Friday, August 29, 2008

Five Rivers Trail -- Day 6 -- Lauf to Nürnberg

After a leisurely breakfast, we coasted down the hill to pick up the Five Rivers Trail. We had about 30 odd kilometers to Nürnberg and all day to do them if we needed it. Both bikes were running well it was mostly downhill. At some point we missed a turn down into the Pegnitz valley but there was a nice paved bike path following the highway, so we went with pavement over scenery.

Soon we found ourselves in a nice park along the river and some lakes formed by the Pegnitz. There we ran into an unexpected road hazard -- geese in the road.

Beware of Geese

My Dad took this picture as I was trying to take a picture of the geese, not run into any of them  and also miss the pedestrian going for a morning walk. All collisions were successfully avoided.

A short while later  we arrived back at our starting point -- Nürnberg Hauptbahnhof.


The Circle is Complete

We caught the next train to Bamberg where we had an interesting problem -- the bicycle car was absolutely full. Bikes were literally piled one on top of another. We took off our panniers and stacked them on the stairs to the upper deck and our bikes were small enough that we could squeeze into the vestibule. I had talked about getting off at Hirschaid but there really wasn't a chance (and my Dad was tired). So we went on to Bamberg (where the bike car emptied out) and rode to our apartment. Then we had to find a beer -- not too hard in Bamberg.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Five Rivers Trail -- Day 5 -- Amberg to Lauf

We're actually in the little village of Reichenschwand, just outside of Lauf.

Thursday was not a fun day. As we were unlocking the bikes to leave Amberg, I noticed my father's rear tire was almost flat. This is the one we had the problems with earlier. We had another spare tube, but this surely means there is something wrong with tire. We asked the hotel desk manager where the nearest bike shop was and he said "I'll drive you to the one we use" (The hotel has bikes for guests to use).

So we folded the bike, put it in the car and off we went. The shop was about 4km, which is farther than we thought. The owner there had a tube that would fit and replaced the tube and said he looked at the tire very closely and found nothing. I asked were the hole was and he inflated the tube and it was fine. ???? Maybe gremlins let air out of the tire as we slept.

Back at the hotel, we loaded up and rode out. On the way to the city, Sulzbach-Rosenberg, we passed by the bike shop but all was well.

Just outside of Sulzbach-Rosenberg the hills started. Bamberg (and Rome) where build on seven hills, but Sulzbach-Rosenberg must have at least five. In the middle of the city was Brauerei Sperber. So we stopped for a bowl of delicious mushroom soup and beer. They had a Pils and Helles and draft. Both were good, but nothing exceptional.
An open brewery for a change!



Sperber Beers


Outside of S-R was another long (for us hill). There was also a stiff headwind so we didn't get much speed on the downhill side. My father's tire was a bit lower than he liked -- the guy at the bike shop probably didn't realize they go up to 100psi (or 7 bar). At the highest point we where about 130 meter over are starting point, which doesn't sound like much but we did 100 m of that about 5 times.

At one point we were resting at an intersection and another (younger) cyclist stopped and asked if everything was OK. We said we were just catching our breath before the next hill. He asked where we were going and we said Nürnberg, but we'd probably stop short of it. He said that the next hill was the last and then it was all downhill to Nürnberg. Welcome news!

Shortly after that, in the village of Hartmannhof, we rounding a corner and there was a bike shop. The owner was putting out some bike for display and I ask if he had air. He pointed to a handpump chained to the side of the building and said "help yourself." My Dad brought his bike over and we pumped up his rear tire. I thought mine might be a tad low as well, so I though I'd do the same. The valve wasn't in the right place, so I lifted the rear of the bike and tried to rotate the tire. Tried is the operative word -- the tire was hard to move!  The rear brake was seriously dragging -- not enough to stop movement, but enough to slow you down. No wonder those hills seemed so long and the downhills so slow!

Nothing looked obviously wrong, but since we were at a bike shop I took it inside to the owner, rather than embarrass myself with my lack of mechanical skills (hey, I'm a software guy, this is hardware). The bike shop owner put it up on the rack he he could find nothing wrong. He went out an looked at my Dad's and looked an mine and finally pointed out a bent piece. The little little flange that holds the spring tension screw on the right side brake was bent 90°!

