If there is one thing that you need to know about Upper Franconia, it is not where it is or what language they speak. What you need to know is this…
Upper Franconia has the highest density of breweries in the world.
Now that you know that, the second most important thing you need to know is where it is.
Upper Franconia is a region in the north of Bavaria, Germany. It is about as big as Delaware and Rhode Island combined and has a population of around 1,100,000 people.
Nevermind that…. it is estimated that there are over 250 different breweries in this region. If you don’t believe me, have a look at this brewery map.
That triangle of markers north of Nuremberg is the heart of what is called Franconian Switzerland which is where the majority of these breweries exist. Bamberg, perhaps the region’s most famous beer city is in the middle of that triangular mess. Most of these breweries are still privately-owned family businesses, and quite of few of those are also guesthouses and hotels.
A great website to plan a visit by car is the Fränkische Bierstraße website. There is also a nice booklet available but probably you will only find this if you are in Bavaria already. There is a nice pdf with a list and map of many breweries in and around Bamberg HERE.
But for me, the best way to experience this region is by bike, and there is no better place to call home than Bamberg. And of course we must also stay in a brewery. Brauerei Fässla.
The route that we took was a variation of the 13 Brewery Trail or 13 Brauereien Weg. There are signs along the route marking the way.
- Starting Point: Brauerei Fässla, Bamberg
- Ending Point: Brauerei Fässla, Bamberg
- Distance: 43.8 km
- Moving Time: 3 hrs 7 mins
- Eating/Drinking Place: Many
The weather for the ride was perfect. 24 deg C and clear, blue Franconian skies. When we reached our first stop in Memmelsdorf, we had hardly even broken a sweat.
Unfortunately while we were frolicking around Bamberg the day before, Memmelsdorf was celebrating its beer culture with a city festival, Bierkulturfest. This seems to be an annual event held around the first weekend in May. Which means there is an opportunity to experience an even more ultimate beer & bike ride in this area. But since the festival was over, we settled for our first delicious beer of the day at Brauerei Höhn. At these small breweries, the beers are almost always a fresh, amber, unfiltered kellerbier. The kellerbier is probably my most favorite style of German beer.
The beer gave us an extra lift on our already giddy moods, but this was soon dampened when leaving Memmelsdorf, we discovered why they call this Franconian Switzerland. The hill was relentless and whatever euphoric beer buzz we had experienced moments before was burnt off like a slap in the face. However, the reward at the top was a plateau of gorgeous farmlands.
Our next stop was in Schammelsdorf at Brauerei Knoblach for beer #2 and a hearty lunch.
After Schammelsdorf, we hit a string of bad luck with closed breweries. We were either way too early or mysteriously the breweries were closed.
- Brauerei Gaststätte Heinrich Hölzhein in Lizendorf. They open at 15:00 in the afternoon and we were about 2 hours too early.
- Brauerei-Gasthof Winkler in Melkendorf – website says they open at 10:00 on Sundays but for some reason not this Sunday.
- Brauerei-Gasthof Hartmann in Würgau – website says that the restaurant is open Sundays from 08:00 but we didn’t see anywhere open to have a drink.
- Brauerei Krug in Geisfeld – website says they open at 16:00 so we were there probably a couple hours early.
But we were compensated with some very nice springtime scenery
Finally in Geisfeld, our luck was restored and we enjoyed a long overdue Beer #3. I must say that the Greiss kellerbier in the ceramic mug was magnificent.
It was here that we learned that some of these breweries have separate biergartens which are not located at the brewery. We enjoyed our kellerbier in the small biergarten of the brewery, but the larger biergarten was about 300m down a small road behind the brewery.
Beer #4 was in a wooded biergarten in Rossdorf. The brewery and gasthof is located in the village center.
Thank goodness after that, a nice long flat straight stretch….
The final stop on the tour was not a brewery but a biergarten. Beer #5 would be a Rittmayer kellerbier.
So our version of the 13 Brewery Trail turned into 4 open breweries, 4 closed breweries, and 1 biergarten. Not very efficient but, of course, had we been more successful, we might not have made it back to Bamberg. This is definitely a route that must be experienced in different variations to experience all of the breweries. The riding itself is not that difficult. Most of the uphill sections (except that grueling one just after Memmelsdorf) are gradual and can be done rather easily in a low gear. The scenery itself is the typical beauty you will find anywhere there are farms and rolling hills. But nevertheless, everytime you experience such beauty, it always feels special and perfect in that moment. This area must be revisited several times just to be able to scratch the surface of the Dionysian and Untappd potential. I am sure that this will become a regular pilgrimage to continue to seek out these delicious kellerbiers and help keep a unique region and tradition alive for the beer lovers of the world.