There it was, living proof. In writing no less. Heute Maibock. I was indeed drinking a Maibock and as an exercise, just envision that for a moment. Old school US beer drinkers are probably looking at something amber with an off-white head. For them Hofbräu was the first Maibock they likely encountered. To be honest, it was my first one too. Most of the ones you find increasingly popping up now in Germany are golden. Thanks in part to COVID, breweries found to keep their bottle sales up, they needed to come up with more options for people to buy. Maibocks were one of the styles which had waned in recent years but it had always been an approachable beer, especially when golden, still the most popular hue in the German beer world. Well, I was looking at neither. Mine was very much black with a tan head. It’s called a Maibock on the Brauerei Gradl website. In winter, they have a Weihnachtsbock. From what I understand, it’s the same beer just released close to Christmas. Before anyone gets in a huff over BJCP or American Brewers Guidelines for styles, this family has been brewing at this location since 1683. This was before beer styles were “invented” and to be honest, brewers made a beer that they were able to brew in their location, no doubt very influenced by their water source. Leups’ supply has a mineral composition which lends itself to dark beer, as in neighboring villages. That’s why you’ll find each not only has a dark beer but why that’s what the locals drink. Of course, this can now be manipulated and Brauerei Gradl started brewing a very nice Pils but you won’t see many drinking it. I’ve not been able to get myself to have one in their pub. The bottle I brought home was really good, a beer I’d be happy to drink anywhere else but with black beauties like both their flagship and Bocks available, why “waste” a beer?
a Maibock to die for & my wife enjoying her first
The thing about German is that no matter how complex it can be grammatically, it can in turn be quite simple when it comes to nouns. They love to stick two (or many) words together to make one. So, a Maibock is pretty much a Bock for May. It’s their language so it’s hard to argue with this guy calling his beer a Maibock since it’s a Bock that came out in May. I’ve seen similarly dark Maifest beers on the Fünf Seidla Steig® as well. It may seem silly to us but they probably think how we need to pigeon hole beers is similarly amusing. So, put your preconceptions aside and enjoy this fantastic Bock by any name you want to call it. That is if you’re lucky enough to be there when it’s on as its window of availability on tap in their pub is quite limited, often a matter of days.
a great May 1st weekend outing
That’s the main reason we came on this May 1st weekend getaway but also because Tag der Arbeit is a holiday in Germany and this year it nicely fell on a Monday. I booked a room at Brauerei Gasthof Herold and we got not only the Maibock at Gradl but also at Herold. Just as importantly, we got a gorgeous hiking weather weekend to do the Bierquellenwanderweg. All was looking good until our train was late and we missed our prearranged RUF Bus (Ruf as in call). These taxi-like minivans run at set times so you can’t just call and say you’re going to be late. It looked like we were going to have to walk in from Pegnitz but a faithful follower of Beerwanderers was in the area and I’d asked if he wanted to meet us at Gradl. When he heard of our dilemma, he offered to give us a lift as his hotel in Pegnitz was only about a 15 minute drive.
a good thing our new friend was in the area
After dropping us off, Stephen went back to check in at his hotel and we did the same. We planned to meet at Gradl in Leups in a couple of hours. He obviously would have a longer hike so we headed over immediately for some much needed and anticipated beer. D loved the walk over, one I knew very well from my time spent in the area researching Beer Hiking Bavaria. Our friend from Bamberg was already there when we walked through the door and once Stephan arrived, we settled in for a good session.
a hardy session at Brauerei Gradl
A wonderful Bock it is but at 7%, you can only drink so much and we needed to get Stephan back to Pegnitz before dark so we took him back via the same route to Brauerei Herold, where he perhaps ill-decidedly joined us for a meal and to try their Maibock. His going back on the real trail was out of the question with the sun going down and even walking back on the road was going to be less than ideal. So, we asked if the server could call a taxi and he said if he waited until he closed out, he’d give him a lift as he lived in Pegnitz too. Talk about one good deed leading to another and a lift to a lift in this case!
Needless to say, we were very happy to be staying just upstairs and that sleep came fast is an understatement. It was a good thing as we were up early to get on the trail, taking the direct route up to Zum Fichta. My wife gave the route an approving smile; wildflowers carpeted the valley.
the pretty route to Weiglathal
Zum Fichta was quite busy for their Sunday lunch. It was cool but sunny so we sat outside and enjoyed a great meal and their lovely Vollbier. Even though the Ubelhack brewery no longer brews, this is a perfect example of a contract beer being done well with the added bonus of them lagering it on the premises.
a lovely meal at Zum Fichta
It was too cool to linger and we still had quite a walk ahead of us so we made our way to Lindenhardt. It’s one of the loveliest stretches of the Bierquellenwanderweg but we got there only to find Brauerei Kürzdorfer closed. As with many small rural breweries, they’ve cut their hours and now take an afternoon pause between lunch and dinner. No worries, there was plenty of Maibock at Gradl for us to lick our wounds over.
the route to Lindenhardt
I’d forgotten how pretty a stretch it was between the two villages or how hilly. We definitely burned off our lunch by the time we strolled into Leups and we’d warmed up considerably too.
the scenic route to Leups
It was still really nice when we got to Leups so we decided to sit out in the sun. Though no more than an open courtyard with no trees, it was lovely due to the perfect temperature and not needing shade. We drank a few more Maibocks than we maybe needed to but it was hard to resist in this setting. We met a group of young people, former exchange students who had settled in Nürnberg, who were huge fans of Beerwanderers. Their obvious leader actually approached me asking if I was Rich Carbonara and I was taken aback by my evident notoriety. He bought us a beer and we chatted with them for awhile before they took off. They were still going up to Lindenhardt, thankfully on bikes with the relative late hour. We took that as a cue to take our leave as well.
the low light magic
The walk back to Büchenbach was surely the most atmospherice, not just due to the trail itself but to the glowing rays of the setting sun. The best part of staying too long somewhere is getting to walk at this hour of the day. That said, we were happy to see the church steeple across the field on the final leg. Brauerei Herold would be waiting with something to replenish our energy and of course quench our thirst.
us enjoying the walk back
Epilogue: The next morning we had to walk out to Pegnitz. Our friend wasn’t there to save the day and we hadn’t even tried to set up a RUF Bus. We knew the weather was to be fine and there was no better way to close out the holiday weekend. I’d done the route when researching my book. It was great to finally show it to the one who felt like was with me on every one of those hikes, and now finally was on this one.
the lovely route to Pegnitz
Information on the four breweries on the route: Gradl, Herold, Kürzdorfer and Zum Fichta. If in Pegnitz waiting for your train, Gasthaus Ponfick is an interesting and authentic place to try Boheim Helles on tap.
Though I don’t regularly offer the Bierquellenwanderweg as a tour due to logistics, please inquire directly about pricing.
The Bierquellenwanderweg lies in Upper Franconia (Oberfranken in German). There are twenty-five hikes in this region in my book Beer Hiking Bavaria along with another 25 from all over Bavaria. Each includes detailed descriptions of the hikes as well as information on the breweries along the routes plus some tasting notes on my favorite beers at each establishment.
It’s available in both English and German:
Guided Beer Hiking out of Bamberg to other areas: