Salzburg – a paradise for good beer

Salzburg is a historic little Austrian city where several hundreds of years ago, old bearded monks kicked off a brewing tradition that continues to this day with great pride. It is also a city of young, non-traditional brewers whose bold experimentation strengthens Austria’s reputation as a great beer nation.

Salzburg is filled with delightful breweries that will undoubtedly leave you yearning for more. It is a big enough city to have a horde of options for good food and beer yet it is a city that is unspoiled in so many ways and includes a great number of traditional restaurants and breweries that will serve you some of their best local specialties.

When we are traveling, we always stick to the local food and beer. We find that it’s the best way to dive into the country’s culture – eat and drink like a local!

So, without further ado, here are some of our favorite places to go to in Salzburg for delicious local food and beer. Craft beer lovers – do not despair, there’s plenty of that good, hoppy stuff in Salzburg too.

Augustiner Bräustübl

This monastery turned brewery is a unique experience and a must-visit. It is different than most traditional beer halls in Germany as well.

Brewing in the Augustine abbey in Salzburg is said to have started in the early 17th century. This brewery may actually be connected to the renowned Augustiner brewery in Munich – the story goes that the brewmaster of the Salzburg brewery was trained by the brewmaster of the Munich brewery. Now, whether this story has any merits to it is debatable but one thing that is certain is this brewery in Salzburg is well worth a visit!

In many ways, our experience at the Augustiner Bräustübl was quite unlike our experience at the German beer halls where we just about managed to squeeze a tiny little spot for ourselves in one of the hundreds of tables that are always packed to the brim. Despite having at least 4 large rooms and a biergarten, the Augustiner in Salzburg was incredibly crowded as well but somehow it was easier to grab a spot here. It must have been partly because the food and beer is self-served. They’ve got a bunch of food stalls just outside these halls and you pick up your food and beer, and make your way to the halls. A bit more work but if it saves you a spot to sit then it’s well worth it!

We did the short hike up the hill to get to the monastery. The place looked packed with plenty of cars parked on the outside. We made our way thru the main gate and fumbled around looking for the entrance to the brewery. We came across a little hallway that looked eerily deserted with shut doors.. we tried the nearest one and met this long flight of empty stairs.

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We wondered where everybody was. Did we get to the wrong section? It is a fairly big monastery…

But then, there was the unmistakable whiff of schnitzels and the hum of chatter as we made our way to the bottom of the stairs. We walked past delightful-looking food stalls that roused our appetite but we first needed a chug of that frothy goodness.

The beer serving area was packed and there were two counters from which you could buy tokens for your beer. There’s only one beer that’ll be served at any point in time.. Through most of the year, the Märzen bier is on tap and they serve festival specials around Christmas and the Lent period before Easter.

What is especially unique about this brewery is the large washing fountain at the centre where you’ll need to rinse your steins before you go in to get them filled. We barely made it past the thirsty crowds to rinse our steins and get them filled.

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The good man filling our steins, fresh from the barrel

We headed towards the halls but they were quite crowded and most of them allow smoking as well (which seemed to be the case in a great number of pubs and restaurants in Salzburg). Although it was a nippy spring evening, we preferred the beer garden and sat at one of the many empty tables enjoying our hoppicilious pints.

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The Märzens were good, definitely hoppier than the typical lagers.

Die Weisse

For the weizen loving fans, this place is a little paradise. Plenty of choices with wheat beer and scrumptious local bites, this brewpub makes for a great visit.

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The beer looked way too delicious to stop and get a picture before

They have a few variety of weizens apart from the usual helles (light) and dunkel (dark) weizens. We were especially eager to try their weizen bock – a beer style that brings together the beer types we prefer around these neck of the woods. But, unfortunately, this wasn’t available on tap or bottle when we visited. Apart from the wheat beers, Die Weisse also offers a few other beer styles.

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The Salzburger is a zwickel, almost like a Kölsch, very easy to drink
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This dark wheat beer brewed with roasted chocolate malts is a specialty and only available at around Easter time. It was definitely their best brew and if you visit around spring, make sure you get a pint of this!

Stern Bräu

On our first night in Salzburg, we visited the Stern Bräu. Ideally located in the centre of the old town, this place has a whole bunch of differently themed restaurants in the same building. From a traditional beer hall to a royal room to a stylish lounge, you can pick whatever suits your fancy. We picked the traditional beer hall of course and absolutely loved the cozy atmosphere. There’s also a variety of cuisines to pick from. We opted for the local food of course and were not disappointed! Incredibly delicious food and there was a good variety of beers on tap as well. We first tried the brewery’s traditional lager – it wasn’t all that distinctive, much like a typical Pils.

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They had a few guest brews on tap and this wheat beer from Edelweiss is simply delicious!

