All posts by Kevin Holsapple

The author of Prime Passages is Kevin Holsapple. Currently living in northern New Mexico, Kevin has traveled extensively over the years and aspires to do alot more of that in the coming years. Now semi-retired, Kevin's working life included management of a destination tourism activity, community development work, advising and training small businesses, operating recreational tours, and even operating a beer hall.

Munich Bier Obskura

locations relating to exploring obscure beers of Munich
locations relating to exploring obscure beers of Munich – click on image for interactive Google map

Munich Bier Obskura is the story of my explorations searching out obscure beers of Munich.  There are a bunch.  These certainly are not obscure beers and places for the people who know them well and love them, but I think they are not well known to the typical beer tourist visiting Munich.

For visitors to Munich, the beers of the “big six” Munich breweries are hard to miss — and I have no particular interest in missing any of them.  The big six of PaulanerHacker-Pschorr (largely Heineken owned), LowenbrauSpaten (AB InBev owned), Augustiner (privately-owned), and Hofbrau (Bavarian State-owned) are everywhere in beer halls, pubs, restaurants, and beer gardens.  Typically, establishments feature a single one of these brands sometimes supplemented by a predominantly wheat beer brand like Franziskaner (a Spaten brand).  A few other regional breweries like Ayinger, Andechser, and Schneider Weisse have a smaller but strong presence in the city that makes it hard to classify them as obscure.  The big breweries exercise a lot of control over what is offerered in biergartens – I am not sure if this is through regulatory means, ownership of the properties, or some other means.  However, it seemed to me that there must be spin-offs in Munich from the big breweries and entrepreneurial types out there wanting to do their own thing and I set out to find some as I walked about the city.

The Least Obscure of the Obscure

Giesinger Brau is the least obscure of the breweries mentioned here but I include it because I don’t think it is that well known to the average beer lover outside of Munich.   This brewery impresses me as a real juggernaut – they started as a garage shop in 2008 producing about 170 Bbl/year and expanded into an industrial facility with a taproom/pub in Giesing producing 4200 bbl/year by 2013.  In 2019 they opened WERK2, a production brewery in the north of Munich that increased their capacity by another 17,000 bbl/year.  Giesinger has employed crowdfunding to raise a significant portion of their expansion financing and I read that they now have thousands of investors as a result.  They are the second-largest private brewery in Munich after Augustiner (1.35 million bbl) to give a sense of scale compared to the big local breweries.

The Giesinger journey seems to be leading toward cracking the ranks of the big six, not in terms of size, but in terms of their product being considered as “Münchner Bier” that qualifies to be present at Munich festivals including Oktoberfest.  My impression is that the association of the big six brewers controls the criteria defining “Munich Beer” in a way that places steep barriers in front of any brewery that aspires to “join the club”.  The criteria used are things like location, water source, alcohol content, and IBU and reportedly, Giesinger is the first new brewery in more than 300 years to have met them.

Will you ever be able to buy a Giesinger Münchner Hell at Oktoberfest or a beer garden?  Who knows?  However, you can enjoy their beers at their taproom/pub in Giesing, at their Stehausschank taproom in the old city center near the Viktualienmarkt, and at an increasing number of pubs and restaurants around the city.  With the new production facility concentrated on higher volume traditional beers, my understanding is that the smaller brewery in Giesing is where they now produce artisanal beers – some traditional, some from other cultures.  Tours are operated at WERK2 as Covid restrictions allow.

Smaller Breweries and Brew Pubs

Smaller breweries and brewpubs operate under the radar and I didn’t find any recommendable guide.  The best sources of information I found were visits to beer shops in Munich that cater to beer geeks.  Biervana in the Schwabing district is a small shop packed with shelves of interesting beers from all over the world.  There is no particular specialty there in Munich beers — I think they see their place as a craft beer bottle shop.  This is not a place to drink beer but rather is a place to learn about beers and to carry some away.  The shopkeeper, Matthias was very knowledgeable and helped me to build a list of obscure Munich breweries and where I might find their beers on tap.

