Kronach: The Kaiser, The Duck & the Pächter Fäctor

While small Franconian breweries are having a tough time, often closing, even regional player are feeling the pinch. Many continue to brew but their brewery taps are closing at an alarming rate. Finding tenants isn’t easy. Finding customers is getting even harder. Surprisingly, places I found to be busy on recent trips like Strecks Brauhaus and Herbsthäuser Brauereigastätte have shuttered their doors since my visits. Even on social media, we’re increasingly seeing Wir suchen Pächter posts. Tenants it would seem are a scarce commodity.

they’re seeking tenants

For those unfamiliar with the tenant concept to such establishments, England is perhaps the classic example. Breweries tend to buy pubs. They are real estate investments and double as outlets for their product: beer. Some breweries have many such properties and running them all themselves would be beyond problematic.While there may be such cases in large cities like Munich, Franconia represents a much different scenario. Very small breweries have fairly small restaurant/pubs. The family runs it themselves. It’s hard work but if they serve food and it’s busy, a living can be made. As the owners get older, some decide they have to make a choice: stop brewing or stop running a pub. Barnikel is an example of the former using a contract beer and Meister falls into the latter. Some like Leicht just go away and if you’re lucky, you have a memory of them.

How do they die? Let me count the ways

Larger regional breweries mostly have one pub, generally nearby or next to their facility. These were probably self-run before they expanded their beery reach. Bringing in a tenant relieved them of all the headaches of running a restaurant/pub. When things were good and choices were few, this was a great opportunity for someone to “have” if not own a restaurant. Unfortunately, things aren’t so good and we live in a world full of perhaps too many choices. People are drinking less beer. Suddenly, a Schäuferla isn’t something everyone wants to eat once or twice a week. Everybody loves pizza. There’s a decent Vietnamese restaurant in Forchheim.The old guys who used to meet every weekday morning to play Schafkopf are dying off. This was all before COVID, before inflation pushed pints to 5€ even in Franconian cities. So, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to find my planned brewery lunch stop closed last summer when I waltzed into Kronach.

 a lovely if thirsty stroll through Kronach

I walked into the courtyard of Brauerei Kaiserhof and saw an auf weiteres geschlossen sign on the door of the pub but also a guy moving empty stacks of beer crates around with a forklift. I asked him if it would reopen and if so, when. His reply was he didn’t know. Whether that was due to his not being in a position to know or it was uncertain it would reopen I couldn’t ascertain. It didn’t really matter. I was hungry and standing in front of a closed pub in need of a beer.

 a closed brewery & the courtyard sans beer

The other brewery in town wouldn’t open until dinner but I walked by it just in case. It wasn’t like I had anything better to do as it seemed every restaurant in town that had beer not only didn’t have the Kaiserhof beers, they were closed too. This was on a gorgeous day in August. Admittedly, it was mid-week but I would have thought there would be a few tourists wandering about. This was a stunning town really. How I’d not been prior escapes me now but after my cursory exploration, I scampered back to Bamberg. A gorgeous old town with open breweries is much better than a gorgeous old town without one.

 a cursory exploration

I didn’t give it a lot more thought until I saw a post on Facebook saying that the Kaiserhof Gaststätte had found a tenant and I hatched a plan to spend the night this time. I wanted to get to both breweries and with the late opening of Brauwirtshaus ‘s Antla (little duck in Franconian), staying over seemed wise. This time I called Kaiserhof rather than leave it up to fate. I was told that due to how slow it was, they were only open for lunch on the weekend. During the week, they opened for dinner. I could believe this as I’d seen it empty on a gorgeous summer day. A bleak day in January couldn’t be better. So much for my perfect plan of eating in both establishments.

A wintry look at Kronach

When looking at some old Franconian beer guides, I noticed one mentioning a Burgausschank, evidently the place to drink Kaiserhof beers once upon a time. I couldn’t locate it on the map but when I put he address in, up popped Bastion Marie. The owner said naturlich when I called to see if they’d be open for lunch. And a fine lunch it was. They even had a house beer called Mariechen, brewed just for them by Kaiserhof along with a couple of other staples. Service was friendly and attentive. She gave me a bottle of beer when I left and said to come back on a summer day to enjoy the lovely view. I’ll do just that with my wife in tow.

 a lovely lunch at Bastion Marie

It was a pretty dreary day and since I’d already been to the Getränkemarkt to pick up some local brews, I went back to my room to relax but restless I was soon out and on my way to Kaiserhof for opening time. I’d looked at the ‘s Antla menu and it was fairly expensive so I figured I’d give the new tenants my money rather than the ritzy joint. The latter was up the street from my hotel so I figured it would as easily serve for a nightcap. I got there a few minutes early and waited until five past. No lights on, it was cold and l was in the mood for a beer so back uphill I marched to ‘s Antla for an appertif.

so many beers, so little food

Six of them to be exact but in case you think I’m a glutton, they did have nine, and they conveniently enough came in .3l pours. I obviously wasn’t expecting so many choices, how friendly the staff would be or how little food could be. I had to eat something regardless unless this was indeed my aperitif and nightcap stop all  in one go. Everything looked amazing and it was quite good but it was not drinking food shall we say. The little duck moniker should have tipped me off. Next time, I’ll stick to my plan.This place will be great for dessert before bed.

