Tag Archives: Gusswerk

Beer for a Day: Living the Good Life in Salzburg

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.

Build up your appetite with a walk up the Kapuzinerberg

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.

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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.

We got horses, we also got beer

Formerly Gabelbräu. Gösser will do in a pinch.

More signs of the good life in Salzburg

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).

In case you’re wondering, it’s called Gerösteter Knödel mit Ei — a Wirtshaus classic

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.

Take your pick

Give it a rinse

Give it to the man with the cask

Then go find a seat in the beer hall

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.)

Festung Hohensalzburg

The Stieglkeller terrace. Not a bad place for a stein.

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.

They call this a Vorspeise (appetizer)! Geräuchertes Saiblingsfilet (char) mit Oberskren (horse radish in whipped cream)

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.

Prost!

*Of note: Be sure to sample some beers from Salzburg’s Gusswerk, one of Austria’s pioneer craft beer breweries.

Related Tempest posts:

In the Cool Shade of the Beer Garden

Beer Travel off the Beaten Track: Austria’s Innviertel

Vienna, City of Beer Gardens

© 2017 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All rights reserved.

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Autumn in a Glass: Märzen, Oktoberfest Beer, and Vienna Lager

As the leaves in the beer gardens begin to don their autumnal attire and the evenings hint of the harvest, my beer preferences turn to the kinds of beers whose colour reflects my surroundings. These gold, amber, and russet beers of autumn also have just enough added alcoholic warmth to stave off the evening chill –– the perfect transit point between the lighter beers of summer and the heftier beers of winter.img_0609

In Germany, autumn means amber Märzen and the deep gold Festbier served at Munich’s Oktoberfest. In North America, when it’s not a question of the ubiquitous love-it-or-loathe-it pumpkin beers, autumn beers conjure up images of pretzels, beer steins, lederhosen, bratwurst, beer tents, and oompah bands.

Back to the title for a moment: Aren’t Märzen and Oktoberfest beer the same thing? No. And yes. The difference between a Märzen and an Oktoberfest beer depends on where you are and when. Anyone familiar with the development of porter, stout, or IPA won’t be surprised to learn that Märzen and Oktoberfest beer, too, have undergone shifts not only in taste but in meaning over the decades.

The beer served on Munich’s Theresienwiese was, at one point, Märzen –– specifically, a kind of Märzen brewed in 1872 by Gabriel Sedlmayr of Spaten for Oktoberfest. The beer that Sedlmayr developed had much in common with the wildly popular Vienna Lager first brewed by Sedlmayr’s friend and colleague, Anton Dreher, in 1841. Sedlmayr’s new Oktoberfest beer –– a few shades lighter in hue than the brown beer hitherto served at the festival and less weighty –– swept the festival like a tsunami and soon became synonymous with Oktoberfest. But only until 1953, when Augustiner developed an even lighter Festbier, which every brewery soon offered alongside the more traditional Märzen all the way down through the late 1980s. From the early 1990s, Oktoberfest beer served on Munich’s Theresienwiese during Oktoberfest came to mean one thing: the burnished golden, malty Festbier first brewed by Augustiner.img_0631

But uncertainty in North America about what Oktoberfest beer is in Munich and other parts of Bavaria has not been aided by the Bavarian breweries themselves, many of whom export Märzen to our shores labeled as “Oktoberfest Märzen.” Beyond that, several North American breweries who brew a beer in honour of Oktoberfest brew a Märzen. (No complaints here –– I love the style!) As for the BJCP Style Guidelines, earlier versions were less than clear on the differences between the German beers of autumn. It wasn’t until they released their 2015 Style Guidelines that they introduced distinctions between Märzen and the Oktoberfestbier served during Oktoberfest. (The 2015 BJCP Guidelines label it simply “Festbier,” since the term Oktoberfest Bier has been trademarked. Curiously, this hasn’t stopped anyone in North America from calling their beers Kölsch, even though that, too, is a protected designation. But that’s another story.) On top of it all, Beeradvocate still has the following description on its site:

“The common Munich Oktoberfest beer served at Wies’n (the location at which Munich celebrates its Oktoberfest) contains roughly 5.0-6.0% alcohol by volume, is dark/copper in color, has a mild hop profile and is typically labeled as a Bavarian Märzenbier in style” (October 2016).

Confused? I was until relatively recently, too. Who’s to blame you if you haven’t been to Oktoberfest in Bavaria and have thought all along that today’s Oktoberfest beer is a Märzen? More to the point, why should you care? Well, if you’re really into the Oktoberfest Märzen beers that turn up in North America, I wouldn’t want you to be disappointed when you go to Munich for Oktoberfest and end up with a beer that isn’t a Märzen. But that’s not to say that Festbier isn’t any less worthy of your attention. It’s just a much different beast.

