It’s been awhile. Blame Vienna. It’s not the first time I’ve done so over the course of the past eighteen months. Rather than sit here and tell you about all the cool stuff I’ve got in the works, I thought I’d dash off a quick post about my recent visit to Salzburg en route to the mountains around Zell am See. I’ll save Salzburg’s rich history for another day and head straight for the Wirtshäuser (taverns) and beer gardens.
Salzburg isn’t exactly a beer pilgrimage site like virtually all of Belgium and Bavaria, but it’s worth a visit should you end up in Munich one of these years for Oktoberfest. For starters, it’s a gem of a baroque city. Then there’s all those tasty Mozartkugeln, a pistachio core surrounded by nougat surrounded by chocolate. Of course, there’s the whole Sound of Music industry, too. (Trivia: yours truly spent half a year in Salzburg in the mid-nineties working for a company that did Sound of Music tours.) Last but not least, the person for whom the Mozartkugel is named was born in Salzburg.
If you’ve spent any time in Salzburg at all, chances are you’ve noticed the intricate wrought-iron signage. Some of these signs convey extremely useful information.
After walking up, down, and around the Kapuzinerberg, you’ve probably worked up a bit of an appetite. Zwettler’s is a cozy place not far from the cathedral square. The hearty Austrian cuisine is on point, as is their beer, especially their Kaiser Karl Weissbier (brewed at the Brauerei Schwendl in Bavaria).
Now that you’ve satisfied your hunger, it’s time to make the trek to the Augustiner Bräustübl in Mülln. No beer trip to Salzburg is complete without a trip to this beer hall and garden run by the monks. Here’s the drill: Choose between the 1-liter or half-liter steins, give your stein a good rinse, tell the cashier which beer you want (usually they just have a Märzen, but depending on the season you might be lucky enough to find a Bock beer), and then give your stein to the person tapping the beer from wooden casks.
Once you’ve hoisted a few steins in the beer hall or the beer garden, you can head back in the direction of town via the scenic route over the Mönchsberg. This has two advantages: You’ll catch stunning views both of the fortress that dominates Salzburg’s skyline and of the Untersberg that looms up over it all. You’ll also effectively make room in your stomach for your next round of beer. Assuming you’ve managed to navigate the trails successfully, you’ll pass under the fortress just above the Stieglkeller. When the weather’s nice, nothing beats a mug of beer on the terrace of the Stieglkeller with Salzburg’s Altstadt (old town) spread out below. (Stiegl, incidentally, is Austria’s largest private brewery. Skip the Goldbräu and grab a Pils. Better yet, order anything that they have on tap from their Stiegl-Gut Wildshut experimental brewery.)
The night is young, as they say, so before heading out to Die Weisse, Austria’s oldest wheat beer brewery, take a stroll along the Salzach River back in the direction of the Augustiner for some unforgettable Austrian cuisine in one of Salzburg’s legendary Wirtshäuser (tavern). The Bärenwirt has been doing its thing since 1663, and the portions truly are bear-sized. Wash it all down with beer from the Augustiner.
If you haven’t succumbed to a food coma yet, walk off dinner en route to Die Weisse. There, you can tuck into some superb wheat beers, or you can kick up your heels in the attached night club. Me? I’ll just stick to beers this time around. Gotta be up to catch the early train to Zell am See.
*Of note: Be sure to sample some beers from Salzburg’s Gusswerk, one of Austria’s pioneer craft beer breweries.
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