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.

Beery Nuremberg

Nuremberg location
Nuremberg location in Germany

Nuremberg (Nürnberg or Nuernberg in German) is the second-largest city in Bavaria and the largest city in the region known as Franconia.  Franconia is well acknowledged as a region with the highest concentration of breweries in the world, and many of the oldest.  However, although I had no difficulty finding many fine beers to quench my thirst in Nuremberg, it seems a bit of a mystery to me why there are so few breweries remaining there and most are quite young in Franconian terms.  Certainly, there are way fewer breweries everywhere than there used to be, but Nuremberg seems quite underserved compared to other cities in the region like Bamberg or Bayreuth.

Note: We know COVID-19 is impacting travel plans right now. For a little inspiration, we’ll continue to share stories from our favorite places around the world so you can keep daydreaming about your next adventure.

Old city wall and tower
Old city wall and tower

Nuremberg is an industrial city of a half-million people on the Pegnitz River in Middle Franconia.  Located about 110 miles (170 km) north of Munich, it is glommed together with the cities of Fürth, Erlangen, and Schwabach making greater Nuremberg’s population more like 800,000.  Mention Nuremberg and most people I encounter immediately think of the city’s notorious history involving major Nazi rallies and the Nuremberg trials which were held after the war to bring many major Nazi officials to account.

Nuremberg started with an imperial castle circa 1050.  The castle was a projection of the Holy Roman Empire.  Kings and emperors sanctioned by the Pope ruled from the castle in the middle ages and made Nuremberg an important node on trade routes connecting Italy and northern Europe.  This historic significance was an important factor in the Nazi Party’s choice of Nuremberg for its prominent activities.

World War II devastation
World War II devastation

The city was nearly leveled by intensive Allied bombing from 1943 to 1945 — I’ve read estimates of 90% destruction.  Thousands of residents were killed by the bombing and tens of thousands were displaced.   The war ended there with several days of house-to-house and street-by-street fighting in the spring of 1945 after which the Allies gained control.  A gargantuan reconstruction effort after the war rebuilt and partly restored Nuremberg’s historic appearance.

Throughout the city’s long history, beer has been an important tradition.  Beer begins showing up in city laws and licenses around 1300 and per capita, annual consumption was recorded at 200 liters in the 15th century.  More than 40 breweries operated at the time.  That number steadily decreased to 30 or so in the 19th century and was pared down to just five by 1925.  Some say that the reduction was related to modernization and the introduction of mechanical cooling systems (making the traditional cellaring less important).  By the mid-1990’s, only one of the traditional breweries remained.  All of the others were absorbed into Tucher, which is the only big brewery left.  Some say that the devastation of WWII was also a factor.  Since then, a number of smaller breweries and brewpubs have emerged so there are now more breweries in greater-Nuremberg than there were in the 1920’s.

Beery Nuremberg

Beery Nuremberg
click on map to open interactive Google map of Beery Nuremberg

First beer stop for me was Hausbrauerei Altstadthof nearby my hotel.  Altstadthof is a jack-of-many-trades place with a small pub, micro-brewery, distillery, and tour operation.  Tours are well organized and take you into the labyrinth of cool, rock-cut cellars that encompass more than 6 acres beneath the old part of the city.  The cellars were excavated hundreds of years ago up to four stories deep into the underlying sandstone for fermenting and lagering beer.  They served as air-raid cellars during the war, and artifacts from both of these uses were apparent.  Altstadthof makes a small range of beers and distills brandy from some of them.

Their rotbier was the first one of several I encountered in the city.  Rotbier, or red beer, is a somewhat roasty, smoky, hoppy lager with a distinctive red color.  Although Nuremberg calls itself the home of rotbier, there is a dispute about whether this type of beer was first brewed in Belgium or in Nuremberg.  There is no doubt though that rotbier figures deeply in local brewing tradition as more than 30 rotbier breweries were recorded in the late 1500’s.  Rotbier had faded away in favor of more modern lagers until Altstadthof began brewing it in the 1980’s.  There has been a resurgence of interest in rotbier in Nuremberg in recent times and several local breweries now make it.

Across the street from Altstadthof is Wirtshaus Hütt’n, a small tavern that serves a range of local and regional beers along with their own house-labeled beer.