FINALLY: Kaiserhof!

I still had to head back to Kaiserhof since it was my main reason for returning to Kronach and it wouldn’t be open again until the next night, when I was planning on being home in Munich. That is if it was open. It was and I happily joined the eight other people there. It was actually just one big group but they were eating, a good sign. I thought of doing the same but had already spent 30€ on my snack and was full of beer nonetheless. More beer was coming in the form of the Kaiserhöfer Kellerbier, which I quite enjoyed. I liked the place too. It was more of what I was looking for, more of why you come to Franconia in the first place: a regular rather than ritzy joint.  Why they hadn’t been open on time was only a point of conjecture at that point but when you open a newish business, you need to stick to your plan even if I hadn’t stuck to mine. It was my loss but it was their loss too. I would have eaten and surely had quite a few beers. I did notice they changed their opening times on their website to reflect their winter hours. That’s a start. While I understand that you can’t be open 12 hours a day when you don’t have any customers, you do have to make an effort to let them know what your hours are. Social media is the new way to do it. Changing your hours on Google Maps is another good option. Updating your hours and vacation plans on your website is a sign that you’re trying to ensure that people don’t show up to a closed door. Maybe they’ll come back, maybe they won’t. Not everyone is as tenacious as me. I got my beer. I’ll be back for a Schnitzel.

Speaking of hours and websites, information on places listed in Kronach:
Kaiserhof Gaststätte
Brauwirtshaus ‘s Antla
Bastion Marie

Epilogue: I’ve happily seen some of the old dogs learning new tricks. Even a smattering of old school places have posts on Instagram announcing Betriebsurlaub. If you’ve traveled around Franconia for some time, you’ve surely run across that sign. While it may be true that it’s part of the area’s charm, I’ll be happy if I don’t see it (live) again.

There are still many great breweries in Franconia. Please get out there and support them.

Similar:  Pferdsfeld: Time in a Seilda, A Sad Forchheim Fable of another brewery closing and The Death of a Brewery in Erlangen.

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.

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.

6 thoughts on “Kronach: The Kaiser, The Duck & the Pächter Fäctor

  1. Meanwhile in Perth the brewery is going gangbusters! New ones opening up all the time, always packed out! You’d be surprised at just how many are now in Fremantle! Yet other industries are dying and there is alot of empty buildings for shopfronts, like clothing stores etc. It’s sad to see the old traditional pubs closing down in Germany, but times are tough for sure.

    1. I would guess there are a few people in Freo with money and beer is a “new” thing. These places closing down are mostly in small villages. Most are a couple of hundred years old at least, some 500. It’s like losing a piece of history as much as a beer. It’s sad.

  2. Checked a photo album of beers I drank on a trip to the area in 2014 and the Kaiser Pils was amongst them. Don’t remember where exactly I had it. Sad to hear old places closing down. Wonder if an American would be able to take over a lease/tenant relationship.

    1. If the beers one from Kronach, it would say Kaiserhöfer Pils or at least Kaiserhof. Kaiser is from Pegnitz I think. An American would need to jump through some hoops but I imagine possible. I doubt there would be enough money to entice most to do it though. Thinking of moving over?

      1. “Thinking” but more like dreaming. I have two kids still in school and a wife who is Luke warm at best on the idea but…for 15 years I have been intrigued by living in Germany. I thought it would be a great experience for the entire family, including going to school, etc. without any ties to the country i found it difficult to stay behind the 90 allotted days at a time, which we did do once in 2014 for a summer. Would love to stay longer and I suppose running a local business may allow for that. I wouldn’t be looking to make a furtune…I’d be cool with breaking even on a venture if it allows the family to stay for a few years. So, just a dream for now but I am intrigued.

        1. It’s a big move and always a lot to consider when there are kids in the picture. I got moved when I was 13, just Philly to NJ but it was like another world. I hated it at first but in the end, it was the best thing for me. Depending on your skill set, Germany is always looking for workers, especially if IT or engineering. Great conditions. Being self-employed here is always a bit looked down on unless you really are successful, something very rare in the Franconian beer world. Working with good conditions is the way to go. All that said by the guy who is Beerwanderers.

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