A blind man walks into a Franconian village with three breweries & can’t find a beer

I’m sure blind jokes are anything but acceptable nowadays but I found myself feeling blind in the broader sense; I was unable to see a place to drink the beer I’d come for. It wasn’t like I hadn’t done some preparation. Burgkundstadt was only on my map because I’d had some beers from Günther Bräu and had quite liked a few. With no brewery tap listed, I resorted to searching on Google Maps for any restaurant or pub which had their beers and only found one with limited opening hours, and not for the weekday lunchtime slot I’d have. I’d stumbled across the brewery on Instagram so resorted to messaging them there, asking if there were any places in town with their beers on tap. I was happy when they promptly replied but at odds with the response that they indeed had many of their beers on tap right there. I envisioned a tasting room but tried clarifying by asking if they served food. The answer was unfortunately not.

hilltop church
a dreary day in Burgkunstadt

I resigned myself to it not being worth a trip unto itself but when visiting Kronach recently, I decided to stop at Günther-Bräu on the way back as it was in the vicinity and sort of on the same train line. I also thought this might flesh out my story about the difficulty of finding tenants at brewery taps, as had been the case at Kaiserhof. While the idea of a tasting room is not uncommon in the US, it’s certainly not run-of-the-mill here in Franconia. I found the idea of Günther-Bräu doing it interesting, even a little exciting.

little did I know I’d be going up there

My enthusiasm waned when I packed my backpack in Kronach. I’d picked up 14 new-for-me bottled beers while in town and though I’d managed to squeeze my clothes in along with them, it was shall we say a bit heavier than when I’d arrived the previous day. On the way to the station, I debated about stopping but once on the train, the excitement of a new excursion got the better of me and the next thing I knew I was walking along the anything but pedestrian friendly access roads into Burgkunstadt. The old town perched on a hill loomed before me but the area of the new expanded brewery built in 2005 was in an industrial area, and that was where I was headed. On approaching, it was obvious “the tasting room” of my imagination was likely just that. I went in anyway as I’d picked up a sandwich from a bakery on the way in hopes of having something to eat with the many beers on tap I’d envisioned.

Günther-Bräu: flags flying

The look of surprise when I entered the office with a backpack on answered my question before it was asked but I did anyway just to see the anticipated even more surprised look. I also explained my Instagram messaging with someone from the company to no avail. I was assured that there was no drinking of beer on the premises. I asked where I might find their beer on tap in town which seemed a lot more difficult question than it should have been, seeing how they had been brewing in Burgkunstadt since 1840 and both of their competing breweries had been shuttered for nearly 20 years. Royal seemed to be the only thing they could agree on, along with go to Lichtenfelser Road. Unquenched I left with my tail between my legs, sandwich in hand, heavy backpack growing heavier. I marched towards the hilltop town trying to console myself that I’d get a closer look at it. Of course, it would mean going uphill, with the pack on a sketchy knee not mentioned. It was a bit of a maze as you might expect of a town built on a hill. Grids are tough to build on them. On rounding an early bend I saw a pretty blue building in the distance. As I got closer, I saw it was the original Brauerei Günther. It remained the brewery tap once production moved down the hill to the bigger facility but it was obviously closed for good now, though curtains in the windows foretold of its possibly still being used.

the original Brauerei Günther

When I walked around to get a shot of it from the front, I saw yet another: Gick-Bräu which closed down in 2006 after nearly 200 years of brewing. This was turning into quite the stroll down brewery memory lane.The only problem was I didn’t have a beer.