And so, to clear up any confusion for early twenty-first century fans of Germanic beer and folks judging these styles at homebrew competitions in North America, here’s a quick run-down of Germany’s beers of autumn, along with a few styles related either by taste and aroma profile (Vienna Lager), or by name (Austrian Märzen).

Click here for tasting notes

Oktoberfestbier (or, simply, Festbier): The golden-hued, malty, slightly honey-sweet, and dangerously quaffable beer served in Munich during the Oktoberfest. Other Bavarian breweries (Weihenstephaner, for example) may also brew a beer in the same style for sale in autumn, but since they aren’t part of the “Munich 6,” you won’t see their beers on the Theresienwiese during Oktoberfest.img_0314

Oktoberfest Märzen: Beer brewed by Bavarian breweries for export to North America during the autumn months. May also refer to any North American example of autumn amber lager brewed in the Märzen style that reigned supreme on the Theresienwiese between 1872 and 1953. The style is no longer served at Oktoberfest in Munich (though I wouldn’t complain if the Munich brewers were to bring the style back).

Märzen: Historically, a shape-shifter, ranging in colour from orange-hued amber to dark brown. In the days before refrigeration, various proclamations and decrees in the wake of the Reinheitsgebot (Beer Purity Laws) of 1516 prohibited brewing between the feasts of St. George on 23 April and St. Michael on 29 September as a means of preventing both fires and summer beer spoilage. So-called Sommerbier (summer beer, later rechristened Märzen) was brewed to a higher strength in March so that supplies of drinkable beer would last through the summer. Since the time of Sedlmayr’s release of a Märzen in 1872, the beer has become associated with autumn. (NB: I’m making the latter assumption in the absence of any evidence I have yet to turn up pointing to this semantic shift.)

Vienna Lager: Even though Märzen and Vienna Lager are fairly distinct at second glance, it’s easy enough to confuse the two styles, especially if the latter isn’t named Dos Equis Amber. Interestingly, the BJCP put the style on their watch list in 2015, suggesting that it might be time to rescue the classic style from its mass-produced pale reflection by moving it to the historical category.img_0460 Those worries may have been somewhat premature, for a key anniversary has spurred the re-emergence of Vienna Lager in its native land: the 175th anniversary of Dreher’s first batch brewed at the Schwechat brewery just outside Vienna. Today, Gusswerk in Salzburg, Loncium in the mountains of Carinthia, Ottakringer and Brew Age in Vienna, and even the granddaddy of them all, Schwechater, have released excellent Vienna Lagers in the past few years. Vive la Vienna Lager!

The takeaway: Sedlmayr’s Märzen brewed for the 1872 Oktoberfest may well have been identical to the Vienna Lager being brewed in the Habsburg Empire at the time, but the two styles diverged over the next century. Nowadays, Märzen is a delectably malty beer that showcases toasty aromatics and melanoidin richness. Vienna Lager is also malty, but it has more pronounced hop aromas, flavours, and bitterness. In many ways, you could consider it the hoppy cousin of the slightly sweeter contemporary Märzen.

Austrian Märzen: I will touch only briefly on the Austrian version of a Märzen here, a year-round beer that has little in common with the autumnal Märzens of Bavaria and North America. If anything, an Austrian Märzen is more like a cross between what, in Germany, goes by the name of Export Bier and a helles lager. The beer is yellow-gold and crystal-clear, with a clean malt expression and slightly more of a hop presence than a helles lager, but not approaching Pilsner territory.

Now all you need to do is go out and grab a few of these fine beers for those afternoons when it’s still just barely warm enough to sit on the front porch or for those smoky evenings when the wind is rustling the leaves still holding out against winter.

Click here for tasting notes

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Related Tempest Articles:

O’ zapft is! Oktoberfest 2016

The Colour of Fall Leaves: Tasting Notes on Märzen, Oktoberfestbier, and Vienna Lager

Let Us Now Praise Famous Lagers: Your Saturday Six-Pack (Vol.3)

From Horse Races to Beer Steins: Oktoberfest Since 1810

Featured Beer: Klosterbrauerei Weissenohe “Bonator”

Where Did All the Märzen Go? Provisioning Oktoberfest Imbibers over the Centuries

Sources:

BJCP Style Guidelines, 2008 and 2015.

Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer, Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew (Boulder: Brewers Publications, 2007).

Beeradvocate, “Märzen/Oktoberfest,” https://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/style/29/ (accessed 11 October 2016).

Ursula Eymold (ed.), Bier.Macht.München: 500 Jahre Münchner Reinheitsgebot in Bayern, exhibition catalogue, Münchener Stadtmuseum, 2016.

1516 Ingolstadt: http://www.1516-ingolstadt.de/geschichte/geschichte-bier/

Horst Dornbusch, Prost! The Story of German Beer (Boulder: Brewers Publications, 1997).

Images: F.D. Hofer

© 2016 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All rights reserved.

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