Die Bierothek is a shop with a similar focus in the Gärtnerplatz district.  I was able to review the list I gathered at Biervana, further develop my intel, and add additional places to check out.  Die Bierothek is operated by the Munich Brew Mafia, a small Munich brewer, so is a good place to buy MBM beers.  Die Bierothek has franchised shops in many of Germany’s larger cities.  They organize and offer tastings and other events, including an annual Craft Bier Fest Munich (suspended during Covid crisis).  The owner, Dario told me that they have been doing virtual events and there is some hope of putting a live event together in summer 2022.

Munich Brew Mafia brews an eclectic range including a whole bunch of IPA variations (a QIPA is a new one on me – Q for Quad) as well as their own take on more traditional styles.  Smaller batch brewing takes place west of Munich in Holzhausen while their bigger volume beers get brewed east of Munich at a private brewery in Forsting.  At Holzhausen they use open fermentation vats and have their own dedicated conditioning tanks.  The approach of hiring or contracting with compatible brewing facilities – many refer to it as “gypsy brewing” – is not uncommon among the smaller Munich breweries.

Meisterstück is a combination bottle shop and beer bar in Haidhausen that has a smaller selection but is set up so you can drink beers and buy food from a simple menu that also features artisanal products.  They have a small selection of draft beers and a larger selection of bottled beers.  It was a pleasant place to enjoy lunch and sit out in the sun in their “schanigarten” enjoying a beer or two.  Schanigartens are everywhere in Munich now owing to covid.  The local government has allowed bars and restaurants to build small terraces on the public sidewalks in front of their businesses to provide more outdoor sales opportunities.

Small Munich Brewers in the Age of Covid

Dario told me that the COVID environment has introduced all kinds of challenges into the business of Munich’s small breweries.  Munich Brew Mafia’s business shifted drastically away from frequent craft beer festivals.  Dario and his partners took second jobs to pay the bills.  At the same time, MBM started brewing a wider variety in smaller batches.   They launched an online shop and built a home delivery capability.  They weren’t in many restaurants and bars (due to the significant lock held on that business by Big Six breweries) so they didn’t lose much due to closures.  Dario said they ended up selling more beer than ever during the lockdown.  Things got tougher last summer though when the lockdown ended and people went back to the beer gardens and left on their holidays.   Sales and production by small brewers is down since then.  “I think the hardest times are not over yet.  It’s complicated to understand the market now. Prices for paper, cans, bottles, logistics, raw materials are exploding. Craft festivals are not back, gastronomy is restricted and people are unsettled about the future” says Dario.

Brewsli sampler - image by S. Strecker
Brewsli sampler – image by S. Strecker

BrewsLi – Der Biermacher is a brew pub serving their own beers along with guest taps.  BrewsLi is walking distance from the Giesinger taproom/pub – the Kolumbusplatz subway station is between the two places.  They brew a mix of lagers and ales including a pale ale and an IPA.  I love their tagline  …  “Freshly Brewed and FU*KING Tasty”

HopDog is a taproom in the Dreimühlenviertel district within walking distance of multiple other Munich Bier Obskura venues.   This unassuming place specializes in making draft beers from Franconia available to drink in Munich, as well as featuring some local Munich beers amongst their twelve taps. A variety of gourmet hot dog offerings make up the food menu.

Among the masses, Franconian beer seems to be little known in Munich.  I’ve had a number of conversations where my mention of my hiking trips to explore the Franconian beerscape has drawn blank expressions from Muncheners.  The proprietor, Greg told me that he takes frequent multi-day swings north into Franconia where he collects up kegs from a variety of small breweries to feature at HopDog.

Greg proudly served me his West Coast IPA called Hopmonkey that he collaborated on with the Bamberg brewery Blech Brut    Greg, better known to some as Gregor Einar Fransson, is a Beer Sommelier and International Beer Judge who is a strong advocate for Franconian beer.   Another night, I stopped by for a new release event featuring a beer from Munich brewer Higgins Ale Works.  Greg calls this part of the city the “Beermuda Triangle” for the small brewers and interesting beer venues within walking distance.

