Tag Archives: Schweizerhaus

The Setting Sun: Five of Vienna’s Best Spots for a Late Summer Beer

A colleague of mine at the Wien Museum (Vienna’s city history museum) asked me over lunch today about some of my favourite places to have a beer in Vienna. It was a fitting question. He had recently participated in a learn-to-brew day at Brauwerk and has kindled an interest in beers beyond his favourite styles. It was also a timely question. Today was my last day at the Wien Museum. Two years in this fine city, and five days left.

As any regular reader of Tempest has probably noticed, I don’t normally do “best of” lists. But today I’ll make an exception. Maybe you, like me two years ago, have arrived in Vienna to work for one of Vienna’s many top-notch cultural institutions or international organizations. Perhaps you’re winding down a trip through Europe with a few days in Vienna. Maybe you’re a student who has arrived from abroad for a semester at one of Vienna’s many colleges and universities. Whatever the case may be, right about now you probably need a beer.

This is not a comprehensive guide to all that is new, hip, and happening on Vienna’s beer scene. Rather, this is a very personal tour of my favourite locales, places where I’ve taken old friends and made new ones.

Hawidere

Located in Vienna’s gritty 15th District (Rudolfsheim-Fünfhausen), Hawidere attracts a mixed crowd of beer enthusiasts and locals out for a drink. Hawidere pays tribute to an old Viennese salutation (“Hab’ die Ehre”) that means something along the lines of “I’m honoured to meet you.” The name of the pub may well be redolent of Alt Wien and the ambience evocative of a traditional Viennese tavern (Beisl), but the good people at Hawidere are very much attuned to the moment. A continually rotating selection of fourteen beers on tap and roughly seventy bottled varieties comprise the cutting-edge selection of beer from around Austria, Europe, and beyond. You’ll also find brews from “Collabs,” the owners’ own nomad label featuring (you guessed it) collaborations with breweries across Europe. And if you’re hungry? They have some of the heartiest burgers anywhere.

Kängaruh

In a city that has seen the likes of Brickworks and Mel’s Craft Beers and Diner pull in the craft beer crowd with admirable beer portfolios at (super) premium prices, it’s refreshing to see that the old-school Kängaruh still manages to keep a lid on things. But it’s not just the extremely fair prices that make Kängaruh so special. If Belgian beer is your thing, you won’t find a better range of styles and bottlings anywhere outside of Brussels. The candlelight ambience within and the small terrace outside invite you to dream of Belgium while sipping on a Cantillon, a Westy XII, or any other Belgian beer you haven’t heard of yet. A true gem of a place on the eastern edge of Vienna’s 6th District (Mariahilf).

1516 Brewing Company

Considering just how close this excellent brew pub is to where I worked for the past two years, it’s a shame I didn’t stop in more often. Lunches here were always a fine proposition: ample portions of North American-style pub food with an Austrian twist, and an ever-changing menu of creative beers to wash it all down. If you’re one of those who has an inexplicable allergic reaction to the German Reinheitsgebot (Beer Purity Laws) promulgated in 1516, fear not: you’ll be able to find your jasmine IPA here. But that doesn’t mean you won’t find some superb Central European-style beers brewed according to that very Reinheitsgebot to which 1516’s name refers. If you can’t make it for lunch, stop by in the evening. You won’t be alone.

Schweizerhaus

Few other al fresco drinking spots in Vienna combine shaded chestnut groves, roasted pork knuckles, conviviality, and freshly tapped Bohemian beer (Budweiser Budvar) the way the Schweizerhaus does. If it’s warm and sunny and you have time to go nowhere else in Vienna for a drink, go here.

*For more on the history of the Schweizerhaus and its Prater surroundings, check out my Exploring Vienna’s Beer Gardens

Medlbräu

Say you’ve just spent the day exploring the stately rooms and sprawling manicured gardens of Schloss Schönbrunn. You could do much worse than to quench your thirst at Medlbräu in nearby Penzing (Vienna’s 14th District). Medlbräu is one of the older “Hausbrauerein” (brew pubs) in Vienna, and they don’t venture far from the tried-and-true classics. For those of you missing full-flavoured lagers and maybe a decent Hefeweizen to top things off, this place is like an oasis in a town where it’s surprisingly hard to find a compelling Helles, Dunkles, or Märzen.

Five nights left as the sun sets on my two years in Vienna. Cheers to your first five days here!

Related Tempest posts:

Beer for a Day: Living the Good Life in Salzburg

Prelude to a Drink: Vienna

Beer Travel off the Beaten Track: Austria’s Innviertel

Exploring Vienna’s Beer Gardens

Vienna, City of Beer Gardens

All images by F.D. Hofer.