He said that couldn't (or shouldn't be fixed) but he had a good Shimano brake that was compatible, only 10 Euros. He said it would take 10 minutes to install but he futzed with it for about 25 and then we were back on the road. He didn't even charge me any labor. 

Two other quick things about this shop: that hand pump is outside all the time, even when he is closed. He says he puts out a new one every couple years. None has ever been stolen. Also, on the side of the shop was a vending machine that sells bicycle tubes.  At first I thought it was cigarette machine but then realized it was tubes in a number of different sizes and valves.  I like this bike shop -- Radsport Müller & Wagner. I don't know if we where dealing with Herr Müller or Herr Wagner, but if you are ever in Hartmannhof and need bike work, I highly recommend them.

Back on the trail it felt like I had a new bike. I am not sure how long I'd had this problem -- not more than a few days and probably didn't notice it since we mostly riding on the flats. Anyway, even though it was downhill, it was clear after two, one hour delays, we weren't going make our original destination of Schwaig.  I called a few hotels in Lauf and they were all full. One of the bike maps had an add for the Gasthof zur Grünen Eiche ("The Green Oak") and they had rooms so I booked one.

It turns out the village is a little bit off the bike trail, which isn't a problem, but it is somewhat up the side of the hills along the river valley. So I was really ready for a beer when we pulled up to the Gasthof. I was dismayed to see a big "Veldensteiner" sign. This means beers from Brauerei Kaiser in Neuhaus an der Pegntiz, whose beers I've always found to be very bland. I went in and said I was the person who and called but we wanted a beer first. She said sit down outside and she'd come see us. We ordered a Helles and a Landbier. I was surprised that the Landbier was quite nice. The Helles was OK, on range with the ones we'd had the past few days. The menu also listed a Zwickel and Rauchbier from them and I had both with dinner. I think the Zwickel was just the Helles but unfiltered. The Rauchbier had a small but decent amount of smoke and was fairly decent.

Tomorrow we make the short ride in to Nürnberg and then we'll catch a train to Bamberg. I'm pressing to get off the train early (like Hirschaid) and ride in to Bamberg, but we'll see how my Dad feels.

Distance traveled: 51 km

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Five Rivers Trail -- Day 4 -- Regensburg to Amberg

Heaven, thy name is asphalt. Finally, today we had mostly paved trails and most of the unpaved sections were crushed limestone and fairly hard.

We were up early and were on the trail before 10. Regensburg can also be difficult to get around -- both the rivers Regen and Naab join the Danube there. We wanted to follow the Naab north. We followed the signs to the Naabtal Radweg (Naab Valley Bike Trail) and were soon out of the city.

The Naab was fairly wide, but very slow -- no visible current and in fact often looked more like a pond than a river. We were often on one lane country roads rather than a dedicated bike path but vehicular traffic was light.

The Naab River -- yes "River"

After a couple of hours we ended up in Kallmünz, home of Brauerei zum Goldenen Löwen, which was recommended to me by a friend in Bamberg. I knew the brewery pub didn't open until 6pm, but I had heard a few other places in town served the beer as well.

Yet another closed brewery

And as we rounded a corner we came upon the "Bürstenbinder." What was interesting is that hanging off of their sign was the six pointed brewers star -- the Zoigl. Usually you only at breweries, not pubs. There were five or six tables outside but in the shade but they were all taken, so we went inside. The doorways were so low that you had to duck. The room looked to be unchanged for hundreds of years.


zum Bürsenbinder

We picked up the menu and the mystery of the brewers star was solved -- they were serving Zoigl beer. In the northern part of the Oberpfalz they have the tradition of a community owned brewery and various families take turn brewing and actually age the beer in their own cellars. The families take turns serving the beer and when it is one family's turn they hang a Zoigl star outside their door. In this case though, I think it is probably not true Zoigl beer, but what the hey -- I'm thirsty, they have beer -- case closed. The beer was dark and malty, but had no discernible hops or bitterness. WIth even a little more bitterness in finish it would have been a wonderful beer.



