The Häffners and the Häffner nots

Though 2023 found Beerwanderers largely exploring Lower Franconia, there were still some stones unturned in Baden Württemberg. Heilbronn-Franken had garnered some attention in 2022 but a good Franconian friend and my main source of what constitutes Franconia explained that while part of the former Franconian Imperial Circle, the people in the area didn’t speak with any dialect connected with his homeland. For him, it was not part of Franconia in any cultural way. So, I put it on a back shelf for this reason and also for his poor appraisal of the beer.

map
Heilbronn Franken

A year later, with many breweries in Franconian Baden-Württemberg under my belt and running low on easily accessible ones in Lower Franconia, I started to look at this region again. Maps clearly showed it to be not only part of Franconia but grouped with many of the places I’d traveled to the previous year. Häffner Bräu had stood out for a number of reasons: easily accessible, accommodation available and perhaps most important to this often weekday traveler, open weekdays for lunch. As a hotel brewery, this is often the case.

historical Franconia & one of its breweries

Bad Rappenau looked like a nice enough place to spend a night, a spa town perhaps past its prime but with a fair tourist infrastructure in place. The brewery hotel proved a bit on the expensive side so I opted for what looked like a more modern room just up the street at Saline 1822.  With my lunch hour arrival, my first port of call though was the brewery’s restaurant for what was a very good if somewhat pricey and small weekday special.

a tasty if a bit small lunchtime special

Though I’d planned on taking it easy at lunch, the misty weather and .3l pours made it too attractive to not sample all of the beers on tap, which came out carefully poured and in branded glasses. I certainly sussed out that their Schwarzberger Gold and Kur Pils would be what I’d stick to with my evening meal. The restaurant was a bit of a time-warp specimen and could have easily been in Franconia in a late 70s kind of way. I checked out their hotel lobby and though a bit dated, it looked well-kept.  Once I saw my hotel and room up the street, I was more than happy with my choice.

 a few more beers from Häffner & room at Saline

After checking in and realizing that the attached spa advertised by the hotel was in fact just the spa next door, I decided against paying even a reduced price admission due to my limited time. I’d imagined using the sauna for free, something that wouldn’t have taken much time. Instead I headed out to explore the town on foot and found it pleasant if unspectacular. The water palace hinted at the town’s once historical grandeur but overall, it had an air of having had seen better days. That said, there were plenty of open park areas and even a Disc Golf course, which would have certainly piqued my interest more back in the 80s.

 a pleasant stroll around town

I noticed a Palmbräu branded umbrella at the Kurcafé in the Salinengarten and since that was another brewery on my list in this area, I decided to stop in to see if it was going to be worth a future trip. Though the service was very friendly and taking a break sitting in the sun that had decided to shine was much welcomed, the beers themselves weren’t particularly interesting. It didn’t help that the pours were very fizzy.

disappointing Palmbräu beers

Back at the hotel for dinner, their dark beer started to grow on me. It went well with the food which was admittedly Schwäbisch and in no way resembled a dark beer in a Munich style. It was really more like in the Altfränkisch vein with some roast and an undercurrent of understated hops. It may not have been a mind-blowing beer but it sure tasted like a Franconian beer to me. One thing was for sure, it was way better than the Palmbräu beers I’d had in the afternoon. Comparing it to the very best in Franconia may have left it looking like a have not but stacked against the local competition, it was definitely a have.

Epilogue:

Häffner-Bräu is also the parent company of their own ghost brewery called Hopfenstopfer, which are marketed as Craft Beer. Interestingly enough, they are generally all single hop creations made with hops from their own hop garden. The beers are only sold bottled at the pub and were pricey compared to the draft beer so I shied away from them. Thankfully, I found them in a local super market and brought them home to share with my wife who still likes an IPA here and there. They were actually pretty good and very fairly priced in the store.

Hopfenstopfer beers were a pleasant surprise

I also walked by Gässle Bräu, which again looked like it was in the Craft Beer direction and was only open for events. Sadly, I missed the upcoming one by a few days.

So would I go back? If traveling in that direction with the need for an overnight stop, I wouldn’t rule it out. My wife loves the spa and the food was good. She likes her dark beer too and is always happy if there is one on tap. That all said, we have much nicer spa towns south of Munich in stunning settings so my guess is Bad Rappenau was a one-off. Am I glad I went? Yup. It’s always best to make your own impression rather than rely on someone else’s. Oh, in addition to getting the Hopfenstopfer beers, I brought back a Schwarzberger Gold and was happy to also pick up a Herbsthäuser Dunkel. It was a beer I’d had at that brewery the year prior and one my good Franconian friend likes quite a bit. I have to say, I thought the Häffner beer was better and I wish I’d been able to bring more of it back. I’d have liked to give him a bottle. I have managed to pique his interest so it’s nice to finally have a small influence on him after having picked up so much information from him.

Schwarzberg gold take the gold

More information on:
Häffner-Bräu
Kurcafé im Salinengarten

I know I have a tough job but someone has to do it. It does cost money visiting the various breweries, especially as Beerwanderers goes further into Lower Franconia. Hopefully, this information will be helpful for your future planning. Please consider buying me a beer 🍺!

In the mood for more off the beaten path Baden-Württemberg? How about Schwäbisch Hall?

When living in Franconia doesn’t translate to being a Frank tells a story of one local not feeling Franconian.

Find breweries all over Franconia: Where the Brews are

Learn about beer styles in Franconia: ABeerC.

Food is half the fun in Franconia but what should you try?  The ABCs of Franconian Food

Heading to Bamberg? Don’t leave home without The Pocket Guide to Bamberg’s Best Beer.

Don’t want to go it along, I’d love to show you the way: Guided Tours.

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