Want an authentic beer festival with fresh air, good beer and gemütlichkeit? The city of Erlangen, Bavaria comes alive during it’s self proclaimed fifth season of Bergkirchweih.
Berg – a mountain (in this case more of a hill) and Kirchweih – A celebration, initially of religious consequence but now a festival celebrated by all. Known simply as Berch or Berg to locals, this is an insider’s guide.
How to get there
By foot – Walking is a great option (for any and all beer festivals) but in Erlangen you get to feel the real buzz that travels through town as you joing the crowds to wander up to the Berg. It is about a 15 minute walk from Erlangen Bahnhof to the bottom of the Berg.
By bike – There is good and safe, (but will cost you 1euro) parking for bikes at the bottom of the hill and since drunk cycling is a crime I would recommend pushing your bike home or leaving your bike there overnight and collecting it in the morning.
By bus – The local bus company (VGN) run a special Berg night bus which leaves from Leo-Hauck-Straße after 8pm. Regular buses will travel between Hugenottenplatz and the Berg but I’d recommend just walking from Hugenottenplatz, it’s 5 minutes to the Berg from there.
By car – Parking for vehicles is practically none existent unless you live near the Berg, it’s a beer festival, leave the car at home. If you must bring the car there are multi story car parks in central Erlangen,the largest are Parkhaus Henkestraße and Parkhaus Neuer markt, details here.
What to wear
Tracht, plain and simple, you will see Dirndl and lederhosen everywhere, join in and have some fun, need tips? look no further, there are also bargains to be had, you don’t need to spend a lot. Of course tracht is not compulsory, wear what you’re comfortable in.
Also, rain or shine, almost nothing will stop the Bergkirchweih from taking place. Take a jacket (and maybe an umbrella) because it is mostly outside and uncovered, and whilst the trees provide lovely shade from the sun, shelter from rain can be hard to find.
It is also on a hill, and there are cobbles, and tree roots and mud, don’t take anything you don’t want to get dirty and wear sensible shoes, leave those heels at home.
Useful to know
There will be a refundable deposit or ‘Pfand’ on your mug, glass or bottle. Mugs and glasses are usually 5 euro each and plastic bottles less, don’t forget to cash in your mugs at the end of the night.
Take your mug back to the cellar you got it from and don’t worry if they closed or you forgot, you can bring them back another night for your deposit. If you get handed a token with your drink, this will have to be returned with your mug, otherwise you won’t get your deposit back.
Bergkirchweich Beer or Festbier is served by the Maß (a litre) ‘Eine Maß bitte’ it will be served in a stone beer mug and cost you 9 euro (plus a 5 euro Pfand).
Radler, a Bergkirchweih beer mixed with lemonade (half and half), yes a Shandy to us English folks. This is also served by the Maß, ‘Ein Radler bitte’ and will usually come with a straw, so that it can be distinguished from a full strength beer, you will pay the same price for a Radler as a full beer.
Weißbier (wheat beer) is served by 0.4l or 0.5l measures and it will come in a glass mug, which will also have a Pfand on it.
Wein and the Weinschorle, you can buy a Maß of wine at the Berg (though it’s more usual to get a 0.5l), I wouldn’t recommend it though, if you want a litre (or even a half litre) go for a Weinschorle (a spritzer), you may be given the option of Suß (sweet, with lemonade) or Sauer (sour, with sparkling water).
Apfelschorle is my non alcoholic drink of choice, it’s a mix of half apple juice and half sparkling water, suitable for kids and grown ups.
A Festbrezel is huge, you won’t need one each, it’s great eaten with Obatzda (wonderful German cheesy deliciousness) or to accompany an equally huge slice of cheese.
Non drinkers, old and young are indeed very welcome at Bergkirchweih and pretty much all festivals in Germany are incredibly family friendly.
Toilets at the Bergkirchweih will cost you 50cents a go (so keep some change handy), they are usually quite clean and will have attendants servicing them throughout the day. Ladies beware the queues can get very long, join before you’re desperate. Men, there is a pissoir available for free, use it and not the trees, please.
You will hear this song about every half hour, it’s a toasting song and if you want to blend in, swing that beer mug above your head and sing it loud!
‘Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit
Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit
Each year the beer mugs at Entla’s Keller feature a new design ‘which year did you get?’ is what we usually ask each other on receiving our beers, this is 2017—>
Steinbach beer, as always my total favourite, you can find them in the middle of the Berg, near the T junction. Berch.info has lots information for a first time visitor or a seasoned professional.
Try the ox, at Entla’s Keller. Every day of the Bergkirchweih an ox is roasted and served in addition to the regular menu, it doesn’t last as long as you’d think it would so get there early to avoid disappointment. Also note the name of your dinner, this was Heinrich…
Langos, the Hungarian food of your fatty dreams, paprika, garlic, cheese and sour cream!
The Obatzda pretzel from the Brezenbäckeri (located on the left of the main path leading to the berg) is my personal favourite, equally good on the way to, back from a bergkirchweih experience.
The entertainment is worth checking out, ‘Musikanten’ are generally made up of local musicians and bands playing traditional, schlager (German party music)and well known covers. Der Berg Ruft has lots more detailed information.
The Ferris wheel, you get such a great view from the top and it really helps put the Berg into perspective, you’ll realise just how much is crammed into an area that really isn’t very big.
If you secure a table, hold onto it, from 4pm onwards (earlier if the weather is good) it can get really hard to find space for more than a twosome.
Plan a meeting point pre Berg, phone signal and 3G are notoriously bad at the festival (so many people not enough masts) and it can be challenging to find a group, especially in the evenings when it is busy.
If you want to avoid the crowds later on, take a slight left off the main road up to the Berg and you’ll find a much quieter path which leads directly to Erich Keller and further to Entla’s Keller. You’ll also find it a quicker route out too. This path is also very suitable for pushchairs/strollers, though there are steps up to Erich Keller.
Do as the locals do
A tradition (particularly amongst the younger attendees) is to buy a crate of beer to be drunk by the time one reaches the Berg. Known as a Kastenlauf (crate walk) it’s what I’d call pre gaming, and you’ll always see a couple of casualties get carted off home by parents before they’ve so much as set foot on the Berg. You can’t take any alcohol or glass bottles onto the Berg, so you’ll see a lot of chugging at the foot of the hill.
At the weekend enjoy a Weisswurst Frühstuck, to start your weekend off right, then just carry on eating, drinking and being merry until closing time.
The details (2017)
The official tapping of the first barrel will take place at Henninger Keller on 1st June at 5pm. The first barrel is handed out free but only attempt to grab if you’re tall, it’s a total bun fight!
The Berg is open 10am-11pm Monday-Saturday and 9.30am-11pm Sunday and public holidays.
Price for a Maß (a litre) is 9 euro and Pfand (deposit) 5 euro.
Tuesday 6th June is Erlanger Tag, lots of smaller shops on Erlangen will close at 2pm so the towns workers can enjoy some afternoon time at the Berg.
Thursday 8th June is Family Day at the Berg, this is the best time to take the family, up until 8pm there will be discounts on rides and most of the daytime drinkers will avoid the games areas.
Sunday 11th June there is a church service up at Erich Keller, starting at 9am.
Monday 12th June is the closing ceremony, don’t forget a white hanky (kleenex) to wave off the barrel until next year.
Here’s a peek at what to expect at Bergkirchweih in little old Erlangen…