Frisches Bier is a cozy taproom a few blocks away featuring Tilman’s Biere, as well as a variety of other obscure Munich beers on tap.  The place is owned and operated by Tilman’s.  The Tilman’s tagline – “Classic Beer Styles Reinterpreted” describes their approach well.  They brew both lagers and ales.  There are about fourteen beers on tap at Frisches Bier at any given time with the majority being guest taps.  It is not uncommon to find Tilman’s in craft beer venues as you travel around town if you keep an eye out for it.  Tilman’s also gets my nod as the most distinctively labeled beer in Munich — you can spot a Tilman’s from a long distance.

True Brew Brewing Co. is another cozy taproom located just around the corner from HopDog.  They feature an eclectic range of ales and lagers — many named after American styles like New England IPA, Double, and Triple IPA.  My beer was drawn from a big serving tank although I understand that the actual brewing is done at Brauhaus  Floß in the Oberpfalz.

Himburgs beers
popular Himburgs beers

Himburgs Braukunstkeller is a small brewery that as far as I observed only sells its beer in bottles through retail outlets.  I did not find a taproom or pub for draft beer if there is one.

BROY is a small brewery that seemed to be in transition when I was visiting.  Their concept of beer Tankstellen” (filling stations) in pubs in the Glockenbach and Schwabing districts caught my attention as something unique, but there was no trace of it when I visited and the place seemed to be undergoing remodeling.  A Helles, a wit, a pale ale, and a juicy lager was the range offered.

Paulaner Brauhaus Munich and Paulaner am Nockerberg are taverns under the umbrella of the Heineken-owned brewery that each have their own micro-brewery on-site.  They brew and offer a variety of artisanal “haus biers” that are only available in these taverns.  These are big, ritzy places with lots of old-school Bavarian character – very different from most of the other places mentioned in this story.  However, the haus beers appear to be small batch recipes not found elsewhere.   As I understand it, Paulaner is franchising this concept around the world much as Hofbrau has done in the USA and elsewhere.

Tap-House is a taproom with a long bar located in Haidhausen near the Ost-Bahnhof.  It is franchised by a brewery called Camba Bavaria in Waltenberg – east of Munich near the north shore of the Chiemsee.  Camba is an interesting story – a fairly new brewery and beer business that originated from a brewery equipment manufacturer.  Camba is seeking to franchise more Tap-House locations and there is already another one in Frankfurt.  Tap-House Munich offers forty taps and a big list of canned and bottled beers.  When I visited, 16 taps were Camba lagers and ales and the remainder was a mix of obscure Bavarian beers – no big six taps here.  Pub grub is served.

Schiller Braeu is a cozy brewpub that doubles as the lobby of a value hotel near the main train station.  The hotel is part of a small chain based near Landshut that features breweries as part of several of its properties.  The brew kit is on display in the pub and a range of traditional beers are on offer.  Their beer styles are typically four year-round beers on tap supplemented by seasonals.

Higgins Ale Works Woodland Wonders

 

 

Higgins Ale Works Woodland Wonders Elder Flower Saison release event at Hop Dog

Higgins Ale Works is a small brewery owned and operated by American ex-pats Paul and Jan Higgins.  It is located near the main train station and the Augustiner Garden.  Higgins specializes in American-style craft ales like pale ales, IPA’s, and cream ales.  I ran across their beers on tap at HopDog and Frisches Bier.

Wunderbraeu / Wolfscraft turned out to be obscure enough that I only encountered their beers in my neighborhood market.  They work in a niche that I’ll call “Bio-Beer.”  There is a significant interest in Germany (as in many places) for living sustainably, embracing the benefits of organic sustenance, and supporting local raw material sources.  Wunderbraeu uses the tagline, “Climate Protection in a Bottle”  to communicate their focus.  Wolfscraft is a brand produced by Wonderbraeu that is bio beer aimed at producing modern interpretations of classic styles.

Haderner Bräu is another bio-beer outfit that was the first certified organic brewery in Munich.  They emphasize procuring their ingredients close to home from organic producers.  They brew both traditional Bavarian styles as well as venture into the world of the IPA.  The small, family-owned & operated brewery is located near the Großhadern subway stop and can be visited for tour and tasting by appointment.

