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.

6361665853932486958-account_id=2 (3).jpg

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.

3211733987830925061-account_id=1
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.

6995777766231091758-account_id1.jpg
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.

7683630681691212214-account_id=1
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.

7214788834718883538-account_id=1
The Salzburger is a zwickel, almost like a Kölsch, very easy to drink
9111891433759222264-account_id=1
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.

384071338878365570-account_id=1
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.

2788220171659423872-account_id=1
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.

1917975608548689222-account_id=1
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.

1193513109136165671-account_id=1 (2)

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

dsc_2213.jpg

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!

DSC_2241
Kramah IPA – we liked this Bevog brew the best
DSC_2277
Their Black IPA was pretty good too
DSC_2246
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.)

Cologne – the unsung beer capital of Germany

Although most would identify Munich as Germany’s beer capital what with the Oktoberfest craze… for us, it would be Cologne.

Cologne is where we first explored the craft beer variety Germany has to offer. It is where we saw locals relish craft beer as much as they do the revered Kölsch.

We started our beer journey in Cologne with the Kölsch – it seemed like the right thing to do. And, we were not disappointed. If you’ve read some of the posts on this blog, you will know that we are not huge fans of the Pils. That said, we don’t mind drinking them on tap every once in a while. It is full of fresh flavors and the Pils generally have a nice hoppiness to it, admittedly not the pale ale hoppiness that we like but good enough to drink occasionally.

We had our first Kölsch at the Gaffel am Dom. The Kölsch to us was really just a German pils, just not as hoppy. However, the Kölsch by classification is an ale as it’s top fermented unlike a Pils. Notice how it is served in a small glass. Now, that’s typical for a Kölsch. Another typical and somewhat amusing custom is the server filling your glass the second it is empty without checking if you’d like more. This makes you completely lose track of how much you’ve drunk but at the same time, it’s pretty cool that you’ll never need to wait for a beer! After a quite a few Kölschs, we put our beer coasters on top of our glass which seemed to be the norm when you’d had enough.

DSC_0728

We were pleased to find that Gaffel brewed another style of beer – it was somewhat similar to the Kölsch yet different because of the hops and fruity flavors. Like the Kölsch, this beer didn’t look or taste like a typical lager or ale.. whatever it was, we liked it! The Sonnen Hopfen as the name itself indicates is full of summer flavors, bursting with citrusy freshness and juicy hops. Definitely, a must-try if you visit the Gaffel am Dom. It is the closest to a craft beer style in a traditional Brauhaus in Cologne.

DSC_0732

We had a delightful evening at the Gaffel am Dom – loved the food and the ambience. This is a place worth visiting for that authentic Kölner experience.

The night was still young and we headed over to the Metronom, a jazz bar. It’s a tiny place but a bar that plays some wonderful jazz music and serves an authentic Guinness on tap. It had been ages since we’d had a genuine pint of Guinness and were so happy to find one, of all the places in Germany.

DSC_0758.JPG

Metronom is a small place filled with locals and tourists. It gets crammed easily as it’s a small bar but just get there early and you can get a spot close to the bar. When we had visited, they had run into some trouble with the live music shows creating too much noise for the residents in the area and they had stopped the shows. But, we still listened to some great jazz music. They have the most amazing collection of vinyl records!

The next day we visited the Cologne Biermuseum. Although the place isn’t exactly a museum but more a bar with lots of great, old bier steins from all over Deutschland, Austria and other parts of the world. The place has a very cozy feeling to it and we kinda had the whole place to ourselves when we stopped by for some midday refreshments. Now, what’s notable about this place is that they have a huge variety of beers on tap, beers from all around the world and a bigger variety of bottled beers, mostly the traditional variety. The majority of the tap beers are Bocks and these are some pretty amazing bocks. We’ve had some of our best bocks in all of Germany at this little bar.

DSC_0831
We particularly enjoyed the Urbock, a brilliantly crafted bock, that leaves you wanting more.

If you are a beer fanatic and especially one that loves Bocks, this place should definitely be part of your Cologne beer adventures.

Later that evening, we made our way to the Braustelle microbrewery in Ehrenfeld. These guys have a great set of beers on tap. Of course, they have their own Kölsch – the Helios. It’s one of the best Kölschs we had in all of Cologne. Braustelle has a great set of craft beers to suit all sorts of palettes. We weren’t too fond of their fruity Pink Panther ale but loved some of their stouts. They are always brewing new stuff and you’ll find their menu changing ever so often. It’s a great place where the craft beer loving locals get together. A must-visit if you are a beer enthusiast.

DSC_0914 (3)
The Helios

The next day we did a short trip to Bonn. It’s a university town that’s possibly most famous for being the birthplace of Beethoven and home to the United Nations German HQ. Incidentally, it’s where Steve worked while he lived in Bonn several years ago. More about Bonn in a separate post. On to the beers in Bonn – like Cologne they have their own brand of beer called the Bönnsch of course. Interesting point to note: Kölsch and Bönnsch are also what the local dialects are referred to for the respective cities.

While the Kölsch is served in a small glass, the Bönnsch is served in a very unique looking pint glass.

DSC_0953 (2)

The lighter (helles in German) beer is their classic, all-time brew – the Bönnsch Natürlich. It’s similar to the Kölsch yet couldn’t be more different. The darker brew you see is their Winter Bock – we quite liked this one! This, of course, is available only during the winter months. The Bönnsch beers are a creation of the Brauhaus Bönnsch which is a fantastic place to grab some delicious local bites and beers.

Later that afternoon, we headed back to Cologne and were quite excited about our evening plans. Not only were we meeting an old friend/roommate of Steve’s after nearly a decade, but were also planning on visiting Cologne’s kick-ass craft beer bar.

We started off the evening at the Päffgen Brauhaus. It’s a traditional beer hall atmosphere and is a fairly large place. They also have a nice winter beer garden that is covered and not too cold. After several rounds of Kölschs and some very tasty local food, we decided to get to the spot we’d been saving for the last.

Craft Beer Corner Coeln is one of the best craft beer bars in Germany. It is mostly filled with local folk who love their craft beers. They have 15 taps on rotation – beers include German and international craft. And they have a whole bunch more by the bottle. It is important to note that when we had visited Cologne in Dec 2016, we were living in Ulm, a small town in South Germany. The craft beer culture at that time was pretty much non-existent and we were always on the hunt for craft beers. [The scene today though is hugely different. More on this in a separate post!] So, essentially, you can imagine the palpable excitement in the air when we walked into this bar to find this mind-blowing collection of beers.

3826224811154672562-account_id2
Today was a Good Day IPA from Pizza Port was just one of the many craft beer gems we discovered that night

It turned out to be a long night of fun conversations over some hoppilicious beers. Also, we got our Pils loving German friend to try out a whole bunch of hoppy ales. Although he didn’t really develop a liking for the ales, he did enjoy the stouts quite a bit.

craftbeercornerwall2 (3)
They have a cool wall displaying the different beer styles and sub-styles. What you’re seeing in this pic is barely half of that wall!

If you are a serious beer drinker and find yourself in and around Cologne, you should definitely visit the Craft Beer Corner. It is one of the very few places in Germany where you get such a varied and huge collection of craft beers. We promise you, you will feel like you’ve finally come home at Craft Beer Corner Coeln. And, if you’re an IPA lover, you will be in hop heaven with their horde of great IPAs!

And, that’s how we began our Christmas beercation. Next stop Belgium. Stay tuned for our beer adventures in the holy land of beers.

Prost to the Reinheitsgebot

Over 500 years ago, today in 1516, the ‘German Beer Purity Law’ or ‘Reinheitsgebot’ was established.

If you are a beer geek, you probably know what this means. But, for the benefit of the other beer lovers.. the Germans established regulations for what ingredients can be used for a drink to be categorized as ‘Beer’. The ingredients were limited to the absolute essentials – water, hops, and barley. This law was first adopted in Bavaria, the heart of the German beer land and was then pushed for adoption across the rest of the country. April 23rd is celebrated as the Day of German Beer or National Beer Day across Deutschland.