Bärenwirt

We visited Bärenwirt on our last day in Salzburg. It’s a lovely place that seems to have retained much of its tradition and decor from the 17th century when it first opened its doors. The food here is great and they primarily serve the Augustiner brews from the Augustiner brewery in Munich. Augustiner is one of Munich’s top breweries – it is the star of the Munich Oktoberfest as well. If you’d like to taste some of their brews while in Austria, you should visit the Bärenwirt.

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Augustiner Bräu makes a great weizen

Stiegl

The Stiegl brewery is Salzburg’s in fact all of Austria’s most popular and prestigious brewery. You’ll find their beers in plenty of places in and around Salzburg. We didn’t actually drink the Stiegl beer in Salzburg but had it on tap at a small brewpub on top of the Zwölferhorn, part of the Austrian alps near St. Gilgen and the Wolfgangsee.

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Their primary brew is a lager of course and it wasn’t as hoppy as far as typical lagers go but quite refreshing especially after a nice trek in the mountains

Bottle Shop

Now, no visit would be complete without checking out the craft beer scene. And, much to our surprise, we discovered that Austria has a very promising, burgeoning craft beer culture. In Salzburg, we discovered two places that serve craft beer. One is a pub called the Academy which much to our dismay we couldn’t make a trip to. However, we did visit the other place Bottle Shop – this is a beer store / bar where you can not only buy a great variety of local and international craft beer but they also have a little seating area where you can also drink as much as you’d like right there.

The Bottle Shop is a cozy little underground store/pub that has an amazing variety of craft beer. This place is a must-visit if you are a craft beer enthusiast.

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Here are some of the Austrian craft beers we tried (left to right) – Pinzgau, Brew Age, Gusswerk, Bierol, Hofbräu Kaltenhausen, Rieder and Bevog.

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Of all of them, we liked the Hofbräu Kaltenhausen’s 1475 Pale Ale and the Bevog brews the best. We loved all of the Bevog brews. They are definitely Austria’s top craft brewery with their bold, well crafted beers. And, their can/bottle art is just rad!

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Kramah IPA – we liked this Bevog brew the best
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Their Black IPA was pretty good too
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Their Smoked Porter was a great, full-bodied porter

The Bottle Shop was the last place we visited in Salzburg – we always save the best for last! It was the perfect finish to our wonderful beer travels in Salzburg.

Despite being a small city, Salzburg has a great variety of breweries. And, it’s always wonderful to see old, traditional breweries venturing into the craft beer world and Austrian breweries like Stiegl and Hofbräu Kaltenhausen are including a good few craft beer variety to their collection. And, although there are plenty of similarities between Germany and Austria’s brewing culture, there’s a remarkable uniqueness to the Austrian brews that create a lasting impression.

(Of course there’s so much more to Salzburg than just good beer.)

Bali – a cultural wonder

Our trip to Bali was a memorable one. It reminds us of some fun times, great food, beautiful sights, and a rich cultural experience.

Bali is one of the most popular destinations in Indonesia and rightly so. In Bali, you’ll find a varied mix of areas – some like Ubud that are steeped in mythical traditions with beautiful temples, artisans displaying their meticulously crafted ware, and talented artists putting up great performances in mythical plays. And then some others like Seminyak (part of Kuta) where you’ll find the hip and happening beaches and bars. We stayed at Seminyak as we wanted to be close to the places playing live music and pouring out the good brews.

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Gorgeous sit-outs by the beach at Seminyak

We started out by watching the Barong dance, a very popular Balinese dance. Barong is a lion-like creature who represents all things good and the dance features the battle between Barong and Rangda, a demon queen that represents all things evil.

The music and the depiction of these mythical characters in an enthralling dance was a great start to our journey into the rich cultural wonders of Bali.

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Meet Rangda, the white-haired evil queen

Our next stop was the Kopi Luwak Plantation. This was an interesting and somewhat amusing experience.  We witnessed the making of the world’s most expensive coffee (aka Kopi). The Luwak, this cat-like creature eats the coffee cherries and then of course poops it out. This poop is then collected, the coffee beans separated from the crap, cleansed and sun-dried, fried well, and hand pounded to produce the supposedly wonderful coffee. Sorry for the sarcasm here but well, I tried the coffee and while it was decent, it was in no way remarkable to pay the high price it demands. And, I am a coffee lover just like many of you out there but just didn’t understand what the fuss was about. This turned out to be an interesting experience nonetheless and was worth the visit.

The plantation is beautiful and you should definitely take a short walk through it to see the lovely coffee plants, cocoa trees and fruit trees. Oh, and the tea lovers needn’t despair, there’s also a wide variety of interesting teas to be tried as well, which incidentally I enjoyed more than the coffee!

