On the trail to Glasfleisch, Castles & other assorted pleasures

Held-Bräu is a classic Franconian pub. It’s got the requisite green Kachelofen and low-beamed ceiling. It’s small so it always seems to be bustling. It’s nice to look around and see most people still drinking dark beer. I imagine many come here specifically to drink their noted Dunkles Bauernbier though their Bratkartoffeln would be enough to get my wife in the door. About the only thing missing is a wooden barrel to gravity dispense their house-brewed calling card. Since the Polster family has been here for 300 years, I guess if you went back a generation or two, it would be sitting on the counter. You can’t hold it against them, they are ever increasingly hard to find and the pours are never overly fizzy just the same.

 Held-Bräu in Oberailsfeld is a cozy brewery

Their menu is relegated to the kind of simple Franconian fare that goes well with beer. As is typical in these parts, that is expanded on Sundays and holidays so you can expect roasts at lunch. No worries if you come during the week, the house-butchered Würst is yet another thing to die for.  I can attest to their Sülze and since it comes with their aforementioned Bratkartoffeln, it’s what I got the first time in. Though my wife is German, she still can’t get past the visual affront of jellied meat even if it comes with her favorite potatoes and is doused with vinegar, something she also loves.

Held-Bräu Sunday roast & jellied meat

One thing about Franconia (and Bavaria in general) which can be initially disconcerting is the custom of seating people from different parties at the same table. Of course, in these times of COVID it has been understandably and necessarily abandoned. If you’re the type who loves talking to strangers, it’s perfect but it’s not really our thing. It’s understandable in a small place like this, maximizing your seating capacity is essential. It does, however, lead to some discoveries you’d have otherwise missed. One time, we were seated with another older couple. Not unusual for their age, they sat side-by-side so we had to do the same, across from each of them no less. Not only do you not get to look across at your spouse but you are eye-to-eye with your new dining companions. My German is still not great and if someone speaks in dialect, even worse but I did notice the man eating something I’d never really seen. I managed to ask what it was and he replied it was Glasfleisch. Even someone with a cursory knowledge of the language can surmise this is glass flesh. I was familiar with Dosenfleisch (flesh in a can!) but had never heard of this.  Obviously if you can preserve meat in a can, why not in glass. Actually, it sounds more logical since you can reuse them. I couldn’t find it on the menu and figured it must just be the jellied meat I got the first time. Perhaps he just knew it by another name. It did look different but I figured it might just be a different batch. I ordered what I saw rather than just asking and got what I had the first time: Sülze. It was great but I couldn’t stop envying my table-mate’s meal.  When looking for their list of beers, I flipped the one page laminated menu over and lo and behold, this is where the “warm” dishes were. For some odd reason, Sülze was on the cold side even though it came with Bratkartoffeln and the Glasfleisch was on this side.

the elusive Glasfleisch & tasty Bauernbier

Of course, what drives the majority of people to the small village of Oberailsfeld is the natural beauty of its surroundings. Nestled in the heart of Fränkische Schweiz, it is full of green rolling hills, rocky outcroppings, caves and dense forests.  Let’s not overlook a fair collection of hilltop castles and traditional breweries. It’s one of the oldest tourist areas in Germany and unsurprisingly there are numerous trails criss-crossing it. In fact, I dare say beer hiking was invented in this region where an assortment Brauereienweg can be pieced together to get you to as many small breweries as your heart desires.

 the Franconian Switzerland is full of beer hiking trails

My first hike from Oberailsfeld up to Burg Rabenstein was on a misty and wet day but it was still atmospheric. When researching Beer Hiking Bavaria, that this area would be prominent was without question but it was also a great opportunity to do some of the hikes I’d had my eyes set on for ages. I found a short one which took in not only the nearby castle but also along the opposite side of the valley, affording great views of the castle. As is often the case, these more distant glimpses are more iconic.

Burg Rabenstein

The walk up was pretty with village houses dolled up with spring flowers and the grade steady but forgiving. There were some rocky outcroppings right on the trail and cave-like structures to walk through for good measure.

 the route to Burg Rabenstein

There were some atmospheric dense forested sections, surely much welcomed on hotter days and lots of changes in terrain to keep it interesting.

a nicely varied trail

There’s a Biergarten at the castle I’ve never managed to time correctly to check out but it’s another good reason to return. Once past the castle, the trail gets interesting with lots of rocks to maneuver around. It’s a fun hike, quite packed with sights for its relatively short length. There’s even a cave called the Sopheinhöhe you can do tours of right on the route.

a fun varied hike

Part of the return route is along the same trail but you often notice things you missed walking in the opposite direction like the charming view of Oberailsfeld.

the walk back to Oberailsfeld

Of course what’s a beer hike without a beer. Back at Held-Bräu, I was ready for a Bauernbier and I was determined to get my Glasfleisch. I asked if they had it by name and she asked if I knew what it was. I said, “Ja, ja.” Once out of the glass, coveting was a thing of the uninformed past.  It’s true you can’t always get what you want but sometimes you just have to get your Ja-Ja’s Out!

Oberailsfeld 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:

beer hiking bavaria book cover

bierwandern bayern buch
Guided Beer Hiking out of Bamberg:

4 thoughts on “On the trail to Glasfleisch, Castles & other assorted pleasures

  1. Somewhere I once had “Glaslfleisch” (with an extra l), but I’m not sure if it was in this region.

    1. That’s seems to be more typical in the south, the L, not the Glasfleisch. I quite liked it. As with all things, it really depends on the maker and this one was very much homemade.

  2. A great post, Rich, and I will heading to the Amazon site to get your book. That said, although during COVID times, it doesn’t make sense, but my wife have found when Beerchasing throughout not only Oregon but all over the US, the one of the highlights in going to a new bar or brewery is meeting the people.

    We always sit at the bar which usually opens a conversation with the bartender and then other regulars or just strangers chime in. We’ve discovered the same thing at some of the watering holes with large tables.

    I hope you keep trying it……!

    1. Thanks for enjoying, Don. We definitely meet our fair share of beery strangers. Sometimes it’s great fun, other times we wish we could just be at our own table. It’s definitely part of the culture here and like you say, sitting at a bar in the US is similar. I guess at least there you make a choice, sit at a bar and be more likely to meet people or at a table and most likely not. One thing for sure, you can learn something from everyone.

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