A hopless Zoigl

The other quandary on the menu was most of the food was listed under the heading of "Bauchstechenerla" which literally translated comes to "Little Stomach Stickers." With some trepidation I ordered one with cheese -- surely they were made from pig stomaches or some such? It turns out it was basically fried noodles with whatever topping you wanted. I guess would say it "sticks to your ribs"

The pub had one woman who not only served the beer and food, she was also the cook. That meant our lunch break took a bit longer than planned. Kallmünz is where the Vils and Naab join and now we wanted to follow the Vils. We found the trail along the Vils and were soon making time northward.

Along our left was a forest with periodic signs, in English then German, "Military Area -- Danger to Life" -- a few said "Danger of Life" which was kind of funny. I assumed it was an American military reservation since English was first, but the wording was clearly done in German then translated to English.

We also had more hills -- not big ones but enough to make you work. What it looked like is every once in a while a farmer didn't want the bike path thru his field so you went around it, which made you ride up to the foothills of the valley wall and then down again.

Going was much slower and when we reached Schmidtmühlen it was time for a break. We rounded a corner and there was a cafe open and about 30 bicycles scattered around. We ordered some soft drinks and while drinking them a woman came over and asked "Weren't you at Brauerei Kraus in Hirschaid last year?" This is a small town south of Bamberg with a very good brewery, and yes my father and I were riding there last year. She had recognized our bikes! The only beer was bottled, but one I hadn't every tried, Naabecker Helles. I ordered one and it must of been good because it was gone in record time, I think my beer reservoir was a liter low.

A number of bike trails meet in Schmidtmühlen and we had a little trouble finding the right one out of town, but were soon peddling northward. The trail was mostly wooded and not paved. It was marked as horse trail as well. We didn't see any horses but there was evidence of their presence.

We arrived in at our hotel in Amberg pretty much at 6:00pm straight up. There are five (or six depending if you count one that is mostly a hobby brewery) breweries but only three in the old town near where we were staying. First we went to Schloderer Bräu and had dinner. They looked to be a modern brewpub style brewery. The had the obligatory Helles and Dunkles so we ordered one of each. They were nice and drinkable but nothing special to write home about -- except I guess I am doing exactly that.

Scholderer Bräu

Around the corner was Schiessl but it turns out Wednesday is their rest day ("Ruhetag") so we gazed longingly at the front door but nobody brought us beer. "Ruhetag" is the second most hated word in my German vocabulary -- after "Betreibsurlaub!"


Yet another closed brewery. This is getting tiresome

Down the street was Winkler Bräu and it was all lit up so we assumed they were open. We walked in and the place was absolutely empty. I asked the woman sorting silverware if they were open and she said yes, but we might want to try the garden. We walked thru to the back and there was a very nice garden, full of people drinking beer.


Winkler Bräu, Amberg

They had small sizes and we were feeling tired so we ordered a .3 l of each of the three beers. The waiter was confused because we order three beers for two people, but we soon convinced him it was OK. The Helles and Pils were typical of the area and tasty. The third beer was named "Zoigl" and was amber colored and had a bit of a strange finish. It was the last to be finished.

Winker beers

Tomorrow is a long hard ride. It is nearly 80km to Nürnberg and there are some serious hills marked on the map. We'll probably knock off early short of Nürnberg and finish the rest on Friday, We are not due back in Bamberg until Friday afternoon.

Total Distance: 75 km

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Five Rivers Trail -- Day 3 -- Kelheim to Regensburg

After a nice breakfast, we packed up our bags and left the hotel. With the trails be really dusty, we thought we should try and clean and re-lube them. However, somewhere along the way we lost our bottle of chain lube. Not to worry, next to the hotel was a bike shop and we picked up a bottle of Pedro's Road Rage -- Made in the USA.

We lost a little time trying to get out of Kelheim. The city sits at the confluence of the Altmühl and the Danube, so you can't do the easy thing -- find the Danube and turn east. Eventually, we found our way back to the Altmühl (which is also the Main-Danube canal that starts in Bamberg) and found the signs marking the trail.

