Hiking and beer go together swimmingly no matter where you are if you ask me. If you happen to be in the Munich area, the options are, as a practical matter, nearly infinite. So when I visited Munich for Oktoberfest this Fall (you can read my story about that here) I decided that a couple of breaks from the festival would do me good and I cast about for some ideas. My main criteria was that there should be an interesting brewery along the route and that the route should be reachable by public transit.
One hike idea came from a Facebook group I am involved with called Lovers of Beer, Hiking, and Travel. One of the other members suggested a hike to the Andechs Monastery southwest of the city. The second hike idea came from scanning a map of breweries in the area overlaid on a public transit map. Where I found matches, I then searched for hiking routes in those areas — the town of Freising northeast of the city and the Weihenstephan Brewery there became an attractive option. There were several more that looked interesting too — I’ve bookmarked those for the future.
The hike in Freising is a loop that begins and ends at the train station. The S1 S-Bahn line ends here. The S-Bahn sytem in Munich is kind of a cross between rapid transit and commuter rail. There are multiple interlocking rapid transit systems in Munich (subway, streetcars, buses, and the S-Bahn). The S-Bahn routes are underground in much of the urban core, just like the subway, but they extend well out into the countryside in every direction.
Freising, a town of about 45,000 people started as an important religious center in the early middle ages. Freising is the southern anchor of the Deutsche Hopfenstraße (the German Hops Road), a 50 kilometer stretch through Germany’s Hallertau hops growing region up to Abensberg.
My GPS made the distance of the hiking loop out at about 11 km (a bit over six miles) with some hilly terrain but no major ups and downs. The first part of the hike is on a forested pathway along the Isar River. The route also passes through pretty sections of the town before heading through fields and forested areas outside of town.
After about 6 km on the loop, I came to the Plantage! Biergarten & Gaststatte, a pleasant forest venue for refreshment. The 1200 seat biergarten is nestled beneath a canopy of huge oak and beech trees. Plantage! has operated here for 140 years and serves the beers of the Weihenstephan Brewery just down the path.
As the route proceeds back into town you pass through the campus of Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences, an institution specializing in green engineering and technologies. Along the route are some beautiful public gardens that can be strolled through. One of them is Sichtungsgarten Weihenstephan, a large horticultural garden maintained by the University. Eventually you reach the grounds of the Weihenstephan Brewery which sits on top of a hill overlooking the town and the Isar valley. The end of the route drops through a pretty forested hillside back to the town and starting point.
You eventually reach a spot where you see stacks of kegs peaking through the forest. That can only mean one thing …
The Benedictine Weihenstephan Abbey was founded in 725 and established its brewery around 1030. The Weihenstephan Brewey is billed as the oldest continually operating brewery in the world — it will celebrate its one thousandth birthday in 2030. The brewery is now called the “Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan” and is owned by the German State of Bavaria. Being owned by the State, the brewery is connected to the Technical University of Munich’s graduate program in brewing.
There are great views from the top of the hill where the brewery is situated. A forested path plunges off the hill back into the town.
A trip to the end of the S8 line southwest of the city lands you in Herrsching, a town on one of the large lakes in the area called the Ammersee. This is another great day trip for a bit of exercise and some excellent beer. The destination is the holy mountain of Andechs and the Andechs Monastery. Herrsching is a small town of less than ten thousand and it was easy to find the route to Andechs. Several different loops are possible between Herrsching and Andechs — the one we ended up on measured out on my GPS at about 10 km (6 miles) and included a visit over to the lakefront promenade for a beer before the train ride back to the city. There are some stiff little hills along the way, but nothing too tough. There were a handful of other people getting off of the train who had the same destination in mind and we quickly spread out along the route.
I had hiking companions on this day — Marisa and Michael were two contacts I made through the Oktoberfest Couchsurfing group who joined me to find our way through the woods and share the hike. Marisa is a social worker from New York and Micheal is a human resources professional from Munich.
The monastery is a Benedictine Abbey that features a beautiful Baroque church. For a small fee you can climb the steps of the tower for a great view.
Klosterbrauerei Andechs is run by the monks of Andechs Abbey and is no small operation. They brew more than 85,000 BBL annually for sale on site, throughout the region, and for export. Andechs is the only monastic brewery in Germany that brews Bock beer year-round for nationwide distribution. Andechs is a place of pilgrammage so has a long history of hospitality. The beer garden and restaurant have well more than 1000 seats and are busy places.
This is excellent beer … maybe the best I experienced during this trip to Munich. The food (Schweinshaxen with a kind of coleslaw) is something to write home about as well.
The loop back to Herrsching passes through forests and fields.
Interestingly, part of this hike is on a route of St. James Way so you see the same sideways scallop shell trail marker that you see on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. The German name for the extensions of St. James Way up into Germany is Jakob’s Weg. Andechs is an important waypoint on the pilgrimage route.
Today, the Munich Way of St. James (290 km; Munich to Bregenz) consists of eleven stages meant to take a day each. It leads through beautiful and diverse landscapes and passes stations, churches and monasteries that have been visited by pilgrims since ancient times.