Tucher is the remaining old-time, big brewery in Nuremberg.  They brew from two facilities, both of which can be visited in normal times.  Their Altes Sudhaus facility in the northern part of the city is where they brew their rotbier and their Traditionsbrauerei straddles the western city boundary with Furth.  Frankfort-based Radeberger Group, the largest brewery conglomerate in Germany, has owned Tucher since 2004.  Over the years, Tucher absorbed many of the historic breweries of Nuremberg and still brews brands from several of them including Lederer, Gruner, Humbser, and Patrizier in addition to their own Tucher brands.  I get the sense that Tucher had strayed from its Franconian roots into the world of mass market and export brewing, but more recently has been working to reconnect with their brewing heritage.

One of my favorite Nuremberg breweries was Schanzenbraeu.  Their tavern is a pleasant, shady spot in what seemed like a residential area.  They concentrate on just a couple of brews – a rotbier and a helles.  Zeltner Bierhaus is likewise a small tavern/brewery that serves its own beers as well as regional offerings.  Barfüßer Hausbrauerei is the Nuremberg location of a small, regional chain of brewpubs.

Humbser und Freunde is built into the historic brauhaus of the defunct Humbser Brewery in Furth.  It is a slick place that makes innovative use of brewing artifacts.  They have a beer made for them to serve as a house beer and they sell beers from a number of small regional breweries.

Ravenkraft is a small, well-appointed craft beer shop in the city center.  I got the sense that the people working there live and breathe craft beer, and they were helpful to me in understanding where to go and what to see.  I picked up a couple of beers for my lunch on the train departing the city including a red ale they brew under their own label.

Joachim "Joe" Holler
Joachim “Joe” Holler

For readers who may be future beer tourists, there is an interesting local service called Beer Hike Nuremberg that offers a walking tour and Franconian beer seminars.  My schedule didn’t connect with any of their offerings, but I did have a chance to have an informative conversation with the proprietor, Joachim “Joe” Holler.  Joe told me that most of his customers have been tourists and that 2/3 of them come from North America.  Few arrive who understand the difference between Bavarian and Franconian beer culture and Joe works to help remedy that.  Joe reminded me that most Franconian breweries are “craft” breweries in terms of their being small-scale, artisanal operations.   Most brew a range of traditional styles rather than foreign styles or experimental beers, although there is a growing number of breweries making IPA’s, trendy ales, and experimental beers.

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.

I didn’t get to all of the places shown in the interactive map and I made it to several recommended beer bars that aren’t on the map but that had good selections of beer from the region.

Walking the City

The old town of Nuremberg is made up of picturesque cobblestone streets and half-timbered buildings.  The streets ascend to Nuremberg Castle – actually a complex of castles that offer great views across the rooftops below.  A huge square called the Hauptmarkt is a vibrant marketplace that is also the setting for the city’s famous Christmas market.  There are interesting monuments, fountains, sculptures, and other public art throughout the center providing considerable click (camera) bait.  A famous local dude is 16th-century artist Albrecht Dürer, a contemporary of Da Vinci for whom there are multiple monuments and museums.

Nuremberger bratwurst - image by Berndt Rostad
Nuremberger bratwurst – image by Berndt Rostad

A prominent local food is Nuremberger bratwurst (Nürnberger Rostbratwürstchen).  These small, finger-sized sausages are served in multiples and there are both pop-up grills as well as entire restaurants devoted to serving them.  From a food stand, you get them  served three to a roll (drei im weggla).  A Nuremberg bratwurst is not allowed to be over 3.5 inches (9 cm) long or more than 1 ounce (25 g) in weight  Fat content cannot exceed 35%.   Only sausages produced in Nuremberg can be called Nuremberg bratwurst.

Schäufele is another Franconian specialty served at many pubs and restaurants.  I guess I’d call it a roasted pork shoulder blade often served with nicely spiced gravy and a big round dumpling.  It goes great with beer!  The tender, roasted meat falls easily from the bone which leaves you with something that resembles a white shovel blade.

Café Bar Wanderer & Bieramt near Tiergärtnertor , one of the gates leading to the castle was a lively stop for a final beer each day.   It’s a simple place to grab an interesting Franconian beer and splay yourself out on the cobblestones in front to wind down and people watch.

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


Hanging Out in Freising

Freising location
Freising location from central Munich and Munich airport (flughafen)

Freising is a town of 50,000 people located along a main train route about 20 miles northeast of the center of Munich.  Freising is also the closest town to Munich’s airport and is often thought of as the location of the airport.  On my last visit to Munich, I decided to spend a few days winding down there in advance of my flight home.  It’s a great place to base out of if you have an early morning flight due to the frequent bus schedule and a short 15-minute trip duration.