Initially, the trail was paved and we had high hopes that turned to ashes as the trail turned to gravel. But it was more of a "pea gravel" and not as bad as before. We wound or way along the Danube, passing thru some quaint villages. There were huge limestone cliffs along the south bank (we were on the north).
Cliffs along the Danube

At Bad Abbrach we crossed over the river. There is a brewery there, but it was a bit inland and up a hill so we kept on riding. About 5km later we were in the village of Oberdorf and it was getting on to lunch time. We diverted from the trail on to a road that when into town. The Berghammer brewery was somewhere and we intended to find it! Find it we did, and saw what has become my least favorite word in the German language -- Betreibsurlaub -- meaning "Closed for Vacation"


Are you tired of closed brewery pictures? So am I!


The brewery was functioning, though, we could smell the delightful aroma of a brew in progress. A couple was carrying out a case of bottles and the woman told us the another 5 miles down the road was a nice place to have lunch. The man went around to the back of his VW Van, open the hatch, reached in, and came out with two cold bottles of beer, which he handed to us. "Prost!" he said.

We wondered over to a picnic table across the road, that clearly was used as a beer garden when the pub was open. We parked the bikes an opened the bottles (which luckily where swing top as I had no idea where in my bags the bottle opener was). The beer was called "Kupfer" -- copper -- and was very nice. A bit of hops and a hint of roasted malt. The couple came over and sat with us and told us they had been friends of the brewer for a long time and drove up from Regensburg to pick up some beer. The man went back in the brewery and came out with another bottle, this time of the helles and my Dad and shared that. It was quite nice, but the Kupfer was better and more interesting.

Berghammer of Oberdorf beers

We finished up the beers and continued riding. We decided to stay on the country road to Matting, the village with the "nice place for lunch."

We soon found ourselves at the "Zunftstubl" which appeared to be an outdoor cafe, though I'm sure there are rooms inside when the weather is colder. We each ordered chicken soup and a beer. I thought I would like something more solid, so I ordered some "Leberkäse" -- which translates to "Liver Cheese" although it has no liver and no cheese in it. The owner said, no that is too much food but I insisted. She was right -- the bowls of soup were huge and the Leberkäse plate had 3 huge slices. I finished what I could and took along the rest as "emergency rations."

The Zunfstubl in Matting -- a good place for lunch

We had "lost" a couple of hours with our stops, but since today was a short day (and we had no flat tires!) we had time to kill. We worked our way to Regensburg, stopping to take pictures along the way. Soon, we could tell we were approaching the city because there were high rise apartment buildings in the distance. The area along the river was very wooded and you had no idea you were in a largish city. Soon the famous "Stone Bridge" came in to view and we knew we were there.

The Stone Bridge over the Danube at Regensburg
(Note: some panoramic views of and from the Stone Bridge are available here)

Our hotel was in my GPS but we still had a very hard time finding it. It turns out to be on a very narrow pedestrian street that is really more of an alley. But being smart businesspeople they put a huge sign with an arrow on the side of another building and we were soon checked in and in our room.

After a shower, we walked down to Arnulfsplatz, the home of Brauerei Kneitinger, the best (in my opinion) brewery in Regensburg. We had their Edel Pils and Export Dunkel. Both were good, but the Pils was better. They had a bock beer on the menu, but were told (falsely it turns out) that is only available in the fall.


Brauerei Kneitinger, Regensburg

Next we walked down to the stone bridge, which is the oldest stone bridge in Germany. It was originally a Roman bridge (Regensburg was founded by the Romans) and in the 1300s the current bridge was built on the original Roman footings. At the foot of the bridge is a little shack that is a bratwurst stand that was originally built to feed the workers building the bridge in 1300. Sadly they were just closing, but sold us some sausages on roll to go.


700 year old sausage stand

We walked across the bridge and on the other end is Brauerei Spital. The is a brewery that was formerly run by a hospital (hence the name). I wonder if their motto was "A beer a day keeps the doctor away."

