Beery Regensburg – that isn’t the first thing that will come to most people’s minds when thinking about Bavaria’s fourth largest city. For me, Regensburg conjures images of a sophisticated city with a soaring cathedral and a well-preserved wealth of medieval architecture. In fact, these are some of the attributes that led to the center of the city being designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Well, if you ask me, there is also plenty to draw on in designating Regensburg as a Primepassages Beery Enjoyment Site.
Brewing in Regensburg goes back to the time of the settlement’s beginnings as a Roman outpost and river fort in the second century. Today, the city is home to five breweries of varying size and several idyllic biergartens. The Bischofshof brewery dates to 1649 but exhibits a sleek, modern persona. Their traditional range of beers is found at multiple locations and they are also the brewer of the lighter beers branded as Weltenburger. Kloster Weltenburg, along the Danube River west of Regensburg is famous as the world’s oldest monastery brewery. These days, only dark beers are brewed at the Kloster brewery. The venerable monastery brewery does have a presence in the Regensburg city center at the Weltenburger am Dom tavern & beer garden.
Spitalbrauerei Regensburg is one of those things that only happens in Bavaria – a brewery that is a component of the local hospital and retirement home. Great beers and a shady biergarten along the Danube have me wondering if they would let me retire there. Brauerei Kneitinger has a large footprint in the city with their brewery in the center and multiple biergartens spread around the city. Regensburger Weissbräuhaus is a brewpub in the city center that specializes in wheat beers. Brauhaus am Schloss is a Paulaner brewpub and biergarten located at the site of a former brewery in the Thurn and Taxi castle. Thurn and Taxi are an aristocratic family that made their fortune over the centuries delivering the mail in central Europe and by brewing and selling beer. The family sold off their brewing interests to Paulaner (30% owned by Heineken) in the late 1990’s. In addition to the Paulaner products sold here, there is also an onsite small-scale craft brewery providing locally-made house brews.
Adding to the beery glow of Regensburg are the opportunities for excellent beer hiking in the surrounding countryside. Two rivers feed into the Danube River just west of Regensburg – the Schwarze Laber and the Naab. Both rivers form valleys with beautiful hiking routes dotted with interesting country breweries along the way. Using train and bus options, it was easy enough to get out into the countryside for intriguing hiking and brewery explorations while having a comfortable stay in the city center.
Beer walking in central Regensburg was pleasant as well. The medieval core is a city of towers. I read that there were once 60 towers, more than anywhere else north of the Alps. I guess it was a kind of competition between the wealthy families to see who had the tallest tower. There was some kind of “tower envy” thing going on, I guess. These days, about 20 of the towers remain.
The most famous feature in the center seemed to be the Steinerne Brücke – the old stone bridge. Completed in the early 1100’s and built completely of stone, it was the only bridge spanning the Danube for hundreds of kilometers in either direction in those times so it cemented Regensburg’s position as an important trade center. The medieval masterpiece is more than 1000 feet in length and has been used as a pedestrian crossing since 2008. The bridge was built at the same time as the gi-normous Gothic Regensburg Cathedral (or Regensburger Dom) and its twin 340 foot (105 meter) spires.
There was reportedly a competition between the builders to see which would be completed first. A statue on the bridge is said to represent the bridge builder looking toward the Dom to monitor its progress. The statue stands at a point on the bridge where there is a slight bend in direction. According to local legend, the bridge builder and the cathedral builder had a bet about which one would finish first. The bridge builder juiced his chances by making a deal with the devil – if the devil helped the bridge to finish first, the devil would own the souls of the first three beings to cross when it was finished. The bridge was finished first, and the devil came to claim his due. The clever bridge builder sent a dog, a hen, and a rooster across first. Enraged about being tricked, the devil is said to have tried to destroy the strong stone bridge but was only able to make a dent in it – the slight bend in course that is visible today.
The story of the bridge also has a peripheral connection to Regensburg beer culture. When the bridge was completed, its small construction office near the salt tower was repurposed as a food stand for sailors and dock workers. Some say that this is the oldest continuously open public restaurant in the world. It is still a great spot for a wurst and a beer today. The Wurstküche (“sausage kitchen”) has been operated by the Schricker family since the early 1800’s. They serve tasty sausages and house beers made for them by Jacob Brauerei in nearby Bodenmais.
On the shopping front, I found a couple of beery-ish places of note that were fun stops. Bayrisch Wild sells branded gear that has a unique take on traditional Bavarian images of pretzels and sausages. I found my favorite t-shirt from the trip in their shop. Die Bierothek is a craft beer shop with a big selection – one of nineteen branch shops and affiliates in larger German cities.
Craft Bier Festival Regensburg
Craft Bier Festival Regensburg happened to be taking place during my visit – how convenient! About 20 brewery exhibitors were on hand at Neupfarrplatz in the center. Neupfarrplatz is a gorgeous setting for festivals and events. It also has an interesting history as it sits above the remains of the Roman fort that was built here during the time of Emperor Marcus Aurelius in the second century.
The small festival was like an American beer festival with better glassware. Each brewery had a small stand from which they served their beer and chatted with customers. The breweries were mostly small outfits and the beers covered a range from traditional German styles to IPA’s and other ales. This was the sixth year for the event and the first one after a couple of year gap due to the pandemic.