“Off to the cellar” is what you’ll hear from Forchheim locals when they disappear into the forest on trails (“auf die Keller”). What that means in local slang is that they are headed to a beehive of popular beer gardens nestled deep in the forest of Franconian Switzerland in Upper Bavaria – the Kellerwald Forchheim beer gardens.
The beer gardens are called “Keller” (literally, cellar) and the woods they are in is called the “Kellerwald” (literally, cellar forest). Just call them beer gardens. Because they are all about outdoor summertime festivities that involve beer, beverages and hearty beer garden vittles. The beauty of course is that when you are at these hidden beer gardens in the forest it is much cooler than in the city – a big plus on hot summer days. And they are only a 20-30-minute stroll from the town’s center.
Kellerwald Forchheim beer gardens keep beer cool and fresh
But the Kellerwald beer gardens* didn’t originate back in the 16th century to give locals and tourists a cool place to imbibe. In fact, initially there was no seating at the cellars in Franconia. The underground cellars sprang from the necessity of keeping beer cool during the summer months since Franconia is a hub of breweries. Soon, entrepreneurial beer makers started setting out some tables around the entrance to their cellars carved out of the rock. They served people straight from the beer kegs stored in the underground tunnels where the constant temperature is about 42 degrees Fahrenheit to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
A few casual tables to serve passers-by slowly became regular beer gardens under the trees with tables, umbrellas and wait service. Today, there are 24 establishments with seating available for about 3,000. The grand opening of the gardens in the Kellerwald Forchheim in April is also a festive affair – time to relax under the trees with cool beverages, marching oompah bands and speeches! And be sure to stick around for the crowing of Miss Forchheimer Beerkönigin (beer queen)*. Not quite sure how they choose this honor, but it’s bound to be entertaining.
Go underground in the Kellerwald Forchheim beer gardens
HI Travel Tales spent a couple of evenings with friends in the Kellerwald, in the Brauerei Eichhorn* in fact, where strangers will quickly become friends after a couple of beers.
We also managed a tour of a few low-ceiling tunnels where the food and beverages are stored to this day– who needs to pay for a bank of fridges when you have cool underground cellars in the Kellerwald Forchheim?
Then of course there is a big festival. Heck, in Germany anything is an excuse for a festival, especially if beer is involved. In this case, it is the Annafest – a carnival that attracts all ages for Ferris Wheels, games and … beer. What were you thinking? This takes place in late July each year for about a week. The fest, which started in 1840, is actually named after St. Anna. For the religious among us, she’s actually the stuff of legends as the mother of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, per the Bible.
In the end, the Kellerwald Forchheim beer gardens are a wonderful, non-touristy adventure into the woods – with beer, but without the evil flying monkeys, Dorothy or the Tinman!
*The websites are mostly in German as of this writing. We are sorry!! But enjoy the pictures, maps and lists and use your favorite translation app to get the gist of what they are saying.