He was waving his hands frantically. Even from a distance, I could see he was excited. As much as I was dreading walking along what was a surprisingly busy country road, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to reaching my agitated comrade on the way to Wassertrüdingen. He had to be a little nutty. Anyone out here without a car had to be crazy. Of course, I was out here too but that was more out of stupidity. I pride myself on my expertise of using local buses in rural Franconia, if such a thing exists. I painstakingly find and mark bus stops I’ll be using on maps. I study the route to see if it’s in and out or circular. Last but not least, if I’m totally in a new area, I turn on my GPS and monitor the buses progress on Google Maps. A half hour earlier, I was doing just that and had seen my stop but for some reason I wanted to see if there was a stop closer to my hotel. The bus looped around the town without stopping again, not even on the exit road where it had stopped earlier. And yes, I’d pushed the stop button. I went up to the driver to explain my dilemma but as bad as he felt, he said he couldn’t stop on the road. It was too dangerous. I got off in the village of Zollhaus. I thought it looked cute on the way in and now I was getting a closer gander than I actually needed. The next bus wasn’t for hours so I set off on my 2km unscheduled walk back to town. I don’t mind walking, really I don’t but I had a scheduled 14km walk and a brewery to get to.
The bus driver was right about that dangerous part.Once I got out of good ole Zollhaus and its sidewalks, I was on a small two-lane road that was incredibly busy, sans any provisions for pedestrians. Wassertrüdingen was more a destination than I’d imagined, though evidently not generally reached on foot. Okay, most of the traffic was trucks and they were just barreling down the road to their next delivery. I was cautious to say the least, making sure to walk on the field next to the road if anything was coming my way. That’s when I saw my waver. I soon found out he was motioning me to get off the road, which I thought I had been doing a pretty industrious job of. I did walk on the road when it was open, it was a lot easier going then the uneven if safer terrain off to the side. Once I reached him, he went on a bit of a friendly rant about it not being safe walking there, that some people had been hit by passing cars, people around here drive like lunatics etc, etc. He was on bike and had come on the bike trail that was parallel to the main road. That’s where he explained I should have been walking. Now, I know all this and from the point where we now stood, the bike path was pretty much just off the road and I intended to use it. The stretch he had been using was a good kilometer west and had started just before Zollhaus so I hadn’t seen it. To be honest, I probably would have taken the shorter route anyway due to having already lost 20 minutes.
the kind of road I seek out, not the one I was on!
This entire “conversation” was in German but his dialect wasn’t very strong and I could follow his warnings well enough. I figured now that he’d done his duty, he would pedal off and leave me to my now safer trudge. It sure would have been much quicker for him and as I would figure out, me as well. No, he insisted on walking along with me and telling me about the area and finding out about my reason for being here. There was a lot I’d admittedly missed in my research though he was impressed I knew about the Forstquell Brauerei. Of course, that was the only reason I was out in the middle of who-knows-where but I didn’t have the heart to tell him that. He seemed to understand what I was managing to say. He was doing most of the talking and whatever I wasn’t catching probably wasn’t all that important anyway. I find people will out of some intrinsic need, believe you understand them perfectly. I’ve had my father-in-law speak to salespeople in Florida in a thick mountain Saxon dialect, truly believing they understood he wanted something in an XL when even Hochdeutsch wouldn’t have worked. In south Florida, Spanish is your better choice. I think it’s just part of human nature and the idea that your own way of communicating won’t work is somehow unthinkable. My nature is to get to my destination quickly and his pushing his bike was slowing not only him down but it was taking me longer too. As we got closer to town, he finally had either finished or wanted to speed up his own pace and we bid each other farewell.
this was more like it
It had been a very hot exposed walk and I was quite sweaty by the time I got to my hotel. I jumped in the shower and repacked my bag with the essentials and set off for the brewery. No rest for the beery. Though there was a slightly shorter bike path, I took the forest one as it would be cooler. The lush forest was a welcomed relief and I soon passed a charming Bierkeller which looked disused. It was summer and a perfect day for a Keller. I’d have loved the brewery to be there. Not that I don’t love walking but it would have been a much shorter walk back that evening. It wasn’t in disrepair so I looked it up when I got home and found it was a sports club so probably only open for functions. It sure looked sweet but Fürnheim was calling.
