Walberfest 2023 took place May 5th-7th.
The Walberlafest returned after a three-year COVID induced hiatus and though some growing pains were evident, it was a resounding success, thanks at least partially to quite possibly the nicest day in an otherwise fairly abysmal spring. This oldest in Germany spring festival has pagan roots and once you behold the plateau of the twin-peaked butte, you’ll understand how special it is.
the dramatic entrance to the Walberlafest
It’s held the first weekend of May and while it’s not always inclusive of May 1st, they raise a Maibaum on the Friday of its opening. It’s a low key affair but nonetheless intriguing to watch, as a team of guys do it without any machinery other than sheer manpower.
the raising of the Maibaum is how it all gets started
The Walberla is an understandably popular hiking area but that aspect is often overlooked by first time visitors to the festival. Accessed most easily from the Kirchehrenbach train station, a mere ten-minute trip from Forchheim, it’s a scenic direct stroll from there. Some opt for a taxi to do most of the climb but unless pressed for time, even the short approach on foot is rewarding. For those with a little more energy, it’s well worth walking around the Walberla before ascending.
the best way to get to the Walberlafest
Our favorite route is to hike halfway around and go up from there. This ascent is popular especially with locals who wander up from neighboring villages on that side of the hill. While not exactly an empty route, it is less busy than the more mainstream entrance but what makes it special is the first glimpse of the fest from across the plateau.
finally behold the Walberlafest
Once on top it’s a gorgeous walk across the Walberla to the other side where the festival itself takes place. I’m not going to lie, it’s a back down and up gully so more work but I assure you, it’s not only worth the walk but on the other side you’ll find a beer worth the walk. From Kirchehrenbach station, it will take about two hours but you won’t regret it.
the Walberlafest looms
Once you arrive, you’ll be surprised at not only how small the festival is but also how laid back. People sprawl on the hills on blankets or sit at Biergarten tables set up for enjoying the food and beer on offer.
Some scenes from Walberlafest 2023
Sadly, many of the breweries around the Walberla didn’t participate in 2023 and unfortunately a few conglomerate breweries took their place. Most notedly, Meister from nearby Unterzaunsbach was missing. It’s a particularly hard blow since their pub closed down a number of years ago and finding the beer on tap isn’t easy. That said, there was still plenty of good beer on offer and quite a few served by gravity dispense barrel, a practice increasingly rare. As a friend remarked, the difference between a good beer and a great one is a matter of degree. I’m sure for most, at least a few were great and I’ll have to say that first Huppi from the barrel tasted pretty damn great after I’d walked around the Walberla to get it.
enjoying the Walberlfest with friends makes it more special
With local Penning-Zeissler, Forhheim stalwarts Neder and Greif and Huppendorfer from the barrel, no one could complain and sometimes it’s just not about the beer. The weather turned out to be stunning and along with the three-year gap, the festival swelled with perhaps more people than usual. There didn’t seem to be enough food stands and lines later in the afternoon and early evening were incredibly long. We were glad we’d gone up early and had already eaten. Hopefully next year, they’ll have it sorted out better and can entice some of the other local breweries back on top.
Details on hiking in the area in my book, Beer Hiking Bavaria oder auf Deutsch: Bierwandern Bayern.
Join Beerwanderers the first weekend in May 2024 to hike around and up the Walberla to the most unique festival in Franconia.
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3 thoughts on “What makes the Walberfest so special? Sometimes, it’s not about the beer.”
Looks like a fantastic festival Richie! Glad the weather was smiling upon you all, makes for a great hike and drink day!
What a magnificent day that was!
So glad you enjoyed it and you two being there was a big part of what made it special.