In 2016, Germany marked the 500th anniversary of its Purity Law, which limits the ingredients of beer to just four: water, malt, hops and yeast. That law has been scrupulously followed in Southwest Germany ever since. So, in what’s labelled Biersüden (Beers of the South), brewing remains true to tradition. On beer-themed hiking, walking and cycling trails, you can see where hops are grown and take brewery tours, savour unique flavours in ancient taverns and chat to locals about their favourite brews.
Tettnang: Home of the world’s finest hops
Master brewers in SouthWest Germany and around the world rate Tettnang hops as the best. Near Lake Constance, two hours southeast of Stuttgart, the growing conditions are perfect. Discover more on the Tettnang Hop Trail, a delightful stroll through hop gardens and orchards. Start at the Kronen brewery in Tettnang; finish at the Tettnang Hop Museum in Siggenweiler. Along the 4-km/2.5-mile trail, information boards explain about hop growing, plants and wildlife, local villages and Lake Constance itself. Cyclists can range further, following the well-signposted Tettnang Hop Circuit, a loop of 42 km/26 miles from Langenargen via Eriskirch to Friedrichshafen and back. Along the way are forests, valleys, orchards, hop gardens and the magnificent baroque Tettnang New Palace.
The Rothaus Brewery Zäpfle Weg: From spring to bottle
High in the Black Forest, the Rothaus Brewery (officially the Baden State Brewery) is in a beautiful part of the world. Named for its cult Tannenzäpfle beer, the Zäpfle Weg trail is a one-hour stroll. ‘Beer hikers’ start from the natural springs that provide the water for brewing and continue past the brewhouse; information boards/stations explain the hows and whys of the brewing process, yeast and fermentation cellar. The view of the bottling plant, which handles 60,000 bottles per hour, is a dizzying highlight of this circular route. Rothaus is in Grafenhausen, two hours southwest of Stuttgart.
Ehingen Beer Hiking Trail: Hike from one beer to the next
With 43 beers, four breweries and a centuries-old brewing history, Ehingen can rightly claim to be Germany’s Beer Culture Town. So, it is the perfect spot for a beer-themed hiking trail. Chosen by a popular hiking magazine as one of Germany’s 30 most beautiful trails, the Bierwanderweg (Beer Hiking Trail) starts in the heart of Ehingen. From the historic fountain on the market square (near the tourist office), the 14-km/9-mile trail takes in breweries, historic buildings, beer gardens and a scenic stretch of the River Danube Valley. Ehingen also offers tours of the breweries, beer seminars and an electronic city and beer guide via Smartphone. The town is 90 minutes southeast of Stuttgart.
The lovely Tauber Valley: A trio of breweries and hiking trails
In the Liebliches Taubertal, the lovely Tauber Valley, 90 minutes northeast of Stuttgart, you can combine hiking with scenery, history and great beer. All three trails start and finish at a brewery and are 8 to 11 km/5 to 7 miles long. In Herbsthausen, the focus is the Herbsthäuser brewery, in business since 1581. Trail signs sporting a mug of foaming of beer mark the easy route that includes meadows, half-timbered houses and a small lake. The Distelhausen hiking trail starts at the church in the Distelhausen district of Tauberbischofsheim. It continues along the River Tauber, past the 14th-century Wolfgang pilgrimage chapel and ends at the Distelhäuser brewery's very own inn. The third route, the Landwehr-Bräu beer hiking trail, is just across the border in Franconia.
Baiersbronn’s Beer Hikes: Start with a beer mug
Deep in the Black Forest, 90 minutes southwest of Stuttgart, Baiersbronn is famous for its Michelin-starred restaurants, beautiful countryside and hiking. But now there is an additional draw: regular guided beer hikes. They start at the 1,000-year-old Reichenbach Monastery, where everyone is given a pottery beer mug. The walk, rated as moderately difficult, runs for 7 km/5 miles through forest and past small lakes. There are stops to rest, taste beer, enjoy an entertaining talk on beer history and eat a picnic lunch.
Karlsruhe’s City Beer Tours: Urban brewery experiences
Karlsruhe has two large breweries. Hatz-Moninger was founded in 1856, but Hoepfner, dating from 1798, is the city’s oldest. Using their own yeast strain, Hoepfner brews some 16 beers, from traditional wheat beer and Pils to seasonal brews, such as Maibock. Recent years have seen a craft brewing boom, with Vogelbräu’s unfiltered beers leading the way. Find out more on an entertaining city tour that delves into Karlsruhe’s brewing history, with stops to taste different types of local beer along the way.