â€ś Address: Stiegl-Brauwelt, BrĂ¤uhausstraĂźe 9, 5020 Salzburg, Ă–sterreich â€ž
Salzburg is famous for Mozart (you can visit the house of his birth and another he lived in later), the Sound of Music (there are umpteen different tours to take based on the movie), castles, palaces and mountains. But we spent a day visiting breweries. And why not? We have mountains and castles galore in Slovenia but very few breweries, whereas Salzburg has more breweries than you could (easily) shake a stick at (in a single day).
Stiegl is the biggest of the breweries and is a major commercial enterprise with its beers being sold all over Austria whereas the other breweries tend to be confined to the Salzburg area in terms of supply, or else have a more modest presence in pubs that specifically sell what we in the UK would refer to as 'real ales'.
Stiegl is ubiquitous; not only is it served in the majority of pubs in Salzburg and many beyond, there are also a couple of Stiegl 'kellers' in Salzburg including one notable place situated halfway up the hill on which the Hohensalzburg Fortress stands. Stiegl Brauwelt (literally Stiegl Brew World) however is situated on the edge of the city a ten minute bus ride and subsequent five minute walk from the centre. If you're driving you'll be pleased to know that there's a large car park attached to the complex (on the other hand, I pity the person driving on the day of the visit to the brewery! Take the bus, it's simple and quick).
As well as being home to the Stiegl Brauwelt museum, there's a large courtyard beer garden and several different indoor eating and drinking places (though some of these are large rooms for private functions - there was a wedding group arriving just as we were leaving after our visit and it did strike me as a fun place to have a wedding party). You can come and eat or drink or just visit the brewery shop, without having to pay the admission for tour.
THE BREWERY TOUR
I still can't get over how cheap the tour is, especially as you get three free beers each after the tour and a free gift. Stiegl have obviously invested a great deal of money in putting together this eclectic and well researched exhibition. The tour is self guided so you can linger or move on depending on what interests you most.
The exhibition is housed over three floors but there are lifts for those who can't manage the stairs. It starts with an explanation of how beer is made, looking at each of the ingredients in turn and then explaining the processes involved in the brewing. There is an overview of each section on easy to read boards (with the information given in several languages) and additional information in laminated sheets in a ring bound folder, with each language clearly marked to save you time. I liked this approach as it means you can choose whether to go for an overview or learn a little bit more if you feel inclined to.
I'm not sure whether this building was originally used for brewing or has been built to show how the old brewhouses looked but there are displays that show how the old brewhouses worked so you can see where the grains were processed, the bags hoisted first to the upper floors from where the grain was poured down chutes into hoppers. There's a recreation of a cooper's workshop where you can get an idea of how the barrels were made as well as a display of beer bottles through the centuries demonstrating the different shapes used and the mechanisms for sealing them.
We both loved the 'beer bottle pyramid' a cone shaped display of beers. We could have spent hours looking at the bottles and mentally checking them off a list of ones we've tried. There was also a list of breweries throughout Austria which we photographed and will work our way through on our travels.
The exhibition has been well thought out to look at all kinds of different aspects of the subject such as social history and - my favourite - the label designs, with a colourful display of bottles that were specially designed by Stiegl in celebration of Austria's joint hosting of the European Football Championships in 2008 with a special label for each country taking part.
THE BREWERY SHOP
At the end of the tour we returned to the brewery shop (from whence we had started) and presented the vouchers for our free gifts, one per ticket. We were invited to choose one item each from a bath tub beside the counter. I chose a Stiegl glass and Himself chose a bottle of beer. The shop sells all kinds of Stiegl related souvenirs (t-shirts, coaster holders, badges, glasses and so on) as well as variously sized bottles and mini kegs of the different Stiegl beers.
As it was such a lovely day we were able to sit outside for our beer tasting. As it was a busy day most of the tables in centre of the courtyard were taken and most of those that weren't had reserved signs on them though they were not taken up during the time we spent there. We had to sit at a table on the edge of the courtyard that was partially undercover though that did offer a little bit of shade which we were glad of as the temperature climbed.
Your beer tokens are attached to your ticket and you tear them off to give to the waiter. As there were two of us and we had three tokens each and there were six beers on offer we didn't have to agonise over which beers to try. When the waiter brought the beers he did tell us which they were but as we lined them up in a row we promptly forgot. The most recognisable was the Radler, obvious because it was the grapefuit Radler. I don't know why we don't really get Radlers in the UK but in central Europe most breweries make a Radler; the name comes from the German for cyclist but it's referred to by this name in several countries. A Radler is approximately half beer/half soft drink. Lemon is the most common flavour but if you want to be part of the in crowd right now you have to drink the grapefruit variety (in Slovenia, for example, they'll bring grapefruit automatically unless you specify otherwise). Radlers are low calorie, low alcohol beers and they are really thirst quenching. Stiegl's Radler is as good as any other, nothing remarkable though I really liked it as I tend to favour Radlers these days.
There was a lovely crisp Pils, very drinkable on a sunny day; the Pils is slightly hoppy with a bitter edge. Then there was the wheat beer which I kept pushing towards Himself. Neither of us are particular fans of wheatbeers though I wondered whether this dislike is mostly in my mind because this one was quite pleasant, mild and slihtly citrussy. My favourite was the Stiegl GoldbrĂ¤u; as the name suggests it's a golden beer and it has a lovely hoppy taste and a pleasing after-taste. The Paracelsus Zwickl as the darkest (though not very dark at all) of the beers we tried; this is an unfiltered beer a bit like a traditional English bitter but more well rounded than your average commercial bitter. Finally we had the Stiegl Herbst Gold, an autumn beer that I found had the most distinctive taste (barring the grapefruit Radler) of the lot, very malty but wam and mellow.
We could have eaten but decided just to stick with the beers and eat at our next destination instead (another brewery, surprise, surprise). Along with our beers the waiter brought some kind of wafer-y cracker things, very slightly salted with a mild hint of cheese flavour that, while in no way filling, took the edge off our hunger. Lots of people were eating and the food did look very good even if the belligerent Italian couple at the table next to us left most of theirs while they argued.
Cheers indeed. I would certainly recommend a visit to Stiegl Brauwelt. Tickets for adults cost Euro9 (remember that includes three 200ml beers and a free gift) and for children Euro4 (price includes soft drink and free gift). Children under 6 go free though I'm not sure how interested younger kids would be in this attraction.
For the adults, though, this is an excellent way for anyone interested not just in drinking beer but in how it's made today and how it was made in the past, what goes into beer and how it's packaged. There are aspects of social and cultural history (Did you know that brewing was almost exclusively a job for women until the seventeenth century?), a look at beer as it has been portrayed in art and how beer and brewing expressions have entered mainstream language.
I'd recommend putting aside a couple of hours to get round the exhibition and for a relaxed tasting session. Yes, you can drink Stiegl all over Salzburg (all over Austria in fact) but Stiegl's lovely courtyard at Brauwelt is a great spot on a sunny day and the whole experience is enlightening and entertaining. If I was in Salzburg tomorrow, I'd probably go again.