Nostalgia is a funny thing. It doesn’t creep in until something is gone. Brauerei Leicht is perched to join the growing group of small Franconian breweries that have fallen by the wayside in recent times. This one won’t go down to COVID or the more recent staffing dilemma. Rather less dramatically, it will go down to old age. No, not the brewery’s age, the brewer’s. Sure, the much beloved Pferdsfeld pub has been around since 1870 but that’s not even all that old in these parts.That it’s been in the same family for all those generations isn’t particularly uncommon either. Sadly, it’s that the next generation just isn’t there to carry on the tradition is what is becoming increasingly commonplace.
the road to Pferdsfeld
I’d like to say I’ve been going to this timeless old gem for a generation or two but I sadly didn’t stumble across it until 2020. It had closed briefly around the time I started exploring the area and I’d incorrectly written if off as another pub with a contract beer. Nestled in view of the imposing Staffelberg, the charmingly unassuming hamlet of Pferdfeld is aptly named. The day I walked out there, it was a summer scorcher, the flattish butte looming in the distance. The welcoming sign to the small village seemed on the edge of pure kitsch until I saw a couple of its fine inhabitants evidently enjoying the sun more than I’d done on the pilgrimage.
a Pferd by any other name
The oasis of the shady Leicht courtyard Biergarten was a welcome relief and their simple Landbier exactly as advertised, a country beer. A friend once remarked that it’s one of those beers which you can’t put your finger on as to why it’s so good. Sometimes, you just have to enjoy things rather than analyze them. It sure went well with their tasty chicken. I only had time for a few. I’d just come from nearby competitor Brauerei Martin and was heading to the Engelhardt’s Keller. I noted they had accommodation and I figured I’d return with my wife for a night. A new-for-me found favorite had captured my imagination with their horsey imagery. It’s no wonder everyone refers to it as Pferdsfeld rather than the family name Leicht.
a shady oasis & rewarding Landbier
We tried to spend the night there a few times. My wife would call but whoever answered seemed perplexed by the idea. Perhaps they had stopped renting the rooms but no explanation was ever offered. With opening hours only in the evening a few days a week, it wasn’t the easiest place to get to without a car so I hadn’t managed to get my wife out there. Thankfully, this past summer, a friend had offered to take us to nearby Brauerei Schleicher and while there, after finding out my wife hadn’t been to Pferdsfeld, decided on an impromptu visit. She loved it and we made plans to try harder to get a room later in the year, little knowing of the closure on the horizon.
the charming Biergarten out back & the 70s interior decor
On hearing of the impending closure, I felt an a perhaps overzealous need to get back there one more time. I’d seen Bamberg area friends’ posts, their horsey glasses on display. A shot of a gorgeous looking goose breast sealed the deal. A Last Supper was in order. An understanding friend offered to drive. As chance would have it, it fell on my birthday and though there was no poultry outside of chicken on the menu, I finally got to have a full meal there.
a Last Supper
The place was absolutely mobbed and reservations were made a week in advance. It appeared everyone who had ever been there came to say goodbye. I imagine there were even a few first timers coming to catch a glimpse of a dying breed, as well. With business so booming, one friend joked that it had been a ploy to drum up holiday business and they’d possibly renege on their pledge to shutter the doors.
An eclectic birthday party
We had an eclectic group. Me, the birthday boy American making a living on beer hiking tours, my German wife, my ex-military American friend who resides nearby with his Franconian girlfriend and two other Franconian guys, one of whom has turned me onto parts of Franconia I didn’t know existed. Subjects abounded but the focus often returned to why this had come to pass. Couldn’t they get someone to run the pub while the brewer did what he did so well, brew his great beer? This is not the first time this dilemma has reared its ugly head. Many small breweries stop brewing and keep their pub open, perhaps making more money on food. They at best get their beer contract brewed by someone else. Others close their pubs and keep brewing beer. Maybe they just like brewing more than running a restaurant and can’t do both. One problem with Leicht has been they don’t bottle their beer and it’s only sold on tap at the pub. It’s truly old school and that may have been part of the “problem,” but more than likely it’s just a case of a family who is getting older and wants to enjoy life before its over. In the end, the problem is ours. We can no longer drink from the horse’s mouth.
Brauerei Leicht in Pferdsfeld is no more
There are still many great breweries in Franconia. Please get out there and support them.
Heading to Bamberg. Don’t leave home without The Pocket Guide to Bamberg’s Best Beer.
Prefer a guide who’s explored the area since 1997, join me for a walk around Bamberg or hike in the countryside surrounding it. Places like this won’t be here forever.