Note: We know COVID-19 is impacting travel plans right now. For a little inspiration, we’ll continue to share stories from our favorite places around the world so you can keep daydreaming about your next adventure.

Make no doubt though, Freising is far more than a convenient travel stop.  Built on two hills that tower above the Isar River,  the area has been inhabited for more than 4000 years.  Freising is said to be the oldest community in the south of Bavaria and has been an important religious and cultural center for the region since the eighth century when the Weihenstephan Benedictine monastery was established on one of the hills.  A church dedicated to the Virgin Mary was established on the other.   The man behind these developments was a French bishop named Korbinian, who was sent by the pope to Christianize Bavaria (Bavaria was ruled at that time by a Duke who was also French.)

engraving depicting Freising
engraving depicting Freising

St. Korbinian figures heavily into local legend and lore to this day.  The miracle of the bear recounts the story of Korbinian encountering and being attacked by a bear while on a journey to Rome.  His horse was killed by the bear so Korbinian somehow convinced the bear to let him strap his saddlebags and the bear served as his pack animal for the rest of the trip.  Today, the image of a bear appears together with St. Korbinian on Freising’s crest and is a very visible town mascot.  Whimsically painted bears crop up all over town.

For beer lovers, Freising is also notable as the location of the oldest continually operating brewery in the world.  The Weihenstephan monastery began brewing beer in the dark ages and was eventually licensed to produce beer in 1040, the founding date claimed by the modern brewery.  The monastery was secularized in 1803 and since then the brewery has been owned and operated by the State of Bavaria.  The brewery is still on the grounds of the old monastery and is now surrounded by a small university specializing in, among other things, brewing and brewery technology.  Freising is also the seat of the region encompassing the Hallertau, one of the most important hops growing regions in the world.  Read about my visit to the Hallertau.

For beer hikers, there is an excellent loop hike that tours the countryside north of town and passes a country beer garden and the Weihenstephan Brewery and biergarten.  You can read about and get route information about this hike here.

Fresising Breweries

Phillip - my guide to Weihenstephaner
Phillip – my guide to Weihenstephaner

Visiting Weihenstephan Brewery in Freising sure feels like entering hallowed ground.  Visits are well organized and are hosted by advanced students of the Technical University of Munich’s (TUM) Weihenstephan brewing technology programs.  My guide, Phillip, told me that there are two tracks in the University’s programs there in Freising.  He is part of a cohort of about 80 students who gain a broad range of knowledge in brewing technology that gives them experience not only with brewing, but with the full range of technologies that go into the process including ingredients, equipment, and distribution.  Another cohort is more focused on becoming master brewers.

Weihenstephan has the feel of a very modern operation in a very old set of buildings.  It is boggling to consider that they have been brewing non-stop on top of this hill through multiple wars, four fires, three plagues, a major earthquake over nearly a thousand years. The output of about 200,000 bbl per year (within the U.S. definition of a craft brewery) is spread across 12 varieties of beer with the flagship being their hefweizen.  There is a beer shop, restaurant, and beer garden on site.

Hofbrauhaus Freising Keller
Hofbrauhaus Freising Keller

Hofbrauhaus Freising is also a very old enterprise dating back to 1160.  Located on Freising’s other hill, it is a beautiful old brewery building on a busy street.  On a bluff above and behind the brewery building is one of the brewery’s four kellers, or beer gardens.  For my sensibilities, this is the best and most classic beer garden in Freising (read about what makes a great beer garden here).  As much as I enjoyed the visit at Weihenstephan, I found that I greatly enjoyed the beers, food, and atmosphere found at Hofbrauhaus Keller.  Yes … I am a sucker for a massive and tasty schnitzel!

An interesting part of the Hofbrauhaus Freising line-up are beers marketed under the Dirndl Brau brand.  Dirndl Brau beers are the creation of the brewery’s female brewing staff.  I tried the Schürzenjäger India Pale Lager (IPL), a nicely hoppy lager.

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.

Beautiful Freising

Freising is a picturesque town with many urban pathways connecting the two hills.  The cathedral is a twelfth century, Romanesque gem that spans from Gothic to Baroque architectural eras.   I was lucky to be visiting in mid-September during the Freising Volksfest an enjoyable small-town celebration that has been held annually for 90 years.