Forschungsbrauerei was founded in 1930 by Gottfried Jakob.  As the story goes, Jakob had a longtime brewing career behind him by then and had an interest in making better beers.  “Fórschung” translates to “research” and his idea for the brewery was to research ideas for novel beers and new methods for making beer.  The bräustüberl at the brewery was his “testing station.”  One of the conclusions from his research is said to be that good beer is in the eyes and tastebuds of the beholder.

“The finished product must be used by the consumer, i. H. be judged by the beer drinker; his judgment alone is authoritative. We only brew to give all fellow human beings a refreshment for physical and mental strengthening in beer.”

– Gottfried Jakob, May 27, 1938

Nowadays, their haus beers served at the Bräustüberl are made for them by the Unertl Brewery in Haag — east of Munich.

Recently, Hopfenhacker moved their brewing activity to the Forschung Brauerei property from their prior location in a backyard near Meisterstuck.  Hopfenhacker started as the work of two partner brewers – one German and one American.  Their idea was to bring together the experience of a German traditional brewer with that of an American craft brewer to see what would result.  The beer range includes a hand hopped lager, a Weisse, a Wit, an IPA, a “West Coast Ale”, a Marzen, a Pils, a Smoky Schwarzbier, a Barleywine, a New England IPA, and a non-alcoholic beer.  The distinctive Hopfenhacker labels rate a close second to Tilman’s.

Isar Bier seems to be tilted toward the bio-beer niche, but their marketing wasn’t as clear about that as the other breweries mentioned previously.  I didn’t find much information about them beyond their website.  Their distribution seems to be largely in Munich area natural food markets although I tried one of their beers in draft form at a restaurant.  Isar’s website mentions working with a notable bio-beer brewery in Riedenburg (north of Munich in the Altmühltal region) so maybe that is where they brew.  Their range is small with just a couple of different Helles options and a Radler.

Hopfmeister Braumanufaktur is a gypsy brewer utilizing the Schlossbrauerei Hohenthann to make its beers.  The range includes an unfiltered Helles, Weißbier, Pale Ale, English-style IPA, Chocolate Stout, and a non-alcoholic Helles.  Hopfmeister also brews a bunch of seasonals and specials.

Rammlerbrau has a pretty unique origin story.  It started with a volleyball team that was searching for a brewery to sponsor them but couldn’t talk any brewery into it.  So what was their solution?  Partnering with an experienced brewer, they started their own brewery and the Rammlerbrau logo (a rabbit head – presumably a male) is now on their volleyball jerseys.  Rammlerbrau is  brewed at Wildbrau in nearby Grafing.  Their range includes three beers – a Festbier, a Helles, and a Hefeweizen — all unfiltered.   As I plugged their tagline “Des bummst di richtig” into Google Translate a pretty randy interpretation started to come back, but I settled on “you’re banging it right” instead.  As I understand it, the idea of the slogan is good strong beers with no frills.

Isar Kindl is technically a Freising company I guess, but they seem to have a real focus on the Munich market and many beer tourists will get to Freising to visit Weihenstephan.  Isar Kindl’s pub, Sammamera is right at the foot of the hike up to Weihenstephan.  Sammamera is a pizza place that carries a variety of beers, both obscure and famous.  The Isar Kindl range features a Helles, Marzen, Weißbier, Radler and they offer a seasonal lager brewed with wild hops gathered locally.

Haus Freunde is another brewer that uses another brewery’s facilities – I think I read that they brew at Camba Bavaria in the Chiemgau.  Four friends, one a master brewer are the core of this enterprise.  Their range includes a pair of Helles, a German Pale Ale, an IPA, an Imperial Stout, and a Weizendoppelbock.  They have a number of seasonal and collaborative projects as well.

Isartaler Brauhaus now occupies the historic Großhesseloher train station which closed in 1970.  The building was renovated into a brewpub called Isarbrau in the late 1980’s until new ownership arrived in 2013.  Isartaler Brauhaus opened soon after.  The pub is an attractive place with a pleasant terrace located right at an S-bahn stop.  The flagship beer there is their “Stationsweizen” although they brew seasonals as well.

