“The good people at Shelton Brothers have been traveling to Franconia for two decades, so visiting this beer mecca with them offers unparalleled access to the very best — and often little-known — beers of the region. Throw in the opportunity to hang out with the brewers themselves, while touring the breweries or dining in local beer gardens, and this trip is simply not to be missed.”

– Greg Engert (Neighborhood Restaurant Group)


Thursday July 25

Many of us will no doubt arrive in Bamberg a day or more in advance, the city being a UNESCO Heritage Site as well as the brewery-per-capita champion of the world. For early arrivers, the semi-official tour kicks off in the afternoon with a visit to the famous Weyermann maltery. The official tour however begins in the evening with a hike or cab ride  to the quiet street called Wunderberg (“Beautiful Mountain”), and the wonderful Mahrsbräu. Here we’ll dine with the 5th-generation owner in the leafy biergarten, possibly sneaking a peek at the historic brewery itself.  After enjoying our first traditional Franconian meal, accompanied by a selection of the most popular Mahr’s house beers, odds are we will finish opening night with several rounds of excellent pilsner at the great Keesmann brewery right across the street.

  Dinner included


Founded in 1879 by a grain trader,  Malzfabrik Weyermann is today the world’s most famous producer of specialty beer malts.

A landmark of Bamberg, its historic production buildings were declared industrial monuments in 1973. Weyermann’s trademark red-lettered, barley-laden sacks are a familiar site at breweries around the globe.


Located on the site of a 1600s brewery inn, Bamberg-favorite Mahrsbräu has been in the hands of the Michel family since 1895. Feisty Franconian metalhead Stephan Michel oversees production of Mahrbräu’s award-winning Franconian lagers as well as management of one of the world’s finest, most traditional restaurant-biergartens. Men’s Journal named Mahr’s Best Brewery in the World in 2007.


Butcher-turned-brewer Georg Keesmann founded his family brauerei in 1867. Located in the same district — and street — as the more famous Mahrsbräu, Keesmann is distinguished by its focus on pilsner production as well as its characterful early 19th century inn, today recognized as a Bamberg architectural monument.


Friday July 26

For those interested in the marvelous architecture and history of Bamberg, the staff will lead a guided tour of the major sights in the A.M. At 12:30 we’ll all board the private coach for our first trip to the countryside, where we’ll visit two of the very best breweries in the world and also taste our first Franconian wine. The first destination, tavern-brewery Gasthof Bayer, will offer a special lunch featuring award-winning cuisine accompanied by amazing traditional and experimental beers. Next, it’s the renowned Brauerei Zehendner, pouring the exquisite Mönchsambacher lagers and weizens in their pastoral farmhouse-biergarten. In the evening, we’ll stroll the magnificent half-timbered beer/wine town of Zeil-am-Main, possibly dropping in at the local Göller brewery’s biergarten Zur Alten Freyung before partaking in a sunset dinner featuring local wines.

  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner included


At first glance a typical, tidy Bavarian old-school roadside inn, the Gasthof Bayer’s house brewery in fact offers seasonal “craft” beers in addition to its world-class stable of flagship lagers, while its Slow Food-recognized restaurant Zum Grünen Baum (“The Green Tree”) serves up some of the most creative rustic cuisine in Franconia.


Set in the tiny farming village of Mönchsambach, Brauerei Zehendner humbly goes about its business of brewing some of the most superb lager in the world while focusing its attention and sales on customers within a 20-kilometer radius. The mini-industrial brewhouse can be viewed from the botanical-gardened courtyard, while the family matriarch can often be seen hovering outside the guesthouse kitchen tapping the rapidly emptying 20-liter gravity kegs.


Home to numerous picturesque hillside vineyards as well as the famous Gòller brewery, Zeil is a destination for German and international visitors to Franconia thanks to its lovely mountain views, winding medieval streets and half-timbered buildings, and numerous folk and cultural festivals.


Saturday July 27

Today we’ll start our weekend in the typical Franconian way — midday beer, lunch, and maybe some housemade spirits at a popular local getaway, the Kreuzberg (“Cross Mountain”), a cluster of three woodland biergartens flanked by an old church. Though we won’t want to leave, in the afternoon we are due for an exclusive appointment at the Brulikeller, a secret locals-only hideaway. Here we’ll roll a private keg right out of the cave and enjoy a naturally-aged lager from the village brewery. Some of us will want to take advantage of the man-made swimming lake nearby — a nice break! Returning to Bamberg, we’ll have three hours to freshen up and grab some dinner before meeting up in the evening for a short, scenic stroll up one of the city’s seven hills. We’ll eventually reach Bamberg’s largest beer destination, Wilde Rose, where we’ll enjoy the view and glorious garden as we drink from ceramic steins until closing.

  Breakfast and lunch included


In a secluded, hidden nook that at first glance appears to epitomize “the middle of nowhere” can be found one of the most popular woodland beer drinking spots in Franconia. Set smack in-between three tiny villages, each themselves boasting at least one world-class brewery, past a tiny old church and down a shaded, sunken hillside lie a trio of biergartens: the family brewpub Brauhaus am Kreuzberg, the Kreuzbergkeller Lieberth, and the Rittmayer-Keller. The Brauhaus boasts an extensive menu and proudly offers their house-made spirits as well as a wide range of beer styles; the Lieberth and Rittmayer act as outlets for well-regarded local breweries. A very short stroll from here reveals yet more bierkellers; such is the concentration of great breweries and drinking spots in this particular slice of Franconia.


