I drank beer at many (many, many, many) places in Munich and while the beer was almost always great there were definitely some winners and some losers. This list is only the winners in order of how much I liked loved them to help you plan your own trip to Munich!Read More
An easy train ride out of Munich, Freising (pronounced fry-sign) is a perfect day trip for beer lovers that want to get a little history in during their stay in Germany. Weihenstephan is the oldest continuously producing brewery in the world (a fact not easily forgotten as it is plastered all over the brewery campus) and is best known for its impeccably brewed wheat beers. Here’s what I suggest doing when visiting this picturesque town and historical brewery.
Explore the Town of Freising
Freising is a quaint German town that almost seems torn from a movie set (or maybe Disney World’s Epcot?). If you’re planning to tour the brewery, try to get an early train and give yourself a few hours to explore the old town area. The town square with three (beer serving!) cafes and the old church is a great place to relax, people watch, and take in the unique architecture and statues.
Go to an Eiscafe
I was shocked at how important ice cream is to the German diet. At any time of day, early morning, lunch time, very late at night, people are sitting outside eating massive ice cream sundaes. My friend who lives in Berlin laughed when I texted her on our second day in Germany “Ok, everyone is always eating ice cream? Or am I crazy?” She confirmed, yes in Germany, there’s no wrong time to eat an ice cream. Freising’s main road is lined with Eiscafes that are a little less commercial and more charming than the ones you’ll find in Munich, a perfect opportunity to try the mid-day ice cream trend...maybe the Germans are onto something with this??
Go To Das Bräustüberl Weihenstephan (The Brewery’s Restaurant)
It takes about 25 minutes to walk from the center of the town up to the brewery. If you’d rather skip the exercise, it’s easy to find a cab near the train station. It’s a bit of a steep walk, you’re mounting the hill that the brewery sits on, but the elevation also provides a unique view of the city and scenic gardens as you make your way toward Weihenstephan. If you have time before your tour definitely stop in at the restaurant for a few beers. There is counter service through a window out back in the garden or you can opt for a full blown table service lunch of traditional German fare and beer. Beers are affordable at around €4 a liter and the whole line of Weihenstephan beers are available. It was my first time having their pilsner and I gotta say...come for the wheat beer, stay for the pils!
Take a Brewery Tour
The tour may seem like the main event, and it may be that I’m a bit tour-ed out, but I would say the tour is rather generic. It is cool to see the old equipment and the “room where it’s made” but I didn’t learn anything new or specific to Weihenstephan. The tours happen Monday-Wednesday and are available in English so you can ask as many questions as you want...and take photos of course. Be sure to make a reservation, these tours fill up! It was a really hot day so being in the brew room was almost unbearable, on a cooler day I’m sure we would have spent more time there. In my opinion, you should opt for the tour with the tasting. The tasting at the end is where I learned the most about German drinking culture and got to see the “proper” pour of a wheat beer...yeast and all! Plus at just €9 for the tour, three bottles of beer, and a souvenir tasting glass it’s a great deal.
Enjoy the Views
Like I said, Weihenstephan (and the college campus it is a part of) is on top of a hill that overlooks Freising. There is a great little view from behind the restaurant, but don’t forget to take a few moments to walk around to the other outlooks. Behind the beer museum is an outlook that allows you to see for miles with all of the small towns and their cathedrals speckling the landscape. I might over romanticize it because I’m used to looking at NYC every day, but it’s literally less than a minute out of your way to give it a look.
Hit the Gift Shop
Speaking of walking around the campus, there is a small gift shop in the main restaurant, but there is a much larger gift shop (packed with beer!!) on the brewery campus. If you’re looking to bring home gifts for anyone or a few memories for yourself, it is definitely worth the stop. Pretty much every piece of merchandise is plastered with the “World’s Oldest Brewery” slogan which is pretty iconic if nothing else. Also a great place to grab a few really well made beers you can’t get in the states.
From Munich take the S1 train all the way to the end of the line. It’s about 40 minutes from the Marienplatz stop (in the center of the city’s old town). The trains are comfortable and air conditioned so it’s a relaxing trip.
We were only in Bamberg for two days (one night) and I can’t imagine needing to spend much longer in this small, brewery packed, town. It’s a beautiful city and one of the few left untouched by wars in Germany (it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site). Beyond the typical sights of the ornate church, quirky town hall, and old town square there are plenty of beer-y things to do. These were my favorite stops we made in Bamberg.
This was a fitting first stop in Bamberg because it is also the oldest brewery in the city. It gave an immediate sense of how much Bamberg values tradition and drinking culture. On a sunny Saturday on the back patio under massive branded umbrellas there were several tables of locals enjoying a snack and a pint, a long table filled with older men clanking ceramic beer steins all wearing the same shirt (adorable), and one other table of tourists.
Opt for the braunbier and the kellerbier if they’re available (at €3 a pop you can afford to try the whole menu!) and enjoy the views over the water. I didn’t try the food here but it appears to be very typical German fare. There are also tours that need to be booked in advanced.
Of course, you can’t talk about Bamberg without talking about Schlenkerla...so I won’t! First thing to note, there is a restaurant around the corner, Kachelofen from Schlenkerla that does a very good job masquerading as the real deal. While it’s not a bad spot (we enjoyed a rauchbier and a few kellerbiers on the patio) it’s something to note.
Schlenkerla is gigantic and almost cavernous (at least to this NYC resident). Each room has its own charm (a full description of the rooms is available on the brewery website) and the beer garden looked like the quintessential place to enjoy a rauchbier. It was closed when we visited. The good news is with all that space in a small city it’s unlikely that you’ll feel crowded at Schlenkerla so it’s a great place to post up for a smokey beer and some German food (a match made in pork heaven!).