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


Hidden Valley

Hidden Valley Beer Hike

Valles Caldera location
Valles Caldera location in New Mexico

Hidden Valley is one of a handful of hikes into New Mexico’s Valles Caldera National Preserve (VCNP) that doesn’t require driving onto the Preserve. The roads into the VCNP have been closed during the coronavirus restrictions of the past many weeks so it was cool to see this hike mentioned in a Facebook post that scrolled by me when I was thinking on where to head for a nice beer hike.  Don’t know what a beer hike is all about?  Find out more by reading here.

I’m blessed to live near the VCNP and take advantage of the hiking and scenery of the place,  The VCNP is 140 square miles (36,000+ Hectares) of mountains, forest, canyons, river valleys, and grassland occupying a large part of the13+ mile (21+ km) diameter collapsed caldera of an ancient supervolcano.  There are twenty supervolcanos in the world and the Valles Caldera is one of three located in the U.S.A. (the others are Yellowstone and Long Valley in eastern California.)  The terrain ranges between 8,000 and 12,000 feet in altitude (2400 to 3600 m) from the valley floor to the highest peaks.

Heyzeus Mexican-style Lager

The post-hike beer today was a Heyzeus Mexican-style lager from Melvin Brewing in Alpine, Wyoming.  It was a nice reward for sure – light, hazy appearance;  nice body and smooth, creamy mouthfeel;  there was a faint citrusy taste that struck me as definitely hop induced; clean, dry finish.  When it said Mexican-style lager I expected something thinner without much taste or complexity, but that wasn’t the case at all.  I was pleasantly surprised and would buy this one again.

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.

Hidden Valley Hike

Hidden Valley route
click image for interactive route map

The hike to Hidden Valley begins at a small, unmarked parking area along New Mexico State Highway 4.  The trail loops in both directions from there and either direction requires a short climb up over a burned off ridge.  The burn was about ten years ago and there are thick Aspen groves emerging among the downed trees.  The burn area ends as you crest the ridge and descend through a thick forest of Douglas Fir.

After a short, steep drop is the floor of Hidden Valley.  The refreshing looking East Fork of the Jemez River meanders through the grassy valley floor.  There are intermittent stock paths on both sides of the river, but there is no one well-defined trail to continuously follow.  We crossed the river back and forth multiple times as we tramped upstream.  As the stream meanders, it cuts up to cliff and boulder faces on either side of the river multiple times so you are faced with a choice of wading, trying to find a fallen log, or climbing over the obstruction.  I ‘d recommend that you bring water shoes as there are plenty of shallow places to ford by wading.

This is a totally pleasant, scenic out and back into the grassland expanse of the Valle Grande – one of the huge grassland expanses in the Valles Caldera.  Our turn-around point was what is known as the “Missing Cabin”, a photogenic structure on a prominent hill overlooking the Valle Grande.  It is known as the Missing Cabin because it was prominent in the 2003 Ron Howard feature film “The Missing.”

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


Beery Cincinnati

vintage advertisement
click for interactive Google map of bike routes & breweries

Beery Cincinnati is a story of a visit to a city with one of the USA’s strongest beer histories and what I experienced exploring the beer culture of today by bike, on foot, and by public transport.

[Note: We know COVID-19 is impacting travel plans right now. For a little inspiration, we’ll continue to share stories from our favorite places around the world so you can keep daydreaming about your next adventure.]

Cincinnati and the Kentucky cities of Newport and Covington right across the Ohio River have a substantial beer culture and history owing to the congregation of German and East European immigrants there during the nineteenth century.  In the mid-1800’s, Beery Cincinnati had 36 breweries that produced more than 30 million gallons of beer annually.  Cincinnati is right there in my mind with Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and St. Louis as the most prominent American beer cities of that era up until prohibition.  The German influence led to digging extensive underground lagering cellars and tunnels some of which are being rediscovered in recent times. Most of the old breweries were killed by Prohibition and the last of the old line breweries, the Hudepohl Brewing Company closed in 1999 after 114 years in business.

The town where I lived growing up was close enough to Cincinnati that there were plenty of family ties and it was a close place to go for baseball, concerts, and other amusements.  My first notice of beery Cincinnati goes back to high school times and frequent drives from where I lived in Indiana across the border into Ohio where 3.2% ABV beer could be purchased by 18 year-olds.  I think I could pass for 18, but not very well for 21 which was the legal age in Indiana.  There were a variety of Cincinnati brands and Schoenling Red Label became a beer of choice with me and my cronies – I can’t remember if it was a price or a quality-based decision.  Schoenling’s Little King’s Cream Ales in 7 ounce green bottles was another popular choice although they tended to create too much rubbish for the volume, I think.  They weren’t a 3.2 product either so they required someone who looked older to be along.

