Tag Archives: Salzburg

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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In the Cool Shade of the Beer Garden

It was one of those August days when the sun-baked cobblestones seem to transcend themselves in mirage-like fashion. Since arriving in Salzburg earlier that day, we had been exploring a baroque palace here, a castle overlooking the city there, and churches everywhere. Definitely time for a beer, one of my friends declared. Another suggested a visit to the Augustiner, where we could relax in its chestnut grove with a cold stein.Augustiner Stein (FB pg) With one last burst of energy we crossed the foot bridge over the Salzach and climbed the hill in the direction of the Augustiner. As soon as we descended the stairs into the cellar precincts, the summer heat faded away. We threaded our way through stalls selling bratwurst and pretzels, and came upon the counter where a gruff barkeep in lederhosen was tapping beer straight from the barrel. Steins in hand, we headed out into the beer garden to partake of a venerable tradition: an al fresco Maß (liter mug) of beer among lively groups of friends and families who had gathered at tables and benches in the afternoon shade of the chestnut trees.

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This particularly enjoyable rite of spring and summer traces its history to early nineteenth-century Bavaria. Back in 1812, King Maximilian I. Joseph of Bavaria (1806-1825) set the development of beer garden culture on its present course with a Solomon-like decree that diffused the tensions that had been (ahem) brewing between Munich’s innkeepers and brewers. The dispute had its roots in the set of reforms that King Max had enacted, first as duke, and then as king. Some of these reforms proved more favourable to private Bavarian brewers than had previously been the case during the era of aristocratic brewing prerogatives, and breweries began to proliferate along the Isar River. During the warm summer months in particular, the citizens of Munich took to spending more of their time (and money) at the beer cellars on the banks of the Isar, preferring these shaded chestnut groves to the rather stuffy inns where the beer was decidedly less fresh.

Unsurprisingly, the innkeepers of Munich became increasingly incensed that they were losing revenue to the beer brewers who were also selling food to accompany their refreshing beers. They petitioned Maximilian –– connoisseur of the good life who was more likely to be seen at Munich’s Viktualienmarkt than at the barracks –– to do something.BeerGarden - Rescript_Max_I_Joseph_1812-01-04 A friend and supporter of brewers and innkeepers alike, their good King Maxl paid heed. The resulting decree of January 4, 1812 benefitted both parties and put its stamp on the history of the Bavarian beer garden down to the present day. Brewers could, indeed, keep right on selling their beer fresh from the beer cellars beneath their leafy gardens. But in a nod to the concerns of the innkeepers, the beer garden precincts were limited to the sale of beer and bread.

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Now, as for these beer cellars (Bierkeller) that gave rise to beer gardens? Beer gardens as we’ve come to know them in Bavaria and beyond are difficult to imagine without the history of a beer style many of us have come to know and love: lager. In the centuries before the invention of refrigeration, brewers sunk cellars on the grounds of their breweries. There, they covered their beer with ice blocks hewed in March from the still-frozen lakes and rivers of the region.

Even though monasteries and abbeys had been storing their beer in cellars and in caves at the foot of the Alps since the Middle Ages, the sinking of cellars in Munich accelerated in response to a decree promulgated by Duke Albrecht V in 1553. Despite the vaunted Reinheitsgebot of 1516, not all Bavarian beer was gold, so the duke declared that Bavarians were allowed to brew beer between St. Michael’s Day (September 29) and St. George’s Day (April 23) only. One of the reasons cited for the decree of 1553 was a fear of summer conflagrations caused by hot brew kettles. More importantly, though, brewers and the authorities who knew a good beer when they tasted it had, by the mid-1550s, learned a fair amount about the effects of cold fermentation on beer quality. Slower fermentation between 7 and 12 Celsius (44-55F) in conjunction with extended lagering (lagern = to store) at temperatures near freezing yielded a cleaner beer that kept longer than the top-fermented ales brewed in warmer conditions.

Beer cellars also enabled brewers to store their beer during the months they weren’t brewing, thereby ensuring a steady supply of fresh and stable beer during the summer months. As a further means of keeping the temperature of their cellars cool, brewers planted broad-leafed and shallow-rooted horse chestnut trees. From there, it wasn’t an enormous leap from the cellar to the shade. Enterprising brewers began to set out tables and chairs under the leafy canopy shading their cellars, and voilà: the beer garden. BierGarten - AugustinerMunich (FB page)If you’re lucky enough to live in a North American town that boasts a beer garden, or are even luckier and live in or will be visiting a Germanic country this spring or summer, raise a stein to the wise Bavarians who inaugurated these traditions. What better place is there to enjoy a crisp and spicy wheat beer or an effervescent Pilsner on a spring or summer day than in a beer garden?

Related Tempest Articles

The MaltHead Manifesto

Gose: A Beer Worth Its Salt

A Coal Town and a Cold One: My Hefeweizen Craft Beer Conversion

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

Pinning Down Place

Further Reading

German Beer Institute.

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

Michael Jackson, The New World Guide to Beer (Philadelphia: Running Press, 1988).

Sabine Herre, “Geschichte der bayrischen Biergärten: Im Schatten der Kastanie,” taz (26 May 2012).

Images

Stein (Augustiner Bräustübl Salzburg Mülln Facebook page)

Decree by King Maximilian I. Joseph of Bavaria allowing Munich brewers to serve beer from their cellars, but prohibiting the sale of food other than bread (January 4, 1812). Bayrishes Hauptstaatsarchiv, München. Image available on WikiCommons.

Beer Garden, Augustinerbäu München

© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.