In Germany, beer is generally synonymous with Lager . When you walk into a traditional German brewhouse and order for a beer, you will be served one of their lager styled beers – it could be a Helles (pale lager) or a Dunkel (dark lager). The Helles is your typical Pilsner, a heavily hopped lager. Not being huge fans of the Pils style, we generally drink a Pils in the absence of other options. It is the predominant beer style in the Oktberfests. Also, why we are not huge fans of the much renowned German Oktoberfests. Ironically, apart from the beer, it’s still a worthwhile Bavarian cultural experience to share with family and friends.

1228580817331757572-account_id=1
Fun times at the Munich Oktoberfest

Another German style of lager that we actually enjoy quite a bit is the Bock. The Bock is stronger, hoppier, and maltier than the Pils and there’s a ton of good bocks brewed across Germany. Here are two of our favorite bocks.

480000496728260928-account_id=1
Paulaner Salvator Doppelbock
1122991049231733440-account_id=1
Andechs Doppelbock

Märzen is another German lager style – it is a seasonal lager that derives its name from the fact that it is brewed in March (März in German). The style was created out of necessity rather than experimentation and is characterized by strong hops that helped preserve the flavor during the subsequent six months when brewing was forbidden. If you happen to be in Germany between March and October, you will typically be served a Märzen when you ask for a beer.

5058062343606531701-account_id=1.jpg
A delicious Märzen from the Hofbrauhaus Berchtesgaden

Another interesting German lager style is the Kölsch. This is not necessarily a different style but just creative branding by the Cologne brewers. If you ever visit Cologne, you will find that the local beer is called a Kölsch – it really is just your pils with a different name in Köln (German for Cologne). The Kölsch however is served in small glasses.

DSC_0728
There are plenty of good Kölschs in Cologne – the Gaffel Kölsch is one of our favorites

Although one might not expect it, the Weizens (wheat beers) did not conform to the original German Beer Purity Law. The law was updated a few decades later to allow for the addition of wheat, the primary ingredient of Weissbiers. Also, interestingly, at the time of the implementation of the beer purity law, the beers were not fermented by the deliberate addition of yeast – this also happens to be a late addition to the purity law. Being ale lovers, our most preferred traditional German beer style is the Weizen (also sometimes referred to as Hefeweizen). This type of beer is very distinctively German and you’ll find that the flavor is unmatched. We’ve tried a good many Weizens and we highly recommend the Schneider Weisse. These guys specialize in wheat beers and their collection includes a variety of interesting international styles as well making them a great traditional and craft brewery. They have an excellent wheat doppelbock (Mein Aventinus Tap 6) which is one of our all-time favorite German beers.

1a
Schneider Weisse Tap 7 Original – the only one of their beers that’s available in the German supermarkets
1b
Paulaner Weissbier – one of the very few big commercial beer companies that deserves every bit of the hype and fame it recieves
1c
Augustiner Weissbier – another big Bavarian brewery that is held in high esteem by the locals
7500018641989401251-account_id=1
Hacker Pschorr Weisse – another delicious Bavarian wheat beer
5334150483065380529-account_id=1
Franziskaner Dunkel Weissbier and Weissbier – easily found in supermarkets but not to be dismissed lightly

While the Beer Purity Law served its purpose during its times, it unfortunately held back German brewers from bringing in innovation and creativity to the brewing process which left them straggling behind when the craft beer revolution gained momentum. However, slowly and steadily the German brewing industry is gaining ground in the craft beer space with brewers, public and politicians recognizing the need to adapt to evolving beer styles whilst preserving tradition and continuing to use the well-established processes for brewing good beer.

Today, as Germany celebrates the declaration of the Reinheitsgebot, which firmly established Germany as the master brewers of their times… there’s also unabashed excitement in shaping the craft brewing culture in the hope that Germany would once again be the forerunners in defining good beer.

(Being craft beer fanatics, we have scoured the smallest corners of this traditional brewing country in search of craft beer and have successfully discovered some excellent craft beer haunts. New post on our most loved German craft beers coming soon!)