Cubs win!
Cubs win!

In the many intervening years, beer has made a comeback in Cincinnati and I’m told that there are now more breweries in the area than ever.   There is one “big” brewery these days although I think it is still considered “craft” by some definitions.  What had been the old Schoenling brewery is now owned and operated as a Boston Beer Company brewery and is a big part of the Sam Adams story – I read that the majority of Sam Adams is brewed there.  Boston Beer founder Jim Koch has roots in Cincinnati and his father once worked for Schoenling.  Hudepohl and Schoenling became one company in the late 1980’s and while their physical facilities were sold to Boston Beer when the company closed, their brands and recipes were acquired by one of the city’s newer craft breweries (a revival of a historic brewery), Christian Moerlein Brewing Company — more about that in a minute.

Bockfest poster
Bockfest poster

It caught my eye that there are several interesting sounding beery events held each year and I expect to back to check out one or more.  Cincy Brew Ha-Ha (beer & comedy festival – August), Cincy Winter Beerfest (March), Rare Beer Fest (November), the International Craft Beer Festival (craft beers from around the globe – summer), Cincy On Tap (April), Bockfest(March), Bacon, Bourbon and Brew (July), Cincinnati Craft Brewer’s Starkbierfest (high ABV beers – April), and Oktoberfest Zinzinnati (bills itself as largest in U.S. -September) are among the many events.

My preference to get around by bike and on foot made choosing lodging in the “Over-the-Rhine” or OTR district just north of the downtown a good bet.  Cincinnati wasn’t a particularly attractive city for biking or pedestrians, but there were a couple of greenways not far from the OTR that had concentrations of breweries and interesting beer venues within striking distance.

Cincinnati Brewery District

Over-the-Rhine was historically a neighborhood where German immigrants concentrated.  The Miami and Erie Canal separated the area from the downtown to the south and some locals compared the canal to the Rhine River in Germany and crossing the canal to crossing the Rhine.  Being north of the canal was referred to as being “Over-the-Rhine”.  Love of acronyms being a thing in some circles, the neighborhood became commonly referred to as “OTR”.  The canal was paved over after falling into disuse in the early 20th century and is now covered by Central Parkway.

Beery Cincinnati’s historic brewery district is the northern part of OTR above Liberty Street, a major east-west connector.  There is an impressive set of historic buildings throughout OTR and many are in the Brewery District – some in use by current-day breweries.  The area is a mixture of gentrified streetscapes, run-down properties, and some sketchy feeling stretches but there is a great deal of interesting architecture and a good amount of interesting street art.

rediscovered beer cellar
rediscovered beer cellar

A non-profit called the Brewery District Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation is doing an impressive job of highlighting the beer culture to be found here and has established a Brewing Heritage Trail program that incorporates a visitor center, events, guided and self-guided walking tours.  I joined a guided walking tour with a volunteer (I think) guide who possessed a wealth of information and local lore.  We met at the “beer garden” at Findlay Market, an old school public market said to be the oldest in the state.  The walk included lots of interesting architecture, stories, and the descent into a lagering cellar complex beneath the pre-prohibition Crown Brewery.  The underground system has been “rediscovered” since 2000.

Several current-day breweries are located in the Brewery District and OTR including Rhinegeist Brewery, Samuel Adams Brewery, Taft’s Ale House, 3 Points Urban BreweryNorthern Row Brewery & Distillery, and Christian Moerlein Brewing Company.  These are all within an easily walkable area.  Moerlein was hands-down the best visit for me due to their interesting story and the excellent hospitality I encountered there.

Located in a building of the former Kauffman Brewery, the taproom/beer hall is in a huge room with massive pillars that I guessed may have once been a malting floor.  It wasn’t too busy so one of the staff was generous with his time and showed me around the brewery a bit.  Moerlein is definitely vested in the beer history of Cincinnati.  They take their name from a noted 19th century brewery and they have acquired rights and recipes and produce beers once made by venerable local brands such as Hudepohl and Schoenling.  Through their work, you can once again drink Little Kings and Hudepohl’s.

