A Salty Patch on the Unterfranken Express

Salt’s a funny thing. It’s so addictive but in excess it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Looking down at my plate I knew which end of the spectrum I lie. My salt-loving wife had already sent most of her meal back but a son of depression era parents I soldered on. Our server hadn’t even asked if there was something wrong with the meal and my wife, generally not one to complain, told her just how inedible it had been just the same. Not untypically, not much sympathy was offered. An apology for bad food isn’t the norm in Bavaria and in this sense if not others, Franconia is part of the state.

a good example of looks can be deceiving

The Wittelsbacher Turm had been a last minute add-on to an already full two-day beery agenda. A friend whose opinion I value highly had mentioned it as being okay. So, I wasn’t expecting amazing beer but on investigating the area, the tower was intriguing and the area surrounding it looked scenic. It also catered to large senior groups so I figured the food would be good. It fit into our lunch slot. Schäuferla was their specialty and I hadn’t even looked at the menu, ready to get the Franconian national dish of almost always excellent pork shoulder. My wife was intrigued with the Gänse Hackbraten, a meat loaf generally made of pork but on this occasion with goose breast. I’ll have to admit to thinking it sounded a bit odd but when I was told the Schäuferla wasn’t ready, I just ordered it without asking for more time to peruse the menu. It was 12:30 and if you know anything about Germans, it’s they eat lunch between 12:00 and 13:00. How their main dish wasn’t ready is beyond me but maybe they were expecting a late bus. It sure was empty otherwise.

an attempt to rescue the meal was thwarted

I’d started with their Weizen and though not the tastiest example, it wasn’t flawed. I was hopeful their flagship Vollbier would warrant the stop beer-wise. It proved to be a butter bomb to rival the best. I can accept some diacetyl, especially in certain styles but this was over the top. If I hadn’t been in need of something to wash my food down, I’d have sent it back. Since my wife hadn’t eaten much, I suggested she get a piece of cake. It was massive and promising but turned out to be overly sweet. Before you accuse my wife of being Goldilocks, please understand that German cakes are generally much less sweet than their American counterparts and this one was more of a full-blown slice of Americana. When we got our check, the server explained one of the meals had been taken off. It certainly softened the blow but if she had offered an apology and substitute meal earlier, it would haven been better for us and the restaurant, who would have had a chance to redeem themselves rather than lose customers.

the Wittelsbacher Turm itself was not a disappointment

Once outside, my wife was surprisingly upbeat as I uselessly and evidently needlessly tried to apologize for my bad choice. She’s not one to hold long-term grudges but this was a miraculously quick turnaround. She’d driven 3.5 hours to get there and now with the meat of the drive behind her and the first sunny day in ages in front of us, she wasn’t about to let some salt ruin our day. We climbed the atmospheric and historically intriguing tower, affording views over the pretty countryside but decided against the planned hike with a few more stops to go.

round two was a resounding success

Pax-Bräu was an even more last minute addition to the itinerary and part of me was thinking scraping it was a good idea but my wife said it was on the way so why not? The Beerwanderer’s Wife had spoken and she was behind the wheel. The relatively new small brewery does both traditional and Craft Beers but does not have a pub. This was just a stop to pick up a few bottles but the older gentleman in the shop was quite helpful in explaining their fairly large line-up. I think he could sense we were leaning towards the traditional beers and let it slip out he wasn’t so sure about ginger in beer either. At any rate, he was a good salesman and we’d have likely bought more but their beers come in liter bottles only and we still had two more breweries to go. Both their Vollbier and Pacifator Doppelbock were excellent. They have occasional events and we were just missing their Maibockanstich. After sampling their beers back home, I could imagine trying to hit one of them one year.

Rother-Bräu in Roth (Hausen) in Lower Franconia

The drive itself was stunning with the kind of traffic country roads on a Thursday can only offer. The stretches were short and we arrived in Roth in no time. This is not to be mistaken for the Roth outside of Nürnberg with its now defunct Stadbrauerei Roth or the still in action Roth Brauerei in Schweinfurt. No, this is Roth (Hausen/Rhön), which is home to Rother-Bräu. We stopped by the brewery first to pick up some glassware they generously donated to Beerwanderers and found a warm welcome. Though an old brewery, they have always been innovative and even though from a small village, understand the value of social media exposure.

Rother-Bräu stellar line-up

We dropped by their Braustüble up the street for a quick beer since we had dinner plans in Ostheim. It was mid-afternoon so unsurprisingly empty. The Klosterbräu Urstof, from the now defunct former monastic brewery in Münnerstadt and now brewed at Rother-Bräu, was lovely but we pushed ourselves out for a hike since we skipped the one earlier.

a pit stop at the Braustüble

The hike started off with quite a steep climb out of town but outside of a few locals walking their dogs, we had it to ourselves. The Rhön valley is understandably beloved by local tourists but largely escapes foreign visitors. After the long drive, it was a perfect way to stretch out legs. We soon found ourselves strolling into town with a lovely view of the village.

a lovely hike in Roth

Though the Braustüble has overnight accommodation, we only had one night and made our way to Ostheim vor der Rhön. With our later than planned arrival, we’d not only missed getting beer directly from Streck Bräu but I’d also missed a mail from the brewery saying they would be happy to donate some glassware too. It had come while we were driving.  I sufficed with a photo stop and picked up the local beers at the supermarket next door, which had a great selection.

old brewery with copper kettles

Streck Bräu

Ostheim turned out to be a lovely medieval town and after checking in, we had just enough time to stroll through for some atmospheric shots en route to our dinner at Strecks Brauhaus, also known as Zur Krone.

atmospheric medieval Ostheim

Strecks was bustling and it was a good thing I’d made a reservation. Not only was it packed but animated conversations surrounded us. No one was on their phone, everyone was talking and drinking a fair amount of beer. Other than children, everyone seemed to be enjoy the local brews. Why not, both their flagship Pils and Helles were in great form.

a great evening at Strecks Brahaus

Not only was the beer and atmosphere excellent but the food was exceptional too. Spargelzeit had just begun and our asparagus with Hollandaise sauce and two good sized schnitzels were the obvious choice. We stayed a lot longer than expected and probably had a beer more than necessary but it was contagious. The next morning, with a long drive ahead of us to Saxony for our family Easter weekend, we decided to backtrack to Roth for lunch. It was only ten minutes in the opposite direction and the Good Friday special of Saibling or char was worth the detour. It also gave me a chance to sample their Pils and Helles on tap.

 a worthwhile detour

Once I got home, I read about a Rhön Valley tourist steam engine train that only runs in the summer months so there’s another reason to return but my wife has already given Ostheim a big thumbs up. She’d be happy to go back but maybe this time, we take the train and definitely avoid the salty patch.

Epilogue: The Edeka Leyh Getränkemarkt next to the Streck’s brewery in Ostheim has an a fairly wide selection of the local beers. Some of those I picked up to bring home turned out to be excellent including those from the Rhönbrauerei Dittmar in Thuringian Franconia. Their Pils, Helles and Dunkel were all an added bonus to the trip. You can just about imagine where I want to go next.

The list of breweries which Beerwanderers has visited is growing, check out out where the brews are!

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