If you are a beer lover and a hiker, there is no place in the world better suited to satisfy both activities than a region casually referred to as Franconian Switzerland, a picturesque hilly region tucked between Bamberg, Bayreuth and Nuremberg, Germany. The entire region of Franconia has the highest density of breweries in the world.
I have already introduced the wonders of this region in two other blog posts. No visit to this Franconian Switzerland would be complete without a stop in the region’s unofficial beer capital, Bamberg. The high density of breweries is also conducive to some pretty incredible biking opportunities such as discussed in my Brauereien Weg post.
Before planning any visit, it is highly recommended to download the Brauns Brauerei Atlas app on your smartphone. This is an amazing resource of all of the breweries, not only in Franconia but also in the rest of Germany.
One particular hike is already well-established and popular with tourists called the Fünf Seidla Steig. This hike visits five breweries from Wießenöhe to Thuisbrunn. At each brewery it is possible to stamp a mini passport of sorts and at any of the breweries, a special commemorative mug can be purchased for 7 euros. It is not required to complete the hike to purchase the mug, but I trust no self-respecting beer-loving hiker would buy one otherwise.
There is no set starting point but the most logical would be either Thuisbrunn or Weißenohe. Hikers coming up from Nuremberg by train will want to start at Weißenohe.
- Starting Point: Weißenohe train station
- Ending Point: Weißenohe train station
- Distance: 18.5 km
- Eating/Drinking Point: Numerous
In order of appearance on this hike:
- Kloster Brauerei Weissenohe
- Brauerei Friedmann
- Brauerei Hofmann Hohenschwärz
- Thuisbrunner Elch-Bräu
- Lindenbräu Gräfenberg
Kloster Brauerei Weissenohe
The hike barely gets started as just a couple hundred meters from the Weißenohe train station is perhaps the most historic brewery of the hike.
With brewing operations occurring since around 1050, Kloster Brauerei Weissenohe claims to be the oldest in Franconia. The current operation has existed since 2000 which followed a 57-year break as a result of World War II. The church today is simply a parish church for the community, but prior to the French Revolution, it belonged to the Benedictines.
There is a lush biergarten with lots of shady cover. Beer is self-service but meals can also be ordered at the tables. There is also a Wirtshaus restaurant (which closed at 8:30pm on a Friday…so be warned to check the opening hours).
After Weißenohe, it is already the steepest part of the hike, but soon the hike becomes one Van Goghian painting after another. Fields after rolling fields of wheat, rye, barley, and fruit trees sprinkled with red poppies and purple wildflowers.
In the town of Gräfenberg are two of the five breweries, Lindenbräu and Brauerei Friedmann. Lindenbräu was saved for the back end of the hike. Brauerei Friedmann has two biergartens. One is Friedmann’s Bräustübl on Bayreuthstraße near the city gate and the other is the Biergarten zum Bergschlösschen up behind the brewery. The latter is normally only open at 4pm so the second beer would come along with lunch at the Bräustübl. Friedmann brews four regular beers: Pils, Hefeweizen, and two landbiers Ritter Wirnt Trunk (dunkel) and Fränkisches Landbier (helles) and two seasonal: Sigi’s Lager (April to October) and Festbier (December to January).
Brauerei Hofmann Hohenschwärz
After a series of gorgeous fields and forest walks on the way from Gräfenberg, Brauerei Hofmann (family run since 1897) appears almost out of nowhere like a brewery version of Field of Dreams. It has a spacious terrace sitting just a few meters away from the fields, serves hearty German food, and has two beer types, a Helles and a Munich Dunkel. Both were greedily consumed.
The village of Thuisbrunn is perhaps the most picturesque on the route. A cozy castle ruin tops a small hill overlooking the brewery. The castle was destroyed in the mid-16th century and only later on had an addition built next to it which today is used as a forestry office.
Elch-Bräu is nestled into a hillside where the multi-leveled biergarten divides the brewery and gasthaus. Elch-Bräu got its start back in 1792 and today brews the main German styles, pils, dunkel, hefeweizen, and kellerbier but they also dabble in something which I see more and more happening with breweries… whiskey.
Back in Gräfenberg is the last of the breweries on the hike. Lindenbräu brews five regular beers (Pils, Bock, Leicht, Hefeweizen, and Vollbier) and a sixth seasonal festbier.
After Lindenbräu, it should be possible now to visit the upper biergarten of Brauerei Friedmann for the hike’s best biergarten view.
Arriving back at Weißenohe gave an opportunity to admire the completed passport and have one final beer in the souvenir mug. This was easily one of the most enjoyable hikes I have ever done. Of course, it is not a hike with the spectacular views of Switzerland, for example. It is not that kind of hike. But there are no deadspots on this hike. It continually roams from brewery to brewery thru beautiful landscapes. It is an easy hike with a couple steep spots but otherwise mostly flat or with mild traverses over rolling hills. Everywhere you look is green and lush especially in late June. The beer is mild enough not to bog your legs and head down and by the end you are hardly aware that you’ve probably consumed 2-3 liters during the hike. Easily for me a top recommendation for a beer hike, and I suspect that Franconia offers many many more lesser known opportunities which I look forward to exploring in the future.