In addition to the interesting architecture of the OTR neighborhood, there is a lot of interesting public art there (and in Cincinnati in general) in the form of murals of all shapes and sizes.  Many of these tie into the city’s history including the beer history.  An organization called Artworks Cincinnati fosters the creation, protection, and promotion of the murals and provides a map and other information on their website.

OTR figures prominently as a venue for many of the annual events.   One of the few bock festivals of any significant scale that I’ve heard about in the U.S. takes place each March.   Bockfest has been held for more than twenty years to celebrate Cincinnati’s brewing heritage and feature bock beers made by local breweries.  The festival includes a beard competition, the crowning of a Sausage Queen, bock tappings, the Bockfest 5K, a parade, and more.

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.

Beery Kentucky

George Wiedemann Brewing Co. in Newport was once Kentucky’s largest beer producer, and Bavarian Brewing Company was in adjacent Covington. The Bavarian Brewery building is all that remains of this slice of brewing heritage but it has been renovated into office space.  Several craft breweries have taken root in a bikeable line across the two cities and made for a pleasant ride.

I crossed the river on the 1/2 mile Purple People Bridge, a historic span that offers great views of the city skylines and is now pedestrian-only.  From there I worked my way from west to east with stops at Darkness Brewing, Braxton Labs, Hofbrauhaus (yes … they brew on-site at this one),  Wooden Cask Brewing Company, and Braxton Brewing Company.

All of these are fairly smallscale operations each with their own interesting aspects.  I particularly enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere and the beer at Braxton brewing – kind of felt like a cross between a coffeehouse and a taproom – very good for just hanging out.  Braxton Labs is a nearby alter-ego of the brewery – a geekier feeling experimental brewery embedded in the back of a huge liquor store.

Cincinnati Elsewhere

I spent some time biking around on the limited bikeways I found in the city and stopped at several beer venues and other places that caught my interest.  The Ohio River to Lake Erie Trail tracks a good bit of the riverfront as it starts north for hundreds of miles to Cleveland and Lake Erie.  There are still missing segments along the way and one of them makes for ugly riding along a stretch in the east part of the city.  There are a couple of beer venues I stopped at while biking a stretch of this.  Moerlein Lager House is a slick, modern restaurant and microbrewery across the street from the City’s baseball park operated by Christian Moerlein Brewing – it’s as modern and slick as the brewery’s OTR taproom is retro and funky.  I stopped in before the Cubs and Reds game.  Streetside Brewery is a pleasant stop to the east – I had a catastrophic flat tire that ended my Sunday afternoon ride just as I was nearing the place and had to UBER back.

The Mill Creek Greenway emerges from city streets north of OTR and provides an opportunity for stops at Urban Artifact, a funky brewery inhabiting a big old church building and Humble Monk, a Belgiany-style brewery nearby.  The only clue I noticed while approaching that Urban Artifact wasn’t a church was the handful of people sipping beers on the side-lawn.  The feel of the taproom is not all that far removed from the feel of church basements I visited as a youth.

Between the Greenway and OTR is an opportunity to stop at a local institution named the Camp Washington Chili Parlor.  Cincinnati chili is its own unique thing and is different than what you’ll find elsewhere.  It is thinner than other renditions and the meat is cooked with a blend of spices including cinnamon, chocolate, allspice, and Worcestershire.   When ordering, you have to decide which “way” you want your chili among the five common “ways”.

East of OTR are some big hills that host Mecklenburg’s Garden, the oldest restaurant in Cincinnati and a venerable beer hall and beer garden serving a good array of German beers.  Mecklenburg’s Garden has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1976.  The structure was built circa 1865 and converted into a restaurant by 1870. In the 1880’s it became branded as a beer garden catering to the extensive community of German immigrants who were arriving by then. I arrived early afternoon and enjoyed talking to members of the Cincinnati United Fan Club who were gathering there for a pre-match beer before the march to Nippert Stadium at the nearby University of Cincinnati.

Buzzed Bull Creamery (back in OTR) is a novel idea in the frozen treat world.   This tiny, franchised chain specializes in making ice cream to order on the spot using fresh ingredients mixed in Kitchen-Aid mixers and chilled by shooting liquid nitrogen into the mix.  In addition, they are fully stocked with spirits and liqueurs that can be added to allow unlimited creativity.