We were lucky enough to visit when the “Krausenbier” was in season and I can’t recommend it enough. In fact, I did recommend it to an entire tour group that was a little unsure about the whole smoked beer thing. It’s the perfect way to enjoy the style without being overwhelmed, or to ease into the real deal.
Next door to Schlenkerla is a tiny brewery making their own weissbier and fresh white weisswurst. The atmosphere is a little more sunny and airy than Schlenkerla which made for a nice lunchtime setting. You can sit right next to their brew house and snack on pretzels sausage and some housemate beer! Worth a stop to take a break from rauchbier.
One thing I didn’t get to do while in Bamberg that I really wanted to was tour the malting facilities at Weyermann. They have a public tour every Wednesday at 2pm but I just couldn’t get the days of our trip to line up. If you have a group of 8+ you can book a private tour any weekday. In the few emails I had back and forth with staff they were extremely helpful! I think with enough advanced planning you could book a smaller tour or tag along on an existing tour. Definitely something to look into if you want to geek out on how German beer is really made!
The Views of Bamberg
Castle Altenberg/Restaurant Altenberg
We were in Bamberg during an uncharacteristic heatwave for Germany (my friend in Berlin said stores completely sold out of fans) so we skipped the 30 minute walk from old town through the city and up the hill that Castle Altenberg sits on. If it were even a bit cooler I would have taken the hike because it takes you past all the major Bamberg landmarks and up a very scenic hill. You can drive almost to the castle and just the five-ish minute trek from our car was more than enough 92 degree sunshine for us. When we looked over the ledge of the castle we realized the sweat was worth it.
You can see the whole city of Bamberg tucked in the valley and there’s a clear shot all the way to the horizon. The restaurant has a to-go window outside for both beer and food. It would be a great spot to eat inside and enjoy the view but the air conditioning left something to be desired so we enjoyed steins of the local helles in the shade instead.
The Rose Garden
If you’re crunched for time (or just don’t feel like adding a hike to your vaycay) the rose garden next to the Dom (look up Rosengarten) also offers stunning views of the city, a little more up close and personal. Adding hundreds of beautifully maintained roses to the view and its totally worth the stop. If you go when the cafe is open you can also enjoy a beer or lunch in the garden.
Where to Stay
Try to stay as close to old town as you can. It’s the most picturesque and the hotel prices are similar to the rest of the city. We stayed at the Hotel Villa Geyerswörth and loved it. I will say in the middle of a heatwave Europe’s lack of strong air conditioning and ice were apparent. The breakfast spread at our hotel was insane, meats, cheeses, bread with all the spreads for days!
We also had breakfast at Eckerts part of the Hotel Nepomuk and I would suggest looking into that hotel as well it’s situated right on the canal and the restaurant was large and had great food, plus next door to Klausterbrau is hard to beat!
There is a brewery, Fässla, that offers lodging and I would have stayed there in a heartbeat if they weren’t booked. It reminded me of the set up at St. Bernardus which was one of my favorite beer-trip hotels ever! We did get to try some of their beer while out and about in Bamberg, would be so fun to stay there!
The chocolate chip cookie is a dessert standard. They'll hold up on the trip to the office or potluck, they're a crowd pleaser, and hey they aren't all that hard to make!
In fact, I have my favorite super easy recipe for a small batch of chocolate chip cookies right here.
But if you really want to bring the party, don't offer cookies alone! Bring a beer pairing along with you. Pairings not only make your favorite foods taste just a littttle better, they are also fun to try because they work for everyone a little differently.
If Dessert Is Feeling A Little Heavy, Try a Weizenbock Or Belgian Dubble
Suggested beers: Schneider Weisse Aventinus and Westmalle Dubble
Weizenbock and Belgian Dubble styles both feature some wonderful stone fruit flavors that lend a richness to the pallet, but their body and carbonation are a lighter than other dark beer counterparts. You'll notice more of the brown sugar sweetness in your cookie that pairs beautifully with the breadcrust flavors in these darker ales.
If You're Looking for the Perfect Nightcap + Dessert Combo, Try A Belgian Quad
Suggested Beer: Rochefort 10
My favorite pairing with chocolate chip cookies is the Belgian Quad. This style is sweet and rich and boozy. The dark fruit flavors of fig and dried cherries bring out the vanilla in the cookies for an indulgent dessert experience. This style tends to be more than ten percent alcohol making it the perfect way to end a dinner, or a night in!
If You're Feeling a Little Crazy, Try a Brett Ale
Suggested Beer: Allagash Little Brett
This pairing is not going to give you the classic dessert flavors you may expect, but it will wake you and your pallet up a little. I imagine the perfect place for this pairing is eating chocolate chip cookies outside at a summer picnic. Instead of pulling out deeper sugar and chocolate flavors from the cookie, the funky Brett flavors and high carbonation effectively wipe the heavy sweetness from your pallet. This experience instantly makes dessert feel lighter and let's you get your sugar fix without needing a nap.
What?! No Stout?
I know, I know you were expecting to see a stout! Stouts are definitely a good pair with chocolate chip cookies the light roast flavors compliment the sweetness in the cookie without overpowering it. Semisweet chocolate also stands up to that roast, which make the semi-sweet flavor shine on your pallet. But come on, everyone pairs chocolate chip cookies with Left Hand Milk Stout, I wasn't going to do that to you!
Ok...so what did I miss? Or what did you think? Anything you absolutely have to eat your cookies with?