CREW Republic is arguably the least obscure of Munich’s craft brewers.  That may be related to their relationships over time with big beer companies.  They started as homebrewers in an apartment near the “Beermuda Triangle” and built enough of a following to attract investment and distribution help from AB InBev.  CREW built a brewery/taproom/terrace and relocated in 2015 to Unterschleißheim (a suburb on the S-Bahn line to Freising and the airport).  The relationship with AB Inbev has been recently replaced by a similar partnership with Bitburger Brewing Group, a huge, family-owned German beer business.

The CREW range consists of a variety of ales – many IPA’s, a Pale Ale, a Session Ale, an Imperial Stout, and a Barleywine.

The CREW tagline, “craft bier is not a crime” seems to be a commentary on the thought that the 1516 Reinheitsgebot regulating beer purity and ingredients is a barrier.  Some have argued that this law hampers the creativity of craft brewers in Germany by limiting the ingredients that can be used to malt, hops, water, and yeast.  This has been confusing to me, because I don’t perceive any lack of creativity on the part of German brewers.  They seem to brew whatever they want using whatever ingredients they want.  The only catch seems to be that if they use additional ingredients beyond what the Reinheitsgebot specifies, they can’t legally label it as beer.  However, it can be labeled and referred to by the name of the style without any issue – think IPA, Pale Ale, Porter, Stout, NEIPA, Tripel, etc.

I think that everyone realizes that these are varieties of beer without their being explicitly labeled as such.  I am not sure if the inability to label some craft brews as “beer” affects business issues like taxation, export, etc., but I see no particular effect on brewer creativity.  What does seem to limit the commercial viability of craft beer in Germany is consumer taste and preferences.  Culturally, beer has a place more like an inexpensive, enjoyable foodstuff commodity than as an expensive, geeky connoisseur experience.

Getränke OaseBaader 66 Wein & Sein, and Kiosk Reichenbachbrücke are additional places to look for carry-away obscure beers.  Finally Der verrückte Eismacher – im Wunderland is not a beer place, but it offers an obscure beery treat great for ending a day of beer exploration (and for ending this story).  This ice cream shop makes and sells beer-flavored ice creams (in addition to more typical flavors).  I have tried both the Augustiner and the Franzikaner blends and both have a nice, malty character about them.

For more stories about hikes and beers in Munich & Bavaria, CLICK THIS LINK

 

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Bad Staffelstein Brewery Hiking

Bad Staffelstein Brewery Hiking Routes
Bad Staffelstein Brewery Hiking Routes – click on map image to open interactive route map in AllTrails.

Bad Staffelstein location
Bad Staffelstein location

Bad Staffelstein Brewery Hiking offers multiple route possibilities through a beautiful landscape.  The small town of Bad Staffelstein (pop. 10,000) is located in the Obermain — or upper Main River Valley about 20 miles north of Bamberg.  It is on a train line connecting Bamberg to points north and there are frequent trains making the twenty-minute trip.

Bad Staffelstein, as the name implies, is a spa town.  The expansive Obermain Therme complex houses 25 saltwater pools of varying temperatures and mineral concentrations that are fed by a source 1600 meters under the surface.  It looks like a great place to enjoy the warm waters, but I came for the hiking and the cold beers.  Those two things would mix fine I think if I had planned on spending more time there.

Staffelstein
Staffelstein

This stretch of the Main River is situated in a broad valley between high ridges that parallel the river on both edges.   The hiking is generally scenic and pleasant as it passes through verdant fields and thick forest. Three visual landmarks are prominent from just about anywhere in the open spaces of the valley.  Kloster Banz, a former Benedictine monastery (now an educational center) dominates the view to the west.  The flat-topped mountain called Staffelberg (translates as “relay mountain”) and the soaring Basilica of the Vierzehnheiligen are prominent features of the ridgeline east of the valley.  The history of the place dates way back to Celtic times.