A good friend, knowing that I like both good jazz and craft beer, suggested I should check out Caffe Vivace.  Although I ran out of time and didn’t get there for jazz and a beer in the evening, I was able to stop by for a nicely prepared mocha the morning I left town.  They had a good array of craft beers available and I could imagine paying another visit on another trip.

For more stories about trails and beers in Ohio, CLICK THIS LINK


Oberallgäu Beer Hike

location of the Illertal
location of the Illertal

This Oberallgäu beer hike takes you to the far southwestern reaches of Bavaria – well to the south and west of Munich.  The high mountains of the Alps stack up along the German-Austrian border here so the terrain and altitude drop from south to north.  The Iller River is formed from mountain streams in this alpine region and forms a high valley – the Illertal, as it makes its way north from near Oberstdorf up through Sonthofen and Immenstadt.   Steep side valleys and gorges cut into the mountains on either side of the valley.  The terrain broadens and flattens a bit as the river continues north to the Danube.

Click on image for interactive route map

A beer hike in this area is tranquil and scenic.  Small farms dot the brilliant green alpine meadows.  The high Alps are nearly always in view providing a majestic backdrop.  Picturesque towns and villages, often centered around onion-domed churches are spread along the river and up the side valleys.

The southernmost district of Germany is known for many traditions, not the least of which is interesting beer culture.  Like many places in Germany, consolidations and changing markets have greatly reduced the number of operating breweries in the Allgäu.  This beer hike route starting at the train station then heading north to Rettenberg, then ending at the train station at Immenstadt passed three breweries.  With more time and a bit of adjustment, a stop at an additional brewery near Rettenberg could be added as well as one near Blaichach.  There are many potential variations of the route as the area has no shortage of pathways to explore.

Illertal Beer Hike

Sonthofen is a pleasant little town on the Iller that is famous for its cheese and other dairy products.  It was a short ride north from where I was staying in Oberstdorf (more about Oberstdorf later) and I disembarked at the rail station into a light but steady rain.

Hirschbrau is a 360+ year-old brewery in the center of the town with a pleasant, traditional tavern.  The rain had chased people in and the place was quite busy.  Their offering included a wide range of traditional styles as well as a small range of what they refer to as “craft” beers.  I wish I would have had the time and stamina to try those out as they sounded like interesting variations on traditional themes.

Rettenberger Bierkoenigin (Beer Queen)
Rettenberger Bierkoenigin (Beer Queen)

From Sonthofen to Rettenberg the beer hike route follows the base of Grünten, a massive mountain often referred to as the “guardian of the Allgäu”.  The countryside here is dotted with farms, mountain pastures, and spots of forest.   Rettenberg bills itself as a “brewery village” and I would never argue with them.  There are two large breweries in the community that are the largest employers there.   They also regularly crown a “Beer Queen” who I imagine it would be fun to have a beer with.

The Zötler family brewery is arguably the oldest family-owned brewery in the world and has been determined to be the 10th oldest family business of any kind in the world (continuously operated by the same family.)   The business dates to 1447 so has been operated for more than 585 years by the same family – twenty-one generations. The brewery was closed on the day I came by so I sampled the beer at the Post Adler – the brewery’s tavern in the village center.  Zötler impressed me as a progressive operation.  In addition to a traditional range, they also offer a range of international style “craft” beers and they do a number of interesting events.  One that caught my eye is a monthly full moon beer festival in the brewery featuring a limited release beer.

image by Outdoor Active
Illertal view – image by Outdoor Active

The second large brewery, Engelbräu is also located near the village center and has a tavern on the brewery grounds.  I would encourage you to check out their totally cool promotional video that captures some of the essence of the beer hiking spirit.  If you are hungry, be sure to try the ox cheeks in ginger beer.

A third brewery is located nearby although I couldn’t take the time on this trip to find it.  The small brewery, Bernardi Bräu, is said to be located in a converted cable car station high up on the Grünten.  Some say that this is the highest altitude brewery in Germany but if you have been reading Prime Passages, you will know that the highest is really located in an operating cable car shed at Enzianhutte, south of Oberstdorf (read A Hike to the Highest Brewery in Germany).   I was told that Bernardi and Hirschbrau collaborate in some way — maybe a brewing collaboration or maybe a business collaboration.

From Rettenberg, the hike descends back down to the river at Immenstadt.  There are plenty of places to stop for a beer there, or a bit more of a walk to the south is another brewery that I didn’t try – Klier Bier.  I decided to end the walk at the train station where I caught the short ride back to Oberstdorf.

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.