While the beer is not is good as Kneitinger, they have a very nice beer garden along the Danube. We ordered a Helles and a Dunkles and each had a bowl of "Kohlrabi" soup. I had no idea what it was and the way our waitress described it, it sounded like some sort of cabbage. It turns out it is a form of cabbage that has been bred to grow underground like a turnip. The soup was good, but needing more we shared some pork medallions in mushroom sauce. It was very good, but a bit too much after the bratwurst appetizer.


Spital Beer -- Its good for what ales you

We wandered back to the hotel and after passing the third ice cream stand, my Dad decided he couldn't pass up a forth, so we stopped for a cone.

Tomorrow is a longer day -- 64km practically due north to the city of Amberg.

Total distance: 40km

Monday, August 25, 2008

Five Rivers Trail -- Day 2 -- Berching to Kelheim

We started off the day right, with a stop at the other brewery in Berching, Aldstadthotel Brauerei (a/k/a Brauerei Winkler). My dad had a coffee, I had a dunkel. It was really chocolate-y much more usual in Germany. In fact, with a little ale yeast character and some more hops it would be a nice porter.

Winkler Dunkel and Pils -- Beer is still for breakfast

A side note here -- for the most part the trail was very well marked. A most major intersections were direction signs for bicycles, such at this one in Berching.

Bicycle oriented road sign


We took off down the trail to Beilngries, the next major town, about 11 km. We were now along the new Main-Danube canal -- the one actually used for shipping. We passed a number of interesting bridges (they spend a little more on design here than in the States). A panoramic photo of the wooden bridge is available here.

The New Main-Danube Canal
The Longest Wooden Bridge in Europe


Soon the trail turned to gravel again. Around a bend my dad pulled over and said his rear tire was low. We pumped it up and continued, soon passing the beautiful Benedictine Abby of Plankstetten.


Plankstetten Abbey -- sadly no Abbey Beer

About 2km later, we had to pull over -- the rear tire was now completely flat. Two days, two flats -- not a good sign. We turned the bike upside down and began the laborious (for us) process of removing the wheel, removing the tube, replacing the tub and finally putting the wheel back on. While tire was off, we both closely inspected it to see if there was anything sharp embedded in it, but the tire looked fine.

With the bike back together we proceeded to pump up the tire to the recommended 100psi -- no easy task with a small hand pump. At about 60psi the pump gave out. But that was enough to ride on so we continued on to Beilngreis.

Luckly, the map I bought had listed bike mechanics along the route and there was one in Beilngries -- Zwei Rad Huber. We made our way to it, with the help of my GPS and that there was a parking lot on the same street and there were signs to direct motorists to it.

We found the shop (motorcycle and bicycle) and Herr Huber was more than helpful. He checked the tire and said it was OK. He patched one of the tubes (said throw the other away) and also fixed the pump. And he did all this in one tenth the time it took us!

It also turns out Herr Huber is a professional side-car racer. He showed us his latest machine -- it looked more like a rocketship than a motorcycle.

By now it is about 1pm and we've gone maybe 12 km. We wanted to get going, but lunch was in order. So a quick ride into town to Brauerei Gasthof Goldener Hahn (a/k/a Schattenhofer Bräu) for a beer and lunch.

Beer is still for lunch, too

So fortified, we hit the trail again. We slowly made our way south and east with gravel trails most of the way. When I have biked around Bamberg I have ridden hundreds of miles and all of it was paved but maybe one or two miles total. We are running about 20% paved here. Not so much fun.

Nothing uneventful the rest of the ride. No mechanical failures. We had a couple of large (for us) hills which took a while but were not insurmountable. The bad news was the two towns with breweries, Riedenburg and Essing, were somewhat off the trail and we were late enough to not want to explore too much. So we were beerless the whole afternoon.

As we approached Kelheim, I was hopeful the trail surface would get better, but it actually got worse. There were large rocks in the dirt trail, large ruts and an uneven surface. Mountain bikers would be happy, but our little non-suspension bikes were not.

Anyway, around 6:30pm will pulled up to Brauerei Hotel Aukofer and all was well. After a shower we had a beer in restaurant (a nice helles and a nice dunkles) then went into town for dinner and some beers at the Weisses Brauhaus -- the tap room of Schneider & Sons -- for me the center of the world when it comes to wheat beer. Dinner and the beers were excellent!

