Saturday, 20 June 2015

Eine fränkische Tour (A Franconian Tour)

Fränkische Bierfest
Readers of my post about Fränkische Bierfest might be aware, from the comments posted, that I met up with local beer enthusiast, Erlangernick at the festival. (Erlangernick gets mentioned quite a few times over the course of this narrative, so for the sake of brevity, I will refer to him from now as EN). With close on 40 breweries with stands at the festival, some were bound to be better than others, so it was really good to be guided by someone with both knowledge and experience of the beer scene in this region of southern Germany.

I really enjoyed EN’s company. He encouraged me to converse with him in German, so the event provided a good opportunity to practise both my listening and conversational skills. The festival itself was great fun and there were lots of interesting bees to try, but it did get very busy and rather crowded; and this was on the Friday afternoon! Saturday would no doubt prove even busier, so at EN’s suggestion I decided it would be nice to get out of the city and see some of the Franconian countryside.

Before we went our separate ways, we had sketched out a rough plan that I would head out towards Forchheim; either for a visit to the Kellerwald (home in around six week’s time to Annafest), or make for the Kellers on the Kreuzberg, between Stiebarlimbach and Schnaid.  My son and I had done this a couple of years’ previously, although we had confined our visit to just one Keller; namely the one belonging to Roppelts Brauerei, just behind the brewery itself in Stiebarlimbach. It was here that we missed the last bus back to Forchheim and had ended up hitch-hiking, but that’s another story, but come the Saturday it seemed a good idea to head in that direction and see what transpired.

I had been in email and text communication with EN, and following his suggestion I purchased a Tages Ticket Plus, which not only covered all zones of the extended Nuremberg public transport area for both rail and bus services, but was also valid for entire weekend. At €18 it was an absolute bargain, as I was able to use the ticket the following day, to visit Bamberg and also to get myself to the airport in the evening for my flight home.

Brauerei Roppelt
I caught the next train to Forchheim, a slow stopping one unfortunately, but it still connected well with the hourly bus to Stiebarlimbach. My plan was to walk to the top of the Kreuzberg, whilst it was still relatively cool, have a few beers at the various Kellers and then make my way back down to Roppelt’s Keller, where I would be in a good position to catch the bus back to Forchheim.  Whilst on the bus I received a text from EN, enquiring of my whereabouts. When I informed him of my destination we arranged to meet up at Roppelt’s.

The bus ride up to Stiebarlimbach brought back memories of a similar journey undertaken almost two years previously. It was a similarly hot day, and the bus had several passengers who alighted at the village centre stop, right opposite the Roppelt Brewery; no doubt bound, as I was, for the Keller. This time I checked the bus departure times carefully, as I didn’t want a repeat of my previous experience. That done, I walked through the brewery yard, before turning left towards the woods. It was already very hot and sticky, and although it was only a short walk, I was glad of the shade and a stoneware mug of nice cool Kellerbier when I arrived at Roppelt’s.

Brauerei Rittmayer - Aisch
It wasn’t long before EN arrived. I offered him a bier, but he declined, explaining he had arrived by car, and would therefore not be drinking much. He then explained his proposal to drive the two of us around a few Kellers in the area, as there were a couple he wanted to check out, and he thought I would also like to visit some which were well off the beaten track. Too right; I jumped at the chance, so after I had finished my beer, we set off in his car in order to sample a few of Franconia’s finest breweries and Kellers. Driving through the unspoilt countryside of the Steigerwald, in search of good local beer, with some vintage Yes playing on the car stereo, made me think “life doesn’t get much better than this,” and when we arrived at our first port of call I was right.

This first stop was the tiny village of Adelsdorf-Aisch; set on a hill overlooking the River Aisch, and its surrounding meadows. On the edge of the village, and overlooking the flatlands is the Brauerei & Gasthaus Rittmayer Aisch. EN informed me that there are three breweries in the region, all sharing the Rittmayer name, but the one in Aisch is the smallest. Just up from the pub and the brewery was the village church, making up that classic combination of pub and church which is so common in English villages as well.

The pub has its own small, shady beer garden, just across the road and it was this we made for. A small hut in the corner is often used to serve beer straight from the cask, but EN said that as the day was so hot, the management would not wish to leave the beer there for any length of time. It didn’t matter, as our arrival had been noted and the Kellnerin was soon over at our table taking our order. We both went for the Hausbrauer-Bier and to eat the obvious choice was the local white asparagus, known in German as Spargel. This was my first experience of Spargel, and wrapped in slices of ham and served with boiled potatoes, it was delicious. The beer was good too, and sitting there under the shade of the chestnut tree, against the backdrop of the pub, brewery and the splendid view was really as good as things can get, so in some ways it was a shame we had to move on.
Spargel with potatoes and ham

It was a bit of a drive to the next pub and brewery; a drive which took us around a stately home. Later, when I looked at a map, I saw that we had travelled a fair distance north and were almost parallel with Bamberg, although quite a way over to the west. The village in question was Mönchsambach; a much larger settlement than Aisch, and with a substantial brewery in the form of Brauerei Zehendner. We drove into the brewery courtyard and parked the car. The place seemed very much asleep; hardly surprising given the thermometer had now reached 30˚. EN thought it would be a case of self-service, so we entered the large pub on the opposite side of the courtyard to the brewery and ordered some beer. A half litre for me and a Schnitt for EN.

Brauerei Zehender -  Mönchsambach
What is a Schnitt? “Literally translated this is German for a “cut.” Rather than tipping your glass and getting a proper fill, the barman just opens the tap for a burst and lets it hit bottom. There is a varying amount of head produced and whatever fits in the glass is what you get. Whatever the amount, you get a standard reduced-priced beer, something perhaps 20-40% off the usual price of your beer. A Schnitt is often your last beer as you are heading home or if you are waiting for friends to finish their full beers and you just don’t want them to be lonely. You are not supposed to order a Schnitt as your first or only beer, but it makes for a nice closer.” With thanks to Kevin Revolinski and his Pilsgrimage website, for this explanation.