the stroll to Fürnheim
The last bit into the village was particularly scenic, showcasing the bucolic nature that is the essence of Franconia. My regret over the closed Keller faded and I soon found myself standing in front of a charming little brewery that has been in the Höhenberger family since 1731. Though brewing had been mentioned on this site as early as 1400, it ceased in 1958. While it’s easy to deride, and often enough it’s warranted, the gobbling up of such small places by the big conglomerate brewing groups, this is perhaps a rare case where it’s been a good thing. The nearby Oettinger Group stepped in as a parent company in 1997 and after a major refurbishment which kept the feel of a small country brewpub, resumed brewing. They utilize the facility as both an experimental brewery as well as a training ground for future brewers.
a charming refurbishment
What happend to the Höhenbergers? That’s the good part. They’re still around in the form of direct descendants, the Kollmar family, who brew the unique beers for the pub. It’s quite a popular restaurant and though on the cusp of kitschy, it looks like a great place to spend a cold winter evening next to the Kachelofen mulling over a Forstquell Kupfer.
a leafy Biergarten was my reward
It was anything but a cold winter evening so I nabbed a spot in their equally charming leafy Biergarten and watched it fill up quickly. I’d made it just in time despite my delay. A Forstquell-Weiße hit the spot after the hot hike and a pair of Hesselberger Schlotengeli, smoked Bratwurst, rounded out the reward. After the Forstquell-Gold, I relaxed and settled into a longer visit than I’d planned.
a few more beers to & some Bauernschinken
The local smoked sausages were excellent but I needed a bit more to wash down a few more beers and the Bauerenschinken was even better. I really enjoyed all three beers and their Kupfer is perhaps my favorite Rotbier ever. It had become apparent that I’d be walking back in the dark but still wanted to try their house-distilled Bierbrand before tearing myself from this lush oasis.
sometimes you just don’t want to leave
Well, the good thing about my later-than-planned departure was it had cooled down considerably. Between that and it being too dark, I wouldn’t be heading back into the forest for the return hike. I stuck to the well-defined bike path which was well off the main road. It was pretty dark but the sky was clear and the moon lit my way. It made me think I should return for one of the brewery’s monthly full moon festivals but mostly the path made me think back to my wildly waving buddy. He’d have been proud of my chosen path and he’d have realized that all his advice hadn’t been spent in vain after all.
Epilogue: Visits to places like this generally turn into one-offs despite the desire to go back being strong. It’s just not an easy place to get to without a car and with nowhere to stay in the actual village, you’ll have to hike or cycle there. It was fine in summer but I wanted to return for the Bockanstich which falls on Ash Wednesday. I’d assumed it would be a long-term pipe dream but I managed to make it just six months later, in February 2023.
a true Bockanstich!
It got off to a late start when the mayors of Oettingen and Wassertrüdingen were uncharacteristically for Germans less than punctual. In the end though, we waited for the owner’s mother, who made a heart-warming entrance in a lovely dress. All was forgiven with a beaming smile from the Kollmar family matriarch but we still had a speech by the doting daughter commemorating the event. From the crowd reaction, it’s a looked forward to part of the ceremonies. Well, perhaps not as anticipated as the tapping itself. It was a real barrel beer, served by gravity dispense, so quite soft and dangerously drinkable at 7%. With the sizeable crowd, it didn’t last long and we made our way inside to eat and enjoy the lovely Bock, on tap there.
excellent food to accompany the great Bock
The place was packed and it was a good thing we’d reserved. There was live traditional music and many wore Tracht and most everyone was dressed up for the event. I’ll wear mine if I ever manage to attend it again. For now, I’ll set my eyes on there autumn seasonal, Emmer. A boy’s gotta dream.
More practical information on the brewery:
See how Forstquell fared in my Top 5 Awards for 2022.
More off-the-beaten-path brewery adventures: Try Spall Brauerei.
Want to learn more about Franconian beer styles: Try ABeerC.
Heading to Bamberg. Don’t leave home without The Pocket Guide to Bamberg’s Best Beer.
Looking for someone to take you there? How about me?