What’s all the fuss about ancient grains in brewing?

As contrasted with modern grains like wheat and barley, ancient grains such as spelt and emmer are more expensive due to limited cultivation. Touted as healthy alternatives, they can command higher prices even if scientific studies are anything but conclusive. Utilized in a variety of foodstuffs like bread, pasta and cereals, it has perhaps unsurprisingly found its way into brewing. One popular example is Riedenburger Emmer Bier from the noted completely organic brewery in Lower Bavaria.

emmer & the beery result

Spelt is Dinkel in German and a very popular grain in a variety of products here. Emmer is less known but appeals to the same clientele. Since they are both earlier versions of what we know as wheat, brewing a beer in Bavaria with them isn’t a stretch in the least. That said, I was surprised to find a very thorough and complex scientific analysis of this use and the conclusions were roundly that while they can be used, they are problematic, thus adding to the cost of an already pricier raw ingredient. While I found the Emmer Bier to be a bit on the sweet side for my tastes, I was planning on using it for Beer Hiking Bavaria as I was looking to get some variety in the 50 featured beers. To be honest, I was already planning on using breweries and hikes in nearby Essing and Weltenburg. Riedenburg had some nice looking hikes and I’d been in the charming little town briefly a few years prior.

looked like good hiking from first impression

On that visit, we were staying in Essing just up the road, using it as a base to explore Weltenburg and Kelheim by local bus. Similarly, we did a day trip to Riedenburg. The weather was stellar so we wanted to check out the Riedenburger Biergarten on the other side of the river. I also assumed there would be some great photo opportunities from the bridge.  Sadly, the Biergarten was closed despite it being the weekend and about as perfect a day as you could imagine.

 a nice walk to a closed Biergarten

As chance would have it, we spotted a Volksfest in full swing and decided to stop in for a beer. It was being run by Riedenburger and perhaps that’s why the Biergarten was closed. They didn’t have the Emmer Bier on tap so we opted for their tasty Festbier. Unfortunately, there was some very right wing rhetoric flying around over the loudspeakers and my wife said it was a good thing my German wasn’t good enough to understand it. Needless to say, we headed back to town after one beer.

a short-lived stop at the Riedenburger Volksfest

I had the Gasthof Schwan as a backup to the Biergarten and it was right on the pretty main square so easy to find. The food was excellent and the old town charming. It turned out to be a great outing even if not according to plan.

the Gasthof Schwan was a surprising lifesaver

When we were heading back to gather the hiking data for the book, I looked into using Riedenburger again. Problematically, the Biergarten looked to only be open on Sundays and the actual Brauhaus didn’t appear to have a restaurant. The hike I’d found went right from the main square and voila, there was Gasthof Schwan waiting to usurp.

 the route out of town by the brewery

Appropriately enough, the route nearly walks by Brauerei Reimhofer, the brewery which owns the Schwan so it seemed all the more meant to be. The hike was quite short but that made for some steep sections. The small town is flanked by hills, there’s no way of getting around them so over them you go. Castle ruins at every turn, views not far behind.

 short & steep with great rewards

You get two hills for the price of one hike with some stone stairs thrown in for good measure. What wasn’t a castle ruin or great view was romantically verdant.

a lot packed into a short hike

We were back at Gasthof Schwan almost too quickly but after the climb, in much need of a beer. It was open and we sat on the main square and enjoyed our beery reward. Sure, I could have picked the Emmer Bier as a point of interest but that doesn’t do you much good if you’re thirsty and can’t get one. After all, a Weißbier in the hand is worth two Emmer Biers in the bush.

a just reward: Schwan Weißbier & cold roast pork

Riedenburg 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.

It’s available in both English and German:
beer hiking bavaria book coverbierwandern bayern buch


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