The Labertal is a place that had not been on my radar screen until this year. I didn’t know anything about it until I decided to spend time in the medieval city of Regensburg in the heart of Bavaria. As is my practice, researching and mapping interesting hiking routes and overlaying them with brewery locations highlighted a route along the Schwarze Laber River west of the city. The rail line running between Regensburg and Nuremberg has several stops in the Labertal enabling a hiking route that starts and ends at train stations. Regensburg is a short ride from either end.
The route I chose between the bahnhofs in the small towns of Sinzing and Laaber seemed to be marked as the Jurasteig in most places although the name changed here and there. The Jurasteig (Jura climb) is a set of trails that form a 144-mile circular route over the hills and through the valleys of the Danube, Altmühl, Weisser Laber, Schwarzer Laber, Lauterach, Vils, and Naab rivers. The Jura (think Jurassic) is a geologically interesting area featuring rocky landscapes, cliffs, caves and narrow gorges & valleys.
My first beer spot along the way was Gastatte Röhrl, a country inn in the village of Eilsbrunn. Röhrl has the distinction of being recognized by the Guiness Book of World Records as “Das älteste Gasthaus der Welt” – the oldest continuously operated restaurant in the world. It has been family-owned since 1658. As I understand it, there used to be a brewery on-site but it was discontinued some time ago. They do serve Röhrl biers, but they come from Brauerei Röhrl in Straubing – presumably relatives. I arrived before opening time, but I wanted to get a jump on the remainder of the long hike. I was thirsty though, so I explored the village to see if there was a shop. Around the corner is Krois Bäckerei, but it was closed up tight. As I walked away, a lady called after me from the house next door and waved me to come back. There was no English, but I managed to communicate my thirst and my desire for a beer and she led me through a side door into a back room in the bakery. She called to her husband and he appeared with a cold Landgraf Urhell and a glass. In my condition, this was a fantastic beer. Apparently, Landgraf is an alternate brand of Brauerei Röhrl for what are also called Labertaler beers. The husband (baker?) and I had a broken, but genial conversation and I fell over myself making sure he and his wife knew how much I appreciated their kindness.
Back at Gastatte Röhrl I started up a long grade on a stretch that is locally famous called the Alpinsteig or Alpiner Steig. Big views open up at the top as the trail winds past craggy rocks and scraggly trees amidst tall grass. Eventually, there is a descent into the village of Schonhofen where the route begins following the Schwarze Laber or Black Laber River. The Schwarze Laber is a lazy river dotted with old mills. Many of the mills are now retrofitted with turbines and now generate electricity. Many have also been turned into inns or restaurants along the river. This is a well-known area for climbers who scale cliffs and rock formations along the river.
The route passes the medieval Loch Castle ruin, a round tower that looks down on the village of Eichhofen. Loch Castle is one of the few surviving examples in Bavaria of a cave castle. The tower and stone walls front a cave into which rooms were built. A footbridge crosses the Schwarze Laber at the Schloss Eichhofen Brauerei and spills you out onto the street in front of the Schloss. There is a beautiful terrace and restaurant at the brewery. The beer is excellent.
Continuing up the valley, the next stop for me was Münchsmühle, another old mill that is now a restaurant and Biergarten along the trail. The place was closed, but it offered an innovation that I think every brewery and Biergarten along a trail should have (if they are going to be closed during hiking times) – a self-service beer cooler. This is a great idea! There were three large coolers filled with beers and instructions to drop your payment into a locked can. Crates were lined up to return empty bottles. I purchased a beer and enjoyed a conversation in the beer garden with another passerby.
Further up the valley is Deuerling, a town that is home to both an old brewery, and an upstart. Brauerei Goss has been in the Goss family since 1889. A small group of what looked and sounded like regulars were communing at one of the few tables outside in front of the restaurant and I found a spot in the shade of the building to try out what was an excellent beer. Just down the street is Braustall, which looks like a home brewing operation that has a small beer garden on the side. There are no signs that I saw for this place and there seem to be no regular opening hours.
My Labertal route ended a bit further up the valley at the town of Laaber, a pretty little place tucked into the narrow valley under another medieval castle ruin that was once inhabited by the Lords of Laber who ruled the area in the 1300’s and 1400’s. I never figured out what “Laber” means or why the river is “Laber” and the town is “Laaber”, but maybe a reader can help with that. I read somewhere that it is a derivation from a word for “foaming water” or something like that, but the Schwarze Laber is a very lazy river that I don’t imagine ever creating much foam. An old brewery in Laaber called Brauerei Plank is well-known in the area for its award-winning wheat beers.
Labertal Beer Hike Slideshow
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