Serendipity: The Franconian Beer Festival

There is a great beer bar in Nürnberg called Hütt’n. I was there about five years ago, and then the knowledgeable server clued me in on a beer festival that was taking place at the time in Erlangen. I never would have known about this otherwise. Erlangen turned out to be my first Bavarian beer festival and I will never forget it, in part because of my commemorative Bergkirchweibier krug from Kitzman.

Of course, Bavarian beer festivals are nothing like the ones we have in the States. Often only one brewery is represented. You don’t pay admission or buy beer tickets and you drink from .5L mugs not 4 oz samples. There are hardly any lines. The festivals are geared for families, and they boast carnival rides, games, lots of food, music, a large number of clean toilets, and a surprisingly few number of idiots—even at the Oktoberfest in Munich. And except for the Oktoberfest and a few others, a Bavarian beer festival isn’t going to be pimped; you just have to know about it or be in the right place at the right time…

…like us in Hütt’n the other day. We happened to be in Nürnberg because my mom was in town wrapping up her Danube cruise. We also happened to be meeting her for lunch at 12:30, had over an hour to kill beforehand, and the two pubs en route to the restaurant both happened to be closed. That’s why we headed uphill to Hütt’n. On the door of their little bar was a red poster that read something about Hütt’n sponsoring a Franconian beer festival in Nürnberg. I immediately assumed that we missed it when Josh pointed out that today was the final day of the fest. What? Really? OK this made me forget about our stupidly missing Corpus Christi in Bamberg–or being woefully unprepared for spring weather!

After lunch and a relaxing German-language tour of Nürnberg (we didn’t learn much but we were thankful to be off our feet for an hour), we said goodbye to my folks. Then Josh and I headed into the serpentine moat of the town walls, where most of Nürnberg’s festivals (like the Christmas festival) proudly take place.

Even when we saw the poster, Josh and I both realized this was no ordinary Bavarian beer festival. First of all, Hütt’n gave us a festival map indicating where each of the 29 breweries had their tents. Second, the festival offers a guide that includes background blurbs on the breweries and lists the beers they brought to the festival. Third, there were no carnival rides. This was a bona fide beer-centric Bavarian beer festival, run by local beer enthusiasts and we never would have known about it had we not been in Nürnberg and walked into Hütt’n that morning.

This festival was so unique that not even Nürnberg’s two brewpubs represented their beer. Instead, we got to try special beers from small, out-of-the-way Franconian breweries that we never could have reached by train and bicycle. We found out about fledgling Franconian breweries like Nikl and tried keller beers and zwickels that would have not otherwise come our way.

Going to festivals with a partner is great because we can try twice as much beer. We figured out which beers were priorities based on our handy CAMRA Good Beer Guide to Germany and tried a healthy dozen Franconian delicacies. Not one was a dud. Franconia takes its beer seriously. Serendipity rocks.

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