10 Brewery Bierkrug
10 Brewery Bierkrugs – image by Bad Staffelstein Tourismus

The Bad Staffelstein brewery hiking possibilities are certainly not lost on the local tourism agenda although I had to dig a little bit for information.  I ended up designing my own route to take best advantage of the time I had to spend, but the tourism organization features four marked-route suggestions in their literature and promotes a “10 breweries tour” connecting the routes. Completing the tour requires about thirty miles (50 km) of hiking between the ten breweries.  Doing so (and getting a “stempelpass” stamped by each brewery) entitles you to a personalized “beer diploma” and a special price for purchasing a “10 Brewery Bierkrug”.

Bierbrauerfest
Bierbrauerfest – image by Bad Staffelstein Tourismus

There is also an annual Bierbrauerfest (Beerbrewerfest) in the town center of Bad Staffelstein scheduled for August 15th (coinciding with the Catholic holiday of the Virgin Mary’s Ascension).  The ten local breweries serve up their beers, there are foods to match, music, and a beer king and queen are recognized.

You may click on any gallery image to see it in a larger format and to open a slideshow viewer that lets you scroll through larger versions of all images.

Bad Staffelstein Five Brewery Hike

Bad Staffelstein brewery hiking on a route featuring five breweries begins at the train station and proceeds northward through the village of Schonbrunn in the flat of the valley.  The route travels about eleven miles and climbs about 1200 feet from lowest to highest points.  The steeples of Kloster Banz (now called Banz Castle) rise from the forested ridge to the west.  Staffelberg is a burly mesa-like mountain that dominates the view southeast.  The soaring towers of  Basilica of the Fourteen Holy Helpers (Vierzehnheiligen) are impressive ahead to the northeast.

Vierzehnheiligen altar
Vierzehnheiligen altar – Wikimedia image

After passing through green fields and farming lands on the valley floor there is a stiff climb up to Vierzehnheiligen.  The Basilica was built in the mid-1700s as a shrine of sorts to patron saints thought to aid followers through a period of rampant bubonic plague and its afflictions.  Several traditional pilgrimage routes including a branch of Camino Santiago pass by here.  Pilgrimages to Vierzehnheiligen are common between May and October.

The Trunk Brewery is adjacent to the Basilica just up the slope.  It seems a fair guess that this was once a monastery brewery that has been privatized – it has been operated by the Trunk family since 1989.  Trunk brews a traditional range of beers branded as “Nothelfertrunk” which translates to “emergency drink”.   These beers have persisted during multiple ownerships of the brewery dating back to its founding in 1803.  The “emergency drink” name is a bow to the thirsts and needs for nourishment of the many pilgrims who stop along their way.   Hopefully, I won’t be in trouble for thinking of Nothelfertrunk as a fifteenth holy helper.  I can’t imagine visiting the Basilica without visiting the brewery, or vice versa.

From Trunk, the route traverses a forested ridge that occasionally opens up for big, panoramic views in multiple directions.  A variety of routes use the trails and there are many different route markers on display.  Eventually, the route descends into the small village of Uetzing.  The beer and lunch break here is at a place called Metzgerbrau .. butcher beer.  Outdoors, a local’s table was in raucous conversation.  I joined a line of others practicing proper social distancing, I made my way into the tiny shop and the meat and sausage counter where I ordered and received an interesting-sounding sausage plate and a house lager.  A small array of tables in front provided a place to rest sheltered from light rain.  The food and beer were delicious after the morning walk.  Metzgerbrau has the feel of an old-time hole-in-the-wall, but the brewery is fairly new by German standards having been added to the Metzgerei since 2000.

Proceeding east the route begins following a river called Lauter that forms a smaller valley leading back to Bad Staffelstein.  The nearby village of Stublang features two small breweries – Brauerei Dinkel and Landbrauerei Hennemann.  This is a pretty village with a small stream meandering through past a beautiful stone church.  The Stublanger Roggenbier, a seasonal rye beer offering caught my eye at Dinkel and Sepperla, a kellerbier appealed at Henneman.  The Dinkel pub is out on the highway near the turn into the village although their old brewery is along the stream in the village center.  Both of the breweries also offer overnight lodging.  The route map shows a possible detour to Hetzel brewery in nearby Frauendorf, but It was closed on my hiking day so I didn’t go over there.

