Zellertal Beer Ride

location of story in Germany

The Zellertal is a relatively obscure valley in the part of the Bavarian Forest that locals call Arberland after the dominant peak in the area -Großer Arber. The mountains here are plenty big, but compared to the Alps just to the south kind of like the Smokies compared to the high Rockies. Biking here has its ups and downs and builds a substantial thirst — good thing there are a number of breweries along the way.

Bad Kotzting turned out to be a good choice for a base to check out this part of Bavaria. It is a pleasant small town on the Weißer Regen River. Thermal springs there have been a healing destination for centuries. There are many castles in the area, including Kirchenburg, a fortified church built on the site of a 12th-century castle in the center of the town. I picked it as a place on the train line with interesting-looking hiking and biking and two local breweries to sample.

Click on map to open interactive Google Map of the route and area

Stretching southward from Bad Kotzting to Bodenmais is the Zellertal, a broad valley formed by a variety of small streams that is part of the Upper Bavarian Forest Nature Park. A mountain forest separates the Zellertal from the Czechian border area. The forests of the Zellertal are said to host diverse wildlife, including species such as lynx, wild boars, and golden eagles.

The bike route was a bit more challenging than I expected with some big ups and downs. Part of the payoff is the expansive views of the gorgeous countryside from those high points. There are five breweries on the route and I chose to ride to the farthest, Adam Brau in Bodenmais and then work my way back past two in Drachselreid and the two in Bad Kotzting. The roundtrip route is about 65 km (39 miles) and in addition to all the ups and downs along the way, Bodenmais is 330 meters (1080 feet) higher than Bad Kotzting.

Adam Bräu is a family-owned brewpub in a well-appointed hotel/spa/restaurant/terrace complex for “wander and aktiv” pursuits. Their spa is beer-themed with things like a “malting” sauna and a “brew kettle” steam room. I tried their “bierprobe mit Bavarian tapas” to sample both their beers (traditional range of a helles, pils, dunkel, and weisse) and cooking (wurstsalat, obatzda, pretzel, schmalzbrot, and pfefferbeisser-speiss).

Adam Brau

The two breweries in Drachselreid seemed like sleepy places. Schloßbräu Drachselsried occupies a big building that was once the Schloss of some bigwig or other. It was a bit hard to tell if it was active and there was no apparent office. I read that the last heir in the family who had run the brewery for generations passed away a couple of years ago and willed the brewery to a Catholic Missionary organization with the stipulation that they must continue operating it as a brewery for several more years. The story said that the missionaries hired a brewer and the 12 employees had been retained. Maybe a reader knows more about it. Brewing and missionary work could fit together quite nicely I think.

Falter Brau seemed right next door so at first I had the impression that they were the same operation. Falter seemed an old-school, traditional country brewery inn. They are family-owned and operated by the Falter family and brew a traditional range. Falter means butterfly, and their logo and labels feature a distinctive butterfly — artsy!

Back in Bad Kötzting. Lindner Bräu is in a picturesque mill along the river and their terrace exudes old-school charm. The operation has been run by the same family for multiple generations and is also now a popular event center — I read that they host a stark bier (strong beer) festival here.

Brauerei Gasthof “Zur Post” is a brewpub in the old center that has operated its nano-brewery in the old post office building since 2011. I enjoyed a beer to cap off the ride in their comfortable courtyard. All of their traditional range is served unfiltered, from the barrel. A surprise I came across in their basement was a two-lane bowling alley. It would make a keller I think if it didn’t obstruct the bowling.

Click on map to open interactive Google Map of the route and area

Since the time of my visit, the Arberland tourism entity has started promoting a loop route they call “Germany’s first long-distance beer hiking trail” in the region that visits some of the same breweries. They call it the Bier Fernwanderweg and I count eight breweries along the way. I’ve included the route on the map for this story (the bike route is in blue and the hiking route is in green). It is set up in six stages (recommended days) of about 15 km per stage and overall is more than 100 km (60 miles) in length with six breweries along the way. It was not clear to me whether there is a luggage service available. It is pretty new, so I read that trail markings may not be reliable quite yet. Maybe there is a reader who has first-hand experience?

Other stories about Prime Passages in this region include Beer Hiking in the Land of Rainbows and Cross-Border Beer Hike. For even more stories about hiking, beer, and travel in Germany browse here.

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