
Penning Vollbier & mixed Pressack plate
The owner was nice and pointed me in the right direction to get the trail to my eventual train home. I knew I’d be back and also that once my wife saw the picture of the beer, she’d want to come with me too. It took a couple years and a book offer to make it happen. This is a great area for hiking and it’s sprinkled with great little breweries, how could I not include it in Beer Hiking Bavaria? By then, I’d also read about the Walberlafest so timed the research to coincide with what sounded like one hell of a beer festival in one scenic location, resplendent with a traditional raising of a Maibaum.
We arrived the day before the start of the festival specifically to do a circuit to Hetzelsdorf from our base in Leutenbach, just up the street from old friend Brauerei Drummer. After a hearty lunch there, we ventured out on the 9.5 km hike, the perfect introduction to the area for my wife. It turned out to be the nicest weather of the weekend and the well-marked route passed through dense forests with some rocky outcroppings typical of Franconian Switzerland on view. After crossing the Reisberg with its flat top covered in weathered pines, we descended on the quaint hamlet of Hetzeldorf.
the circuit to Hetzelsdorf takes in a nice slice of Franconian Switzerland
It didn’t look very busy when we arrived and if not for a table of guys drinking beer, I’d have assumed it was closed. Well, that it was. The guys explained the owners were busy setting up their tent on the Walberla. They also helpfully explained that there were some cases of beer off to the side of the brewery. You just got your own and paid on the honor system. There were obviously plenty of spots in the little Biergarten so we did just that. While we were glad to get a beer, it wasn’t quite the same as having in on tap and drinking from a bottle is never the preferred vessel. It’s a small operation so understandable and they must be doing something right, they’ve been there since 1623!
sometimes you have to take what you can get
After the one beer, we checked out the small church across the street and headed back on the trail. The walk back was pleasant with the sun nearing the horizon and imbuing a red hue across the landscape. A lot of people think hiking after drinking a beer sounds tiring but it’s actually really relaxing as long as it’s not a hard uphill. Our route back was mostly flat and downhill towards the end.
the way back to Leutenbach
The next day we made our way up to the Walberlafest. The weather had gone sour as per the forecast but we found ourselves a spot in a tent to escape the wind and wouldn’t you know it, it was the Penning tent and not only did they have their Vollbier on tap but it was from gravity dispense no less. My wife was happy and that usually makes for a happy life.
a happy wife makes a happy life
Hetzelsdorf lies in Upper Franconia (Oberfranken in German). There are twenty-five hikes in this region in my book Beer Hiking Bavaria along with another 25 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.
It’s available in both English and German: