While researching a story for a larger article about hiking and drinking for Thrillist, I journeyed down to northern Bavaria to explore the region’s countryside and hidden brewing getaways.
Bamberg – ‘the city of beer’ - sits on the border of Northern Bavaria in the Upper Franconia region. Its old city is a Unesco World Heritage Site, but the thing that defines this region of Germany is the particular brand of smoked-beer that are made amidst the many micro-breweries littered around the countryside. The best way to make the most of this – and to see as much of the landscape as possible, is to embark on the Thirteen Brewery Hike. A 32km trek through amazing countryside and villages, taking in a whole set of amazing pubs.
Although it starts in Memmelsdorf, I stayed in Geisfeld – a town just outside of Bamberg. Put up at Pension Luisenhof (highly recommended), the owner drove me to the starting point at the Brauerei Drei Kronen. The starting brewery offers up an excellent tour of their brewing history, detailing what makes the smokey beer so special.
From here curl your way around to the Brauerei Wagner where you can grab lunch - Schweinshaxe, aka. roasted pork knuckle. As you weave your way between one brewery to the next you can grab yourself a small taster of each pub’s different take on the smoked beer tradition. After a few beers though, you might find yourself traipsing off a little. The rauchbier is pungent, like a smoked herring, while being rich and poignant. And heavy. Not all 13 breweries are open as well, so don’t fret about hiking on a full stomach.
It’s an ambitious route to do in one day, but doable. Alas I failed to make it to the last pub due to the sun-setting. I finished up at the family run, open-bar Griess Keller after hiking and drinking for seven hours. It’s a great way to get to know beer, without being stuck in one place at one time. The locals here are also very passionate, which makes for a great learning experience.