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

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Exploring Vienna’s Beer Gardens

Vienna, city of music. Home to Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Strauss, and Mahler. Vienna, a showcase of architectural styles from the soaring Gothic-era Stephansdom to the Baroque opulence of the Karlskirche, and from elegant Ringstrasse historicism to the fin-de-siècle modernism of Otto Wagner. Vienna’s pastries rival those of Paris, as does its coffeehouse culture. Chocolate? Plenty of that, too.IMG_5580

But Vienna, city of beer? Not since the nineteenth century, nascent interest in craft beer notwithstanding.

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Nothing says summer more than the crunch of gravel underfoot and the shade overhead as I carry my stein of beer back to my spot under the leafy canopy of the chestnut grove. I’ve repeated the ritual for years now.IMG_8563 The cool breeze, the buzz of conversation, the heavy clink of beer mugs, the solid and slightly awkward metal chairs or benches bedecked with wooden slats, the chestnut blossoms covering the tables in late spring and early summer, the plates of sausage, pork knuckle, and sauerkraut –– it’s a scene that never loses its charm.

Even if the glory days of Vienna lager are a thing of the past, Vienna can still lay claim to a rich but understated beer garden tradition. Here’s the first of four shaded oases sure to inspire visitors and locals alike out to check out different parts of the city.

Schweizerhaus

A few steps from the iconic Riesenrad (giant Ferris wheel), and tucked between the lively commotion of the Würstel Prater amusement park and the stately tree-lined Hauptallee, the Schweizerhaus serves up its beer with a shot of Viennese history on the side.IMG_6754 If you visit before the Schweizerhaus closes for the season on 31 October, you’ll be able to raise a stein to Joseph II, the reform-minded Habsburg monarch who opened up the imperial hunting grounds to the general public. Since his proclamation 250 years ago, the broad natural expanse on the edge of the city has become tightly woven into the cultural fabric of the city.

The Prater has been many things to many people over the ages –– meadows, woodlands, amusement park, den of iniquity. Some commentators have even gone so far as to claim that the Prater is an “anarchic space” in which different levels of society could mix and mingle more or less unconstrained by the social norms operative in the city. Countless Austrian literary figures have written fondly of the Prater, and even Goethe, who never visited Vienna, was aware of its reputation. The Prater has also appeared in motion pictures, perhaps most indelibly in the 1949 classic, The Third Man, featuring a diabolical Orson Welles on the run from Joseph Cotten and a Vienna laid low by the war.

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Food and drink has long been a highlight of a visit to the Prater. Early on, lemonade stands, snack booths, guest houses, and coffee houses emerged as fixtures along the Hauptallee. Taverns soon followed, including the storied Schweizerhaus.

The Schweizerhaus opened in 1868, and is one of the few great Prater drinking establishments to have survived both world wars. Nowadays the Schweizerhaus exudes tradition, but at one time it stood at the forefront of innovation.IMG_4531 Following the example of tavern owners in Munich and the United States, the proprietors had a giant ice cellar installed. “Thanks to this,” wrote one contemporary enthusiast, “patrons can now […] enjoy every glass of Pils or Schwechater beer fresh from the ice cellar while they must be content with lukewarm refreshment at best in many Prater restaurants, especially at the height of summer” (Hachleitner, 2014, 132). When the owner passed away unexpectedly in 1920, Johann Kolarik, a butcher and Prater regular, stepped in. Kolarik switched to Czech Budweiser and introduced a meat dish that soon became synonymous with the Schweizerhaus: the Schweizerhaus Stelze, or roasted pork knuckle.

The establishment remains in the Kolarik family to this day, and now has space for 1700 lucky imbibers in the shaded garden. Keep an eye out for the signs on the lampposts that divide the beer garden into Vienna’s twenty-three districts. You’ll find me in the 9th District enjoying my Budweiser.

Prost!IMG_4533

Check back soon for the second installment covering the remaining beer gardens.

Sources

Bernhard Hachleitner, The Prater Book (Vienna: Bohmann Verlag, 2014).

For a brief history of how the beer garden came into being, see Tempest’s In the Cool Shade of the Beer Garden.

Also related:Plakat_In_den_Prater

Prelude to a Drink: Vienna

Pictures at a Czech Beer Exhibition: Pilsen, Budweis, Český Krumlov

*If you’re visiting Vienna this summer and want to learn more about the cultural history of the Prater, don’t miss the Wien Museum’s informative and entertaining exhibition, Meet Me at the Prater! Viennese Pleasures since 1766.

With the exception of the placard for the Wien Museum’s Prater exhibition, all images by F.D. Hofer.

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

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