The region of Franconia in northern Bavaria surrounding the historic city of Bamberg has likely the greatest selection of beer cellar hikes found anywhere in the world. I can’t imagine a better base for pursuit of the fine pastime of beer hiking. For me, a great beer hike entails easy access by public transportation, numerous opportunities for refreshment with a variety of different beers, and scenic walking routes and countryside. By those criteria, a hike between Stiebarlimbach and Eggolsheim, just to the south of Bamberg provides a great way to spend an afternoon.
A note of clarification about the term “bier keller”: in this part of Germany, what many people would call a beer garden is commonly referred to as a “bier keller”. As I understand it, this comes from the history of breweries often establishing beer gardens on top of their lagering cellars where beer would be fermented and conditioned. Trees with shallow roots were often planted on top of the cellars and created extremely pleasing, shaded spaces that made for great places to serve their beers. Traditional beer gardens/beer kellers typically feature communal seating, cafeteria style beer and food service (usually simple traditional foods), and allow for bringing your own food if you choose. An actual cellar, or “keller” may or may not be obvious and you would never typically be invited into one if it were — it is a storage place which may or may not be still in use.
Eggolsheim is on the main train route from Bamberg south to Erlangen and Nurnberg — maybe a fifteen minute trip. I made the trip on a weekday and Eggolsheim seemed all but abandoned when I arrived. I had timed the trip to be able to catch a bus for the short ride west to the village of Stiebarlimbach.
The bus – really a mini-van was waiting at the station when I arrived and I was the only passenger. The service is limited on weekdays so schedule coordination was essential. As I understand it there is better service on weekends — the way to find out about this is at the website of Verkehrsverbund Greater Nuremberg (VGN), Look for the route called the Hallerndorfer-Keller-Express (Bus265). This route is not strictly in support of the hike I am describing, but it does provide the way to get to Stiebarlimbach as well as give you a range of possibilities for variations. Another possibility is to link up with a friend of mine, Rich Carbonara, who goes by the moniker “The Beer Wanderer” and who provides a paid guide service to make the most of a variety of beer hikes in the region.
Being the only passenger on the mini-bus I had a nice conversation with the driver before being dropped off at the stop in the center of Stiebarlimbach. The largest business that was obvious there is the Roppeldt Brewery which is housed in a compound of farm buildings. From there, it is a short walk down a country lane to Roppeldt’s Keller in an area of forest at the base of the Kreuzberg. The Kreuzberg is a small mountain with an historic pilgrimage chapel, a brewery, and three bier kellers located on top. Before ascending up the forest trail, I was all-to-happy to break for a keller bier at Roppeldt’s. The setting is a classic forest beer garden with communal tables, and cafeteria style food and beer service. The day I chose was a hot one and I can’t imagine a better tasting half liter.
Reaching the top of the Kreuzberg, an old chapel comes into view together with a big view of the countryside on the other side of the hill. Three bier kellers, Kreuzbergkeller Lieberth, Kreuzbergkeller Rittmayer, and Friedels Keller are nestled together in the forest beneath the chapel. Friedels Keller is also home to Brauhaus am Kreuzberg a family brewery and distillery. There is ample refreshment to be found on the mountaintop so the trick here is not to overdo it as the bulk of the hike back to Eggolsheim is yet to come.
A walk down slope to the east briefly follows the route of Jacobsweg, the connecting route in Germany to the famous Camino Santiago. The ancient pilgrimage route has many more extensions than the famous segment across the north of Spain and I always find it great fun to come across these. The route passes through forest and fields before coming to the village of Hallerndorf, home of the Lieberth and Rittmayer breweries. Both of these breweries have bier kellers in the village. Gartenkeller Rittmayer is on a hillside above the village and possesses an expansive view across the Aisch Valley to the south. A small crowd was scattered throughout tables beneath the shade trees. An unusual feature is a concrete bowling alley with a long ball return lamp – old school bowling. This was a pleasant place to enjoy an excellent beer. The Lieberth Dorfkeller was not open when I passed through, so I missed that one. As a general note, it will always be useful to try to figure out the operating hours of bier kellers in the countryside as these can seem a bit erratic to the casual visitor.
Continuing east along the route of the River Aisch toward Eggolsheim, the next villages encountered are Trailsdorf and Schlammersdorf where there is a small brewery called Witzgall. They have some outdoor seating, but not really a beer garden. Witzgall serves up an excellent keller bier. From there, it was time to do some power walking back to the train station at Eggolsheim as there was a particular train I wanted to catch (and I had probably enjoyed plenty of beers for one hike). I think the trains were stopping there once per hour. There is a brewery and beer keller in the village of Eggolsheim called Schwarzes Kreuz, but I had to save that one for another visit.
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Photo credit: M. Bullman