For centuries, Franconians have in warmer months retreated to wooded havens to tap kegs of beer stored within hill-or-mountainsides caves. Today, with modern refrigeration rendering this practice unnecessary, a “bierkeller” generally takes the form of a cozy public brewery-outlet garden. But on very rare occasions one might spot a small, private group of traditionalist drinkers tapping their own secretive stash at a secluded keller. Such a band of fanatics can be found in the brewing village of Untergreuth, and they invite us and our guests to enter their private, hobbit-like world once a year, offering frothy pours from a picnic-table-mounted keg of lager beer from the local Brauerei Büttner.

Naturbadasee Frensdorf

In past tours, the Shelton Brothers discovered a secret, centuries-old pair of kellers hidden in the forest outside the village of Frensdorf. Then we discovered a man-made lake about one hundred yards away. We quickly realized that on a hot summer’s day, after a few keller beers, there’s nothing like a dive into the cool waters of the “Frensdorf Natural Swimming Lake.” At the very least, this rustic and popular community-run swimming spot sure can freshen you up for your next round of world-class lagers.


Perched high on the Stephansberg, one of the seven hills overlooking the old city of Bamberg, the Wilde Rose is the city’s largest, most picturesque, and most popular outdoor beer-drinking destination. The largely local crowd chooses from a range of Bamberger beers, served in ceramic steins and enjoyed in a classic wooded biergarten setting.


Sunday July 28

After three very full days and nights of gorging on the finest German beer and food, we will attempt to walk some of it off. Option #1: Our bus dropping us off at the beautiful biergarten of Elchbräu, we’ll embark on a 7.7-mile hike through the pastoral Fränkische Schweiz (“Franconian Switzerland”) countryside and its villages. Of course, here, unlike anywhere else in the world, breweries are literally everywhere, and we’ll encounter no fewer than five of them on the trail! You just can’t get away from beer in Franconia, so we won’t, and will stop at all five, stamping our official Fünf-Seidla “passports” at each point. At the end of the trail, we’ll enjoy a classic Franconian dinner at the famed monastery brewery at Weissenohe.

Option #2: For those opting out of the hike, a staff member will lead a walking (and drinking) tour of the marvellous historical old walled city of Nürnberg, where can be found several of Germany’s most iconic landmarks, and a few fine beers as well. After the tour, the bus will drop us off at Weissenohe, where we will join up with the hikers for dinner.

Should the five-brewery hike be cancelled due to foul weather, the entire group will make an extended trip to Nürnberg, retaining our dinner reservation at Weissenohe.

  Breakfast and Dinner included


The “Five Half-Liters of Beer Trail” (featuring Klosterbrauerei Weissenohe/Brauerei Friedmann/Lindenbräu/Brauerei Hoffmann/Thuisbrunner Elchbräu) takes thirsty hikers through nearly 8 miles of beautiful woodlands, pastures, and, most importantly, small-brewery biergartens. Old-world craft brewers are found, it seems, in every other village in this part of the world, and the concentration is delightfully heavy in this particular little corner of “Franconian Switzerland.”


While the southern Bavarian giants Weihenstephaner proudly advertise their world’s-oldest-brewery (since 1040) status, the modest Winkler family, who today oversee production at Weissenohe in northern Bavaria, have to settle for second-best — brewing began on these grounds as recently as 1050. Urban Winkler is a proud traditionalist, his recipes and techniques representing a commitment to those passed down through many generations of monastic and family brewers.


Monday July 29

After a busy weekend, and looking ahead to festive evenings both tonight and tomorrow, guests will have the morning options of either heading off to the small brewing town of Buttenheim for an exclusive Löwenbräu brewery tour and lunch at the Löwenbräu Keller, or enjoying free time in Bamberg before boarding the 3:00 train to Forchheim, where everyone will join up for an exclusive guided tour the city’s extensive, awesome hillside beer cellars. Immediately after the keller tour we’ll take our reserved tables at the massive, carnival-like Annafest, enjoying an outdoor meal accompanied by liters of beer and the festive cacophony of rides, games, and local bands. As night falls, Annafest heats up, and we’ll have various options for returning times to Bamberg — but for the most seriously party-oriented, we suggest further exploring the bustling mountainside festival until closing. Hopefully no one misses the last train back!

  Breakfast included


One of two significant breweries in the bustling town of Buttenheim (population 3,000+) Löwenbräu-Buttenheim has been in operation at its current location — directly next door to competitors St. Georgen, and directly across from a church — since 1880. The “Lion’s Brewery” is one of many such named in Bavaria and around the world, but is the smallest to export, and arguably the best.


Located just outside — and enjoying a lovely view of — Buttenheim,  the Löwenbräu Keller has served area drinkers for centuries. Originally named The Hermitage, today this “pleasure grove” is the favored outlet for the Löwenbräu brewery and one of the most popular drinking spots in this region of Franconia. The postcard-perfect living example of a classic keller, it also features a very traditional Franconian restaurant.