View from Schmausenkeller
The most popular beer at Zehendner is the Lagerbier, but EN reckoned that the Export was better. He managed to get us a sample of the latter. We at outside in the shade, but it was at this point that my phone decided to die on me, so I was unable to take any photos; either here or at our next port of call – Herrmann-Keller, in a glorious country setting, on the edge of a hill, overlooking some really attractive rolling countryside. With a gentle breeze blowing and a mug of nice cool Herrmann Kellerbier, brewed in the nearby village of Ampferbach, this too was an idyllic place at which to spend an afternoon. Right next to Hermann-Keller was Max-Keller, which sold beer from Max-Bräu, who also brew in Ampferbach. However, it was closed at the time of our visit.

The final stop on our tour was the Schmausenkeller, which sells beer from Brauerei Müller who brew in the nearby village of Reundorf. Like the previous Keller, Schmausenkeller is set in glorious countryside, with wide-ranging views. However, it is a much larger, operation, with the serving area, by the side of the road (we could see an old Keller, built for beer storage set into the side of the hill) leading up to a substantial three-story building, which houses bars and a restaurant, and which allows for all-weather service. However, given the fine, warm weather, like us, virtually all the Keller’s patrons were sat outside, enjoying the beer and the views.

Enjoying a nice cool mug of Kellerbier
As I mentioned above, Schmausenkeller was our last stop, and it was time for EN to get back to his wife and hound. We had gradually worked our way back south, so EN told me he would drop me at Hirschaid, where I would be able to catch a train back to Nuremberg. On the drive back, we came across an abandoned railway line; it seems that Britain wasn’t the only country to suffer a pruning of its rail network.

EN dropped me in Hirschaid right outside the Brauerei Kraus Gasthof, where he said I would get a decent meal, plus some good beer. I thanked him profusely before he drove off, for providing me with such an enjoyable tour of the Steigerwald and for such an excellent day out. During the time we spent together, we had conversed practically all the time in German which, for me, was a great opportunity to practise.
Brauerei Kraus - Hirschaid

EN was right about Brauerei Kraus. There was a beer garden at the rear of the brewery-pub complex, with a self-service area which reminded me of beer gardens in southern Bavaria, and Munich in particular. I chose a substantial looking Schnitzel, which was cooked whilst I waited, plus a half litre mug of Kraus Kellerbier to wash it down.

Beer garden at Brauerei Kraus

I found a free table at the side of the garden and sat down to enjoy my meal and indulge in a spot of people watching. It was early on Saturday evening; the place was busy, and I guessed that some of the customers had been there for some time (one was leaning back on his chair, fast asleep!). There were plenty of families there too, enjoying the pleasant warm evening. I got stuck into my food, whilst enjoying the cool, hoppy beer. I was tempted to have another, but after I found that I too was starting to drift off, decided against the idea.
Schnitzel, chips plus Kellerbier

I wandered along to the station and caught the next train back to Nuremberg. I got a seat without any problem, but the train started to fill up as we headed towards our destination. I didn’t really notice this until we reached Fürth, as this time I really did nod off!

Footnote: a big thank-you to fellow beer blogger, Tandleman for putting me in touch with Erlangernick


Martin, Cambridge said...

I really enjoy the detail Paul, you're an excellent advert for tourism in Northern Bavaria ! Those mugs of beer look very enticing.

As you say, train travel is a bargain in Bavaria (even more so than in the Ruhr, where I've just been). Good luck with the language !

Tandleman said...

Sounds like a good day Paul. Glad you enjoyed meeting Nick.

Paul Bailey said...

I am pleased you enjoyed the write-up Martin. It was certainly a most enjoyable tour of a lovely part of Northern Bavaria.

You mention the Ruhr area. I’m not sure if this includes the Rhineland, but in 2017, the organiser of the Czech trip I went on recently, is planning a visit to Dusseldorf. This is a city I have never been to, despite having visited nearby Cologne on several occasions. It is home to the Alt style of beer, of course, so it will be good to drink this beer on its home turf. I was wondering though, if there are any pubs, breweries or places in the Ruhr Valley which you can recommend.

Peter, Erlangernick looked after me extremely well; as I’m sure you knew he would. Thanks again for putting me in touch with him.

Martin, Cambridge said...

Paul - the Ruhr is my shorthand for the (post) industrial large cities of North Rhine-Westphalia state, of which Dusseldorf is capital.

Dusseldorf was the highlight of my brief trip, having an attractive old town missing in the mining based cities, a vibrant easy going night time scene, and some wonderful pubs.

The unmissable gem is Uerige, which I'd read about previously. The Alt would be up with Schenkerla as my favourite beer. My son (unfortunately 16) was astonished to see hundreds of drinkers standing in the streets, all drinking Alt from wooden barrels, at about £1.40 a glass. The food we had there was also memorable.

You'll have a great time.

Paul Bailey said...

Thanks Martin. I shall look forward to my visit; even if it is nearly two years away!

BowlerCat said...

Bavaria is an excellent place for beer lovers. Lots of good pubs with affordable beer, and excellent food.

Erlangernick said...

Sorry for the delayed reply-been travelling around Oregon this last week. It was a fun day tooling around with you. And your Deutsch is great, esp. considering you don't live there! Pretty impressive of you to keep at it almost the entire time we were together.

Glad you had such a great trip, we'll have to repeat it in Kent someday.

Paul Bailey said...

Look forward to you visiting Kent, Erlangernick.