I chose a farm path well south of the highway to hike over to Loffeld and my final brewery stop of the route at  Staffelberg Brau.   Loffeld is a photogenic village at the base of the Staffelberg and the brewery and gasthof complex seems to take over a street that leads from the center up a hill.  It’s a comfortable, spread-out array of shaded tables that was a great place to enjoy one of the brewery’s Dunkles before the late afternoon hike back into Bad Staffelstein.

There is a local bus service that passes near to all of the breweries on weekdays, but it is pretty limited.  You may find it useful though to shorten the hike at one end or the other of the day.  There is also good taxi service in the Bad Staffelstein area.

Although I started from Bad Staffelstein, it occurred to me that more ambitious beer hikers than I might consider starting or ending at the train station in Lichtenfels to include another pleasant brewery I visited called Braumanufaktur Lippert.  This is a modern, small brewery that makes a very enjoyable Räucherla.

Bad Staffelstein Three Brewery Hike

A second, less ambitious way to experience Bad Staffelstein Brewery Hiking is a route I am calling the three brewery hike.  From the train station, it traverses some lowlands before crossing the Main River near the village of Wiesen.  The loop covers about 6.5 miles and there is minimal grade to contend with.

Brauerei Gasthof Thomann and Brauerei Gasthof Hellmuth feature small, unassuming pubs and terraces in Wiesen – a sleepy feeling village perched above the river.  Brauerei Gasthof Reblitz in Nedensdorf bills itself as the “small brewery in Nedensdorf” and I’m pretty sure it is the only brewery there.  Reblitz was a great place to enjoy a dinner of their specialty Pfefferhaxe – a peppery, roasted pork knuckle.  All three of these places also offer bed and breakfast at reasonable rates.

For more stories about hikes and beers in Bavaria, CLICK THIS LINK.

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Isar Biergarten Hiking

Isar River Biergarten Hiking Route
Isar River Biergarten Hiking Route – click anywhere on map image for interactive route map in AllTrails

This summer included several weeks living in Munich on a catsitting assignment – a perfect setup to pursue Isar Biergarten Hiking.  The route described took me multiple segments and multiple days.  There are many different ways to approach it.

The Isar River is the most prominent greenbelt of Munich.  The river flows from the Alps in the south through Munich to eventually meet the Danube near Deggendorf.  I worked my way from south to north along the 18-mile route through the city stopping at the 16 beer gardens that seemed most notable.  The beer gardens along the Isar route are just a fraction of 100+ places promoted as beer gardens in the Munich locale, but I can’t imagine a more enjoyable hiking route to string together beer garden visits (read about what truly constitutes a “beer garden” in The Great Beer Garden Field Guide).

Munich is among the most walkable cities you will encounter.  The Isar kind of cuts the city in half along a North-South axis.  Think of the Isar and the greenbelt it passes through as an 18+ mile, continuous linear park.  Passing through in summer, you will see people and families fishing along the river, swimming, sunbathing both on the beaches and in the meadows (watch out for “naturists”), enjoying picnics, walking, exercising their dog, hiking, running, skating, cycling, surfing — and to the point of this story, relaxing and having a beer!  The old city center is on the West Bank, an easy walk to the river on lower ground.  Excellent transit connections that line both sides of the river enable seemingly infinite access points to the greenbelt along the river no matter where you happen to be staying.  It also makes one-way hikes of a big variety of lengths easy to do.

The S-Bahn stop at the Großhesselohe Isartalbahnhof is the southern starting point of the route.  The old train station at the stop has been repurposed as an attractive brewpub with a comfortable terrace.  At this point, there are high bluffs on both sides of the Isar spanned by Großhesseloher Brücke, a high (over 100 feet) rail bridge with a pedestrian deck suspended beneath.