Fridays calling it a day at the Hotel Aukoferbräu


Schneider Aventinus Schnapps, Ice Bock and Weizenbock

Distance ridden: 62km

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Five Rivers Trail -- Day 1 -- Nürnberg to Berching

We got up at 6:00am to do final packing and to get to the train station in time to catch our 8:30 train to Nürnberg. The bikes were really heavy when loaded -- I managed to not bring the kitchen sink, but just about everything else was there. Train departed and arrived on time and soon we found ourselves at the Nürnberg Hauptbahnhof (Main Station). 

We were going to meet some fellow homebrewers from Washington DC and Buffalo and half of them road up and said the other half were running late and we should just go on ahead. We arranged a meeting point at the Ludwig Canal -- a canal built in the 1830's that runs from Bamberg to Kelheim. Our path the first day is basically along the canal. We followed a circuitous route (but well marked) thru the back streets of Nürnberg until we reached a park on the outskirts. The bikes handled OK with the load,  we just had to remember no sudden turns.

After 11km we reached the canal


Sign marking the trail route


The Historical Ludwig Main-Danube Canal


Fridays Loaded and Ready to Go

When the rest of the group arrived, we headed off south. The trail surface was loose gravel and packed dirt and we thought we'd eventually find pavement, but we rode pretty much the whole day on this -- not exactly fun. The other group was faster and rode on ahead, but would occasionally wait for us to catch up. After a particularly rough spot we realized my Dad's rear tire was flat. After much struggle, we replaced the tube and continued on. Luckily, there were no further mechanical problems.


The trail followed the canal, which on the map goes thru some towns and villages but we really saw no signs of civilization -- no snack bars, beer gardens, etc. There would occasionally be signs pointing off in one direction or the other but we were making such slow time on the dirt trail that we didn't explore.

At lock number 35 there was a little beer garden so we stopped for lunch and beer. The beer was from Stadtbrauerei Spalt in the city of Spalt. This is a well known hop region and you might think the beers would be hoppier than similar beers in the region, but they weren't. But they were tasty and hit the spot.

Fridays Resting at Lock 35
Spalter Bier

We had agreed to overnight in Berching so the other group decided to ride on. We slowly wound our way along the canal. The route was generally flat, with small uphill sections when we came to a lock on the canal. The scenery was very idyllic and it would have been a perfect ride if the trail had been paved.

About 5km from Berching there was a little snack bar so we stopped for some liquid refreshment. They had beers from the Augustiner Brewery in Munich and their Edelstoff is one of my favorite Munich beers and I thought I had earned it, so I had one and then we hit the road. A short time later we arrived at our hotel for the night, Brauerei zur Krone.

St Augustine to the rescue!


After a shower and so unpacking we heading down to the restaurant for dinner and a few beers. They had a Helles, Export and Zwickel beer on draft and all three were good but the Zwickel was very good.

Walking around the town we found the other brewery, but they were closed. But one of the locals said they open at 8:00am so maybe we'll stop for a breakfast beer on the way out of town.

Tomorrow is a shorter day, riding to Kelheim, the home of the famous Schneider wheat beers.

Total distance: 45 miles.


Berching Town Gate

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Warmup Ride Number 3

We had planned one more warm up ride before starting the big tour. We decided to ride north out of Bamberg. We did a similar ride last year with not so good results -- the ride was fine
 but all but one of the breweries were closed.

First stop was Brauerei Wagner in Kemmern, a about 5 miles north. We arrived around noon, thinking of lunch and a beer, but I forgot to check opening times -- they didn't open until 3:30pm. So we went onto Brauerei Hummer in Breitengüssbach, another couple of miles only to find they were close for summer holidays! Not an auspicious start. We were hungry so we got a couple sandwiches at the bakery across the street.

Next stop was Brauerei Sippel in Baunach. In past years this was a well respected little brewery, but some people in recent years had had only so-so (or worse) beer. Others reported it was fine.  I hadn't been there in 3 or 4 years so it seemed a good time to check it out.



