Bocks are the wildcard on the Franconian brewing scene. Though they can be sticky affairs, the best seem to be able to balance the necessary big malt presence in these high octane brews with an enticing dryness. This is often so effortless they can appear simple due to their being dangerously drinkable. Another draw is their limited release; you have to be in the right place at the right time.
the Schlenkerla Urbock Antich is a great place to start
Though anything but typical, Schlenkerla generally heralds in the Bockbierzeit in the region in grand fashion. It’s always the first Thursday after German Reunification Day. This smoky Bock is sublime and the atmosphere in the courtyard during the first tapping contagious. I generally go up from Munich, even if for the day but when visiting friends from my hometown USA asked when a good time to visit would be, I didn’t hesitate to pencil this weekend in for a round of Beerwandering.
not to miss Schäuferla & Schlenkerla Urbock
My good friend Ed and his wife Ann had done their first Beerwanderers tour in 2018 when we did a loop in the Sambach area and he had extolled the virtues of Franconia to his brother Mark, who would join them for round two. Soon after their arrival in Beer Mecca Bamberg, I took them for a hearty meal, their first ever Schäuferla, at Brauerei Keesmann. We then ventured over to the Schlenkerla Bockanstich as a tune-up for the following day’s adventure.
NJ Beerwanderers reunited
Out of necessity I put my focus on the trim and amazing bang for the buck Bamberg Countryside Breweries Express Esperience. It’s tough to top a five mile route which takes in five breweries and a small Bierkeller. I’d sold my visiting friends on it due to Ann’s creaky knee. They loved the countryside stroll, warming food and a few beers they’d never find on the store shelves back home, like Hummel’s Kellerbier and Wagner’s Jubiläumsbier.
tackling the first part of the 13-Brewery Trail & hearty food
The crew was feeling good after three breweries so I pulled out the ace I’d kept up my sleeve, a Bockbieranstich at Brauerei Knoblach which isn’t on my usual itinerary. Knees seem to do better after a few beers and I did say to get these beers you have to be in the right place at the right time. Everyone agreed it sounded like a Bock worth the walk. Though I’d had it on a few other occasions, it seemed particularly good after the hilly path. Unlike staple beers, which are generally the same, Bocks can change from year to year. It’s another intriguing aspect of this much anticipated season. We enjoyed a couple of them sitting in the sun and decided to grab a local bus to cut our hike back in half.
Griess Bock & the Geichburg
The next day was open but there was another Bockbieranstich on the horizon, and it just so happened to be on the longer stretch of the 13-Brewery Trail that I’d somewhat abandoned tour-wise due to some of the breweries along it having shuttered their doors in the past few years. The group was feeling chipper and we soon found ourselves back on the bus into the countryside. We started off with a great lunch at Brauerei Hönig before setting off. Pan-fried Schnitzel is their specialty and everyone agreed it was a great one. Their Lagerbier and Posthönla, a smoky treat, were hits too.
starting off well at Brauerei Hönig
I’d not been on the trail through the Lohntal in a couple of years and had forgotten just how beautiful it was. We were soon looking back and down on our lunch stop and forward to the next beer. We arrived as the new Bock was unveiled. It really was Perfektes Timing if I do say so myself.
Beerwanderers feeling strong on day 2
This is one Bock that’s eluded me for years and let’s just say I won’t let it do it any longer. It’s one of the very best, with a great hoppy palate which is backed up with ample malt. It’s reportedly 60 IBU but it’s certainly well-balanced and all to easy too drink.
the sublime Griess Bock
Though it would have been easy to stay put for a few more and just get the bus from Geisfeld, the group was was ready for the last leg of the hike and another brewery. My wife had made a reservation at Brauerei Sauer and I’d piqued interest in the excursion with a mouthwatering description of their Flammkuchen, a German pizza-type dish more noted in the Alsace but increasingly popular in Franconia. Washed down with their Lager and Braunbier, it was the prefect culinary ending.
a last stop, Brauerei Sauer for Flammkuchen
Everyone was happy with the choice and my wife had been wise to book a table. It was absolutely packed. Most befitting, a group we’d seen at every one of our brewery stops was there and more entertainingly, one of their members was giving an impromptu and very well-received performance with his accordion!
I think if it hadn’t grown dark, the group would have marched to the train station. In fact, Ann was still hoping to do so in the dark. She’d been intrigued with my head-lamps since I’d first mentioned them. I always bring them on this trail and have even needed them in summer when the sun sets late. There’s just too much temptation to linger in this setting, over great beer and company. I’d made sure to pack them, especially this late in the season when I knew it would be dark.
I had to put them on to appease her while waiting for the bus. Though I did look a bit like Rudolph, I wasn’t sure I was ready to fly and making the next train would have taken that. We wisely took the bus. Thanks to me, my friends discovered a lot of new places, beers and foods. Thanks to them, I’ve decided to not only make this an annual event but to bring back tours in this area of the Bamberg countryside.
Heading to Bamberg for the first time? Don’t leave home without The Pocket Guide to Bamberg’s Best Beer.
If going in the warmer months, consult The Guide to Bamberg’s Best Biergartens.
If you’re looking to get a taste of the Franconian countryside and to visit some small regional breweries, the Bamberg Countryside Breweries Experience and Brewing Heartland Experience are for you. Book now to ensure your spot.