 Gick-Bräu at my back

I looked at the map and going to the main square looked to be on the way and I figured there might be something open up there. I was feeling pretty good about my inadvertent discoveries but it got a little eerie when I stumbled across Brauerei Hellmuth which stopped brewing in 2007 though sporadically open as a pub. There were a number of ways I could have made my way to the square but I’d somehow chosen the one which passed the third of the town’s former brewpubs. To be perfectly honest, I hadn’t really read up on the disused Burgkunstadt breweries prior to coming as exploring the old town wasn’t in the original plan.

it was getting a little spooky at Hellmuth

I was in the square before I knew it and it was unassuming but lovely just the same. Unfortunately, nothing was open including the one pub I’d scoped out on Google Maps prior to coming. Rösla looked promising but would have to wait for another visit. Not only was nothing open, there was nowhere to sit and eat my sandwich either.

 a the charming square of Burgkunstadt

A bit dejected despite my eventful stroll, I made my way towards Royal in hopes of better results. I passed a rather new looking Brauerei Kerling en route. I later read it had only brewed for six years in the early 60s but has perhaps since resurfaced from its appearance. Just before dropping down from the hill, I spotted my first Kommunbrauerei. The aforementioned places had been part of the town’s communal brewing history once upon a time so it was perhaps fitting. It looked open and and oddly willing to sell their beer to the general public. This is rarely the case due to restrictions if government funded or the lack of enough beer to supply their members and outsiders. The one-liter bottles would be hard for me to cart back but I had to ask. A good friend who is a communal brewer often picks beer up for me and if nothing else, I’d get one to share with him. The brewer popped out from the kettles, startled to find me standing there. When I asked if they indeed sold to the public, he explained they did but were out of beer at the moment. They’d have more in a couple of weeks. Disappointment and relief are not always mutually exclusive and I walked off feeling both. A man with only one free hand can only carry so much.

two more for the road and future

By this point, I really had gotten over former breweries, closed breweries and breweries which didn’t serve beer. I was looking to actually drink a beer. The main part of town didn’t have much in the way of restaurants and as I walked out Lichtenfelser Road I wasn’t optimistic about finding anything, at least not open. I saw a pub sign in the distance, it almost looked like one in the UK. There it was: The Royal. It looked oddly like places I’d just visited in Scotland a few months earlier. Maybe it was the name or I might have just been delirious. I imagined a cozy old world beauty with a roaring fireplace lay before me. I knew better and was just happy it appeared to be open. I walked into what was likely a dive bar kind of joint but it was obviously under construction. The bartender confirmed their having the object of my desire on tap and quenched it by placing a Günther-Bräu Pils in front of me. I don’t know if it was the best beer I’ve ever had but I’m pretty sure I’ve never enjoyed a beer more.

FINALLY: Günther-Bräu Pils on tap! 

She apologized for the appearance of the place due to the construction, that they did not have food and that I unfortunately could not eat my sandwich in the pub.I had another beer just the same. I’d worked too hard for it and the station was only 10 minutes away. I still had 3.5 hours on 3 trains to get home. That sandwich may not have been the best one I’d ever had but I’m pretty sure I’ve never enjoyed one more.

Information on places listed in Burgunstadt:
Royal
Günther Bräu

Epilogue: I messaged my Günther-Bräu buddy on Instagram about my disappointing experience at the brewery and that unlike promised, there was no beer on tap. They wrote back to say it was a misunderstanding, that you could buy kegs of beer. I pointed out that I’d asked if they had food and that my original question was if there were any places in town with their beer on tap. They apologized and said that currently no restaurants in town have them but that they would reopen their original location, the blue one I’d walked by. At least now I know where to find it but I’ll be sure to call this time to confirm that it’s open and has the beer on tap to drink on the premises. Sometimes you have to be very exact when asking a question to ensure you don’t go thirsty in a Franconian village with three breweries.

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

Heading to small breweries outside Bamberg. Don’t leave home without The Pocket Guide to the Best Bamberg Countryside Breweries.

Planning some time in Forchheim. You’ll want to have a look at The Pocket Guide to the Best Forchheim and its Countryside Breweries.

Please enjoy this interactive map of Franconian breweries:

Prefer a guide who’s explored the area since 1997, join me for a walk around Bamberg or hike in the countryside surrounding it. Places like this won’t be here forever.

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