Just a sip at Brauerei Sippel

We sat in the nice garden they had around the side. The beer was very nice, so maybe those bad reports were just a one off event (brewer on vacation?)

Next on the list was Brauerei zum Goldenen Adler ("Golden Eagle") in Höfen.  We got there around 2:30pm but they didn't open until 3:00pm. I knew this (and had figured it into the planning) but luckily 2 miles up the road is the village of Freudeneck and Brauerei Fischer. So in no time at all we were relaxing in their garden with their nice lagerbier.


Some are Fishers of Men, we are Fischers of Beer


Friday goes Fisching at Brauerei Fischer, Freudeneck

They were setting up for the church festival ("Kirchweih") and as we road back down the narrow single lane road, people were starting to arrive. There probably was a hot time in old Freudeneck that night.


A quick ride and one steep hill found us back in Höfen, where zum Goldenen Adler was open for business.
Friday soars with the Eagles at Brauerei zum Goldenen Adler, Höfen

The beer was nice but was not quite as clean in the finish as I would have liked. Very drinkable and really hit the spot.

We had ridden just about 17 miles and it was time to head home. We chose a slightly shorter route home, bypassing Baunach so Brauerei Sippel didn't tempt us. Along the way we ran in to some light rain, but luckily it didn't last. We worked our way back to Kemmern and found Brauerei Wagner doing a land office business. It was still threatening to rain and starting to get a little dark, so we just had one quick beer and rode back to Bamberg.


Friday still looking for Opera at Brauerei Wagner, Kemmern

We hit was passes for rush hour traffic in Bamberg but were shortly back home, dry but somewhat saddle sore. As we pulled up the apartment the GPS just ticked over at 30 miles. A long day but a great ride.

Saturday we'll take a break and get packed for the big trip, catching an 8:30 train to Nürnberg, where we'll start the Five Rivers trail...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Warmup Ride Number 2

One of the great Franconian summertime traditions is that of the "Bierkeller" -- an outdoor beer garden. From the name it sounds like it might be pub deep underground, maybe where the beers were fermented and aged, but in truth they usually tend to be on top of hill. It does have to do with the storage of beer -- tunnels were dug into the side of the hill to make artificial caves providing a constant temperature and where the beer was aged. They are on the side of a hill because it is easier to dig a horizontal tunnel into the side of hill than dig a vertical one. After a while, the brewers realized that rather than haul the beer into town, they could sell it on site and people would come to escape the heat and bustle of the town. Thus was born the bierkeller.

A bit south of Bamberg, near the village of Hallerndorf is a hill that has three very nice kellers at the top. It is called the "Kreuzberg" or "Cross Hill" -- there is a church at the top as well. Two of the kellers, Rittmayer and Lieberth have breweries in the village of Hallerndorf. The third keller,  Friedel,  is from the nearby village of Schnaid.  Friedel Keller recently installed their own brewing system and now brew all their own beers, which is the first for a bierkeller, as far as I know. It seemed like a good excuse for a visit.

We decided to take the train to the village of Eggolsheim, about a 15 minute ride, and then start biking.

Friday waiting for his train to come in

The train station for Eggolsheim is actually in Neuses and the village itself is about 2km eastward. There just happens to be a brewery there, Schwarzes Kreuz, so after the dusty train ride we decided to wet our whistle. The last time I had visited this brewery was a number of years ago and the beer was not very good, but recent reports had it better so it was worth checking out.

Brauerei Schwarzes Kreuz -- the "Black Cross" was "Red Cross" for our dry throats

The beer turned out to be quite nice and at € 1.60 for a half liter, just about the best deal around.

So we took off towards the Kreuzberg. Along the way will would ride thru the village of Schlammersdorf which is the home of the very fine Brauerei Witzgall. Unfortunately, Thursday is their "Rest Day" -- ruhetag in German. So no Witzgall for us today.

Friday "Schlammed" in Schlammersdorf by a closed brewery

Next stop is the village of Hallerndorf. I knew that one of the breweries, Lieberth, closes the pub in the village during the summer and just servers their beers at their two kellers -- one on the edge of town and one on top of the Kreuzberg. So I wasn't surprised to see it closed, but I had expected to make a stop at the other, Brauerei Rittmayer but it turns out they were closed for renovations. Three closed breweries in a row -- not a good sign!