Ordinarily available only during non-Annafest days, this exclusive guided tour provides a rare glimpse into the complex web of beer-lagering caves that have existed for hundreds of years in Forchheim, a major brewing center and home of the massive annual Annafest celebration.


Commemorating St Anna’s Day, and based on a pilgrimage dating to 1516, this raucous, colorful folk fest has been since 1840 held every July in Forchheim’s Kellerwald (“Cellar Woods”). Several local breweries pour special beer directly from the original mountainside kellers, many of which offer live, crowd-pleasing party bands. A fun, frenetic mix of old and new Franconian culture, the not-to-be-missed Annafest draws up to 500,000 guests each year.


Tuesday July 30

We’ll depart Bamberg one last time in the late morning and drive to the world-famous brewing capital Kulmbach, where we’ll have a couple hours free to explore the town, have lunch, or do that last-minute trachten (traditional clothing) shopping. The bus will then take us to the hotel for 2:00 check-in, and at 3:30 we’ll meet in the lobby for the walk to the wild evening session at the Kulmbacher Bierwoche festival, where we’ll occupy very highly coveted reserved tables near the tent’s stage, courtesy of the brewery. Thus begins our craziest night in Franconia, with singing, stomping, liter-chugging, and general (though safe — this is Germany!) mayhem. Can you survive until the end? We shall see.

  Breakfast and dinner included


Kulmbach, Germany’s “Secret Capital of Beer,” has a 650-year-old history of commercial brewing, and a couple thousand years of practice (the oldest example of a brewing vessel in Europe was unearthed here.) By the mid-20th century there were several separate breweries in the town despite a population of only a few thousand, and these — Kapuziner, EKU, Mönchshof, and Kulmbacher Reichelbräu — eventually merged under the Kulmbacher banner. A huge percentage of the townspeople make their living directly or indirectly from the local beer industry, and Kulmbacher is the only German brewery that displays a coat of arms of a city in its trademark.


Celebrating its 70th year, Kulmbacher Beer Week is the third-largest festival of its kind in Germany, and by far the least touristy of the big three. During a raucous nine-day summer blowout, many thousands of dirndl and lederhosen-clad Franconians dance, sing, clink liter glasses, stomp on benches, and drink oceans of festbier — while not falling down. A true view of Teutonic culture for the uninitiated and the highlight of any beer fan’s visit to Franconia.


Wednesday July 31 

After six days awash in beer — even if it’s the best in the world — everyone needs a break from barley. So it’s on to the grape! We’ll leave Kulmbach early and drive west, into Franconian wine country. Arriving in the picturesque medieval-walled town of Iphofen, we’ll do some wandering and grab a bite to eat, and at 1:00 there’ll be a private wine tasting in the very cozy 17th-century Weingut Hans Wirsching, one of ten wineries in this town of 4,500. Then it’s on to our final destination, Frankfurt, the apfelwein (“apple wine/cider”) capital of Germany. Our hotel being centrally located in the old, quaint Sachsenhausen apfelwein-tavern area, it’s a short stroll to Frau Rauscher Apfelweinlokal, where we’ll be hosted for a private presentation and tasting to (as we understand it) the accompaniment of an accordionist, plus an appearance by the legendary 1800s character Frau Rauscher herself! Immediately following the tasting, we’ll celebrate the tour’s end with a farewell dinner, accompanied by more apfelwein and some tasty Hessian beer. For the hardest-core partiers, it’s wall-to-wall bars in the Sachsenhausen district — an easy stumble back to the hotel.

  Breakfast and dinner included


The Hans Wirsching winery ranks among the best-known and largest privately held estates in all of Franconia. The family has been making wine since the 1630s — fourteen generations, to be exact. Here, centuries-old traditions (the grapes are harvested by hand and strictly processed as gently and carefully as possible) blend with modern technology to fully preserve the freshness and liveliness of the superb local dry Franconian specialty Silvaner, as well as other German whites like Riesling and Müller-Thurgau.


The name is a reference to a legendary local woman from the 19th century who was apparently found one morning lying in the street with a bump on her head, the result of a possible fall from over-consumption of apfelwein. Eventually this seemingly minor incident inspired both a poem and a popular song! Whether or not the story is true, today the kitschy, cuckoo Frau Rauscher Apfelweinlokal is a favorite in old Frankfurt, offering ten different apple wine specialties, including various single-varietals, as well as apfelwein teas and various regional beers.


Thursday August 1 

The tour having come to a close, this morning we’ll bid farewell to our guests, whether they plan to extend their vacation or return to the States. The hotel is conveniently located near public transport to the airport and main railways stations, and taxis are easily arranged as well. Additionally, Shelton Brothers tour staff will be available throughout the morning hours for any guests needing assistance.

For those considering an extension of their trip beyond the tour dates, be advised that Frankfurt is a major air and rail center for Germany and the rest of Europe, and a hub for air travel anywhere in the world.

  Breakfast included

Shelton Brothers Tours scenes

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