Heading downriver along the top of the eastern bluffs is a hike through cool shade broken by occasional viewpoints.  The various beer gardens along the way seem almost like natural wonders to stop and savor.  The route drops to the river near the Hellabrunn Zoo before proceeding up a chain of islands with a mix of forest and rocky beaches.  The Muffatwerk is a former piece of water and power infrastructure at the river edge that has been repurposed into a performance center.  A short climb back up the bluff to the east leads to Wiener Platz and the Hofbraukeller.

Then it is back down to the river and the southern reach of Englischer Garden.  Englischer Garden is a big public park that encompasses several miles of the route.  It has its own 48-mile network of walking, hiking, bicycle, and bridle paths that crisscross the park through the forests and meadows.  Some paths are wide and more formal while others are single-track dirt paths that can seem secluded.  At the northern reaches of the park, there is a rural feel with woods, tall grass meadows, and a pleasant, rough trail along the river leading downstream to the suburb of Unterföhring.

Beer Garden Stops Along the Route

I found the many beer gardens to be oases of relaxation and refreshment.   Most feature self-service beer and food stands as well as terrace areas where table service is offered.  In the self-service areas, bringing your own food or snack (but not drink) is allowed.  Many of the beer gardens are paired with an indoor restaurant or beer hall.

Although there are a variety of beer styles at a given place, you won’t find lots of different beer brands at a given beer garden.  Most feature one of Munich’s “big six” beer brands and many also feature Franziskaner beers in order to give a solid wheat beer option.  Expect to pay for a “pfand” token when you buy a beer — you’ll get your deposit back when you return your mug and turn in the token.

I learned that these places go through their ups and downs over long periods of time, but are enduring parts of the Munich beer culture.  Always check the website of the places you hope to visit on a hike to be sure you know their days and hours of operation

Isataler Brauhaus is a brewpub built into a repurposed train station.  It is not a beer garden like all of the other stops mentioned on the route but is worth a stop when departing the S-Bahn.  They specialize in a wheat beer.

Waldwirtschaft is a 2500 seat beer garden and restaurant serving Spaten and Franziskaner beers in a pleasant, forested environment.

Hinterbrühl is a 1000 seat beer garden and restaurant in a forested area along the Isarwerkanal.  Not so many beer gardens feature Hacker-Pschorr beers as this one does.

Gutshof Menterschwaige is a 2500 seat beer garden serving Löwenbräu and Franziskaner beers.  Laid back, family atmosphere among the chestnuts.

Harlachinger Einkehr is a 700 seat beer garden and pub serving Augustiner and Franziskaner beers.

Gasthaus Siebenbrunn is a 750 seat beer garden and terrace serving Spaten and Franziskaner beers in a beautiful setting near the zoo.

Zum Flaucher is a 1700 seat beer garden serving Löwenbräu and Franziskaner beers on a forested island with popular, rocky beaches.

Biergarten am Muffatwerk is a compact 400 seat beer garden serving Hofbrau beers wedged in next to the Muffathalle, a popular performance venue.

Hofbraukelleris a classic 1850 seat beer garden serving Hofbrau beers in Haidhausen.

Biergarten am Chinesischen Turm is a huge 7000 seat beer garden serving Hofbrau beers.  It is the second-largest beer garden in Munich and probably the most famous on the route.

SEEHAUS im Englischen Garten is a 2500 seat beer garden and restaurant on the shore of a pretty lake serving Paulaner beers.

Hirschau is an 1800 seat beer garden in Englischer Garden serving Löwenbräu and Franziskaner beers.

Mini-Hofbrauhaus is a small beer garten in Englischer Gardenserving Hofbrau beers

St. Emmeramsmühle is a 600 seat beer garden and restaurant serving Spaten and Franziskaner beers at an old mill site near an historic river crossing.

Aumeister is a classic 2500 seat beer garden in the far north part of Englischer Garden serving Hofbrau beers.

Seewirtschaft is a tranquil spot on the Unterföhringer See (also called Poschinger Weiher) with a 650 seat beer garden at serving Hofbrauhaus Friesing and Huber Weisse beers.

Isar Biergarten Hiking

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