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.
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.
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”.
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.
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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.
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.
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