So, our thirst unquenched we proceeded to ride up the the hill. My GPS does give some elevation information and it appeared to be about a 400 ft rise. Not much for Lance Armstrong, but our legs are much older and weaker. However, we made it almost to the top -- there is a place where the paved road changes to gravel so the last 25 ft of incline we walked.

Right at the top you come to Friedels Keller with their new brewery front and center. They had seven beers on tap and we tried three of them -- A nice helles, a dunkel with just a hint of smoke and a very nice Zwickelbier. I had a second of the Zwickel.

Friday at Frielel's new brewery

Next door to Friedel is the Lieberth Keller. We shared a quick keller beer there that was tasty, but nothing special. Right next to Lieberth is the Rittmayer Keller and they had both a kellerbier and a rauchbier so we tried both. I thought the smoke in the rauchbier was a bit too harsh, not quite "ashtray" level, but closer to that than I like. The kellerbier was a typcial Franconian kellerbier, unfiltered, not too carbonated and a little bit of hops in there as well.
Rittmayer Keller on the Kreuzberg

There are two roads up the Kreuzberg. If you take the other one down, it leads to the village of Stiebarlimbach, home of Brauerei Roppelt and Roppelts Keller.  I had visited the brewery before, but never the keller, so we took the back way down (going much faster than we did going up) and stopped for one last beer. We had saved the best for last as this was the best beer of the day.  If we didn't have a train to catch I could have stayed for two or three more. Unfortunately, in our hurry to ride back to Eggolsheim to catch our train (which runs only once an hour) I forgot to take a picture. I guess I'll just have to go back.  Total miles: about 22

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Warmup Ride Number 1

We got the bikes assembled and there were no parts left over, so we went for a shakedown ride.

First stop was the village of Memmelsdorf, about 5 miles away. Memmelsdorf has two breweries (10 years ago there were three). Brauerei Höhn uses a wood fired brew kettle but is closed on Wednesdays so we sadly rode on by.  Just down the street is Brauerei Drei Kronen  owned and operated  by Haus-Ludwig Straub who is also the founder of the Brauerei Gashöfe marketing group. We had his rauchbier, Stöffla and a light lunch. His daughter just finished her brewmaster ("brewmistress?") course at Weihenstefan and is now doing a practicum in Switzerland. Hans-Ludwig says she now tells him everything he does wrong when she watches him brew :)


Three Crowns but only Two Fridays

Next stop was  Merkendorf, also home to  two breweries. Both are good but Brauwerei Hummel is one of my favorite breweries in all Franconia. Last year when we rode there they were closed for their summer holidays which was a big disappointment.  This year I made sure they were open. Starting on Sunday is the town's annual "Parish Festival" (kirchweih or kerwa in Franconian) and preparations were already underway. They had erected a large tent behind the brewery and were already serving the special beer they brew for the festival. How many Parish festivals in the US have a beer specially brewed for them? It would probably increase church attendance. 



Brauerei Hummel -- no porcelain here.


I had the festbier and my father had the very nice kellerbier. I acutually like the kellerbier better so I had to order one. They also brew a smoke beer, Räucherla ("little smoke") and in the fall a very nice smoked double bock, Räucherator.

Guess who had the large and who had the small


The other brewery in Merkendorf is Brauerei Wagner and we stopped by there for a quick one. Inside was an older couple sitting with a middle aged nun, in full habit, drinking a beer. 

Brauerei Wagner -- no operas to be heard here

By this time we had ridden 8.5 miles and it looked like a storm was rolling in, so we decided to head back to town. On the way, one in Bamberg, we passed by Brauerei Fässla so of course we had to stop in to make sure the Gold-Pils was a good as ever. It was.


Insert catchy tag line here -- couldn't think of one.

So back home and then up the hill to Spezial Keller for a night cap. Total distance -- about 18 miles.

Tomorrow we'll take a train down to Eggolsheim and ride up the Kreuzberg where there are three beer kellers, one with a newly opened brewery.