How to Rock Sambach

I have to admit it. I was enjoying telling anyone that would listen that I was going to Sambach. They all figured it was somewhere exotic, some even thought it was in Africa. More fun was telling them exactly what and where it was: a small village in rural Franconia, the less visited northern part of Bavaria. Why is a harder question to answer but quite simply, I love it there and everyone I’ve brought to the region has, too. Now, that I was back on the trail with some new inductees, I was in my element.

me in my element at the Schmausenkeller & Franconian countryside

It’s true, not everything had worked out according to plan. Brauerei Büttner had been closed on a Sunday, one of the three days of the week it’s normally open. They’d decided to close so they could open the next day, a Monday, which just happened to be a public holiday. Are you getting lost? That’s okay, I am too. Beerwandering is no easy task, even for those who plan tediously. No worries. We were on the final 10 kilometer leg of what had been not only a very successful hike but also a super enjoyable one. I’d like to take credit for all that but the reason really came down to the company.

unexpected closings are part of the game & if you’re lucky, good friends

An old friend from High School had come to Europe to celebrate his recent retirement and had surprisingly jumped at the idea of walking 25 kilometers from one small village to the next in search of beer nirvana. Perhaps even more surprising, his wife had, too. Most come to Europe for Venice or Barcelona. We were going to spend two nights in Sambach. Now, most people would have complained on that last 10k stretch, especially after having walked 7k to a closed brewery, but she wasn’t. Even on what was a bit of a gimpy knee, she was not only just marching on but having a jolly old time doing it. Hot showers and great food and beer would soon be our reward but let’s not cut to the chase too soon.

scenes from Sambach & the beerwanderers’ last stand

We’d driven traffic-free up to Sambach from Munich the previous day in record time. It had gone by so quickly that we had time to stop at more stunning than expected Castle Weissenstein, giving us time to stretch our legs and catch a couple practicing their wedding dance for that evening.

Castle Weissenstein with old friends

After checking in at our Gasthaus and scoping out the beginning of the next day’s route, we were soon enjoying an incredible Lagerbier at Brauerei Hennemann. You often worry if the beer you’re taking people way out of the way for will live up to the hype and this one sure did. The real bonus was the food was every bit as good as the beer. The guys had Rauchfleisch mit Bohnen (Smoked meat with beans) and the gals the Braumeisterpfanne (a skillet filled with pork delights). We had a Sommergold, a summer seasonal and it was pretty credible, too.

Hennemann Lagerbier, Rauchfleisch & Braumeisterpfanne

The place was bustling and the animated brewer quite comical. After perhaps one too many of this tasty local nectar, we headed back to the friendly Gasthof Wieneth to rest our weary heads.

The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we were soon off on the trail to Herrnsdorf. The trail was flat and through some rural patches and small villages. Herons flew overhead.

the path to Herrnsdorf was a pastoral paradise

First up was Brauerei Barnikel, which dates back to 1314 but stopped brewing in 2010. Their beers are now contract brewed by Rothenbach in Aufseß. It’s an atmospheric old pub well worth a visit and their beer is still a tasty tipple. We only had time for one before continuing on up into the surrounding hills.

Barnikel in Herrnsdorf

The path was densely forested and lushly green. The incline was welcomed by all. We were, after all, here to hike too.

scenes from the trail to the Schmausenkeller

Even more welcoming was the sight of the Schmausenkeller on our horizon as we exited the shady trail, out into the sun. This is one of the best Bierkellers in Franconia and hence, the world. Set on a slight hill on the edge of the forest, overlooking the countryside and the village Reundorf, this half-timbered wonder is atmospheric to say the least.

always a welcomed sight, the Schmausenkeller and its beer dispensary

Their renowned Kellerbier flows from gravity dispense barrels from a small half-timbered structure manned by the Müller brewer himself and when busy, who could only be his wife. If you find pleasure in simple things, this is about as pleasurable as it gets. The food is equally amazing, with a fair variety. We enjoyed their Schäuferla, succulent pork shoulder topped with a crispy layer of pork fat. This is the signature dish of Franconia and my buddy was happy to finally get to have it. His wife went for Roulade, beef pounded and rolled with a stuffing of bacon and onions.

Schäuferla & Roulade at the Schmausenkeller

Everyone was happy. Me, especially so, as their Bock was still on tap. I’d had at the Autumn Anstich but was hoping that it was on offer in spring, as well. Though perhaps not the perfect hiking companion, how could I resist? You never know when Herr Müller will retire.

Beerwanderers’ table at the Schmausenkeller & the Müller Bock

Despite not ever wanting to leave, we pried ourselves from our comfy scenic table and started to march towards our last brewery on the trail, Brauerei Büttner in Untergereuth. I had a shorter route on the GPS but I was happy to hear everyone opt for the longer, more scenic one. It was a very pretty walk and we were soon, strolling up the street in the tiny village. It was a lot more pleasant then the last time I’d been there by car, trying to find parking in the only busy place in town, the brewery. It was pleasantly quiet and soon, we found out why: the brewery had decided to close that Sunday in lieu of opening the following day, Whit Monday. I was disappointed, mostly as my wife hadn’t been able to drink a beer the last time here, as she was driving. I also wanted my friends to enjoy a highly coveted and hard to get regional beer. We were tired and hot so sat in the very shady and scenic Biergarten, drinking our water and imaging how good the beer would has tasted after the hot slog. A few bikers stopped by and were surely perplexed by our enjoying the Beerless Garden. They’d obviously not known about the change of opening hours, either.

scenic walk to Untergereuth & hanging out at Brauerei Büttner sans beer

That last 10 kilometers could have been anti-climactic after not securing our final brewery but everyone was in great spirits. We were all tired but the scenery was beautiful, as was the weather: warm and dry with fluffy clouds billowing overhead. It made for some great photos and though we could have shortened our walk by returning directly from the Schmausenkeller, everyone was glad we hadn’t.

the walk back to Sambach was magical & featured a stork’s nest

The hike itself was good enough to do, even without the beer. It didn’t hurt that after rounding one of the final bends, we came across an ostrich/emu farm!

the unexpected ostrich/emu farm

And of course, in Franconia, without beer isn’t really likely to happen, especially if you’re walking with me. We were back in our comfy rooms in no time, enjoying a much deserved hot shower. Even sooner, we were sitting in Brauerei Hennemann again, feeling just a bit like locals. It wasn’t as busy but there was a large table of local guys enjoying their beer. The brewer was sitting with them but smiled when we walked in the door, and quickly fetched us his magic Lagerbier. It tasted even better than the previous night. We’d earned it and it truly was a beer worth the walk.

a beer worth the walk

Contact information for the breweries can be found at: Hennemann, Schmausenkeller and Büttner.

I pieced together a few hikes to make this circuit but information on hiking trails in this area can be found at the Brauereien Wanderweg.

Interested in guided beer hiking tours in Franconia

If interested in guided beer hikes in other parts of Bavaria, drop me a line.

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