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Pura Ulun Danu Batur Temple

We then headed over to the Pura Ulun Danu Batur Temple located in Batur, Kintamani. This is one of the second most important temples to the Balinese people. It is a huge temple complex and in fact consists of nine different temples that includes ~300 shrines of gods and goddesses. One of these nine temples is actually a Chinese temple and I was a bit surprised to see it there but it was apparently built to pay homage to Ida Ratu Ayu Subandar, the patron saint of commerce and the ‘administrator’ of the gods. The story goes that, back in the days, the king used to appoint a harbor master, usually Chinese, who was responsible for the storage and protection of valuable objects.

Hinduism is the majority religion in Bali and being a Hindu (by birth but not by choice) and being aware of some of the Hindu customs and gods/goddesses – it was pretty amazing to see how similar Indian Hindu rituals was to that of the Balinese Hindu rituals. It was also amazing to note the differences in the way they represent the same gods and rituals. The architecture of this whole temple complex is just mind-blowing! We unfortunately went there on a misty day and there was lots of fog which made for a slightly blurry view… despite this, the temple was simply marvelous. By the way, in almost all Bali temples you will need to wear a sarong, both the male and female.. this is not that bad a deal really.. you can rent one or buy one.. but what’s bad is the locals ripping you off by charging as much as 50 USD just to rent one! This is not so bad in all temples and we were shocked when it happened to us in this Batur temple. It’s best to just buy one and use it for all the temples you plan to visit. It’s much cheaper and stress-free!

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Mount Batur, Kintamani

Mount Batur is an active volcano visible from Kintamani. Its last eruption was in 2000. The mountain is surrounded by the crater lake, Danau Batur, Bali’s largest lake. As I mentioned, it was a misty day and we waited several hours for the view you see in this image. When we got there, there was nothing but thick mist making the entire mountain and its surrounding area altogether invisible. We sat in this little cafe sipping on some lovely coffee and munching on some delicious cakes and waited for the mist to lift. It was worth the wait.

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Royal tombs at Gunung Kawi

We drove down through a different route and stopped over at the Gunung Kawi temple. The main attraction of the temple complex is the royal tombs. These tombs are dedicated to King Anak Wungsu of the Udayana dynasty and his favorite queens.. This image above features the tombs of the king, his ‘major’ queen and their three sons. On the other side of this are the tombs of the ‘minor’ queens.

It’s a beautiful walk through the temple complex with little streams flowing through and beautiful rice terraces along the way. Ubud is filled with these gorgeous rice terraces.

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The rice terraces of Bali

This was the end of our Day 1 in Bali. Boy! we did see a lot and it was such a beautiful day! We then headed back to Seminyak to unwind with some chilled beers and listen to a fun, local rock band. The next day we just chilled out in our lovely villa and swam and drank lots more beers.

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A typical pils (nothing special) – seemed to be the most popular local beer

In the evening, we stepped out to see Tanah Lot, a temple built in a spectacular rock formation – this is one of the most photographed places in Bali. Just behind the temple, you can find a quiet little rock for yourself, away from the maddening crowd, and sit there mesmerized by the beauty and the power of the sea.

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Tanah Lot, approaching dusk

On our last day, we visited Nusa Dua, part of the Kuta area in the south of Bali, that is well known for its water sports. We had a whole adventure-packed day and indulged in a variety of water sports from parasailing to sea walking to doing the flying fish. We immensely enjoyed them all.

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The blue parasail is me taking off

It was my first time parasailing and after much trepidation, I mustered the courage to do it and I was so thrilled when I did it. The insane rush of adrenaline as you take off, the child-like glee that surges within you as you soar high and admire the vast expanse of water, and finally, the urge to do it all over again as you descend to the shore — was simply wonderful. We also visited the Turtle Island which I don’t think is worth the time, money, and effort – it’s sad to see the turtles kept (trapped really) in such enclosed dirty conditions.

We wrapped up the day at the Pura Luhur UluWatu temple, which is perched at the edge of a steep cliff that is surrounded by the Indian ocean. The views from here are breath-taking! We also watched the fascinating Kecak dance here – the performance takes place every evening against the backdrop of the ocean.

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Kecak dance at Uluwatu temple

The music for this dance is produced by the performers you see in this image incessantly chanting ‘Cak’. The dance is a depiction of one of the primary plots in the Ramayana where Sita, the wife of Lord Rama is abducted by the demon king Ravana and then the performance goes on to show how Rama (with the help of the monkey god Hanuman) kills Ravana and brings back Sita safely. The entire performance is filled with unbelievable energy and is a brilliant one to watch – and the twilight views of the vast Indian ocean make it all the more special. We then headed off to grab a lovely dinner in a restaurant situated on the other side of the cliff. The food in Bali is delicious no matter where you go with a wide array of choices. Eating mouth-watering satays, listening to the local band play some lovely Balinese music, and looking out at the ocean – this is how we finished off our last day in Bali.

That’s what makes Bali so memorable for us – the amazing views, the scrumptious food, the rich culture, and the varied experiences you can get in this lovely little city. There’s something for everyone.