Salzburg Beer Walk

Salzburg Beer Walk Route
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Salzburg beer walks of some kind have certainly been going on for more than 600 years and it’s an activity that promises to be available for a long time to come.  There are certainly many other routes and many other potential beery stops, but I was looking to start and end at the main train station on a day trip from Munich.  Salzburg is much better known as the home base of Mozart and the shooting locale for the Sound of Music, but I was there to check out some of the beer scene.

The first commercial breweries appeared in Salzburg at the end of the 14th century. The best I could tell from my research, just three breweries are still in existence within the city, although I did see a recent article claiming eleven without naming them. Two of three I identified are very old breweries with long histories.   The Stiegl-Brauerei dates to 1492 (when Columbus was sailing the ocean blue) while Augustiner Bräu has been brewing since 1621.  Several other former breweries that now offer house brews made by others to be unique to their pubs and a venerable taproom operated by an out-of-town brewery make up the other stops on the route.

Beery Stops Along the Way

I’ve heard Salzburg referred to as the beer capital of Austria.  I’ve always been curious about Austrian beer culture and what, if anything, differentiates it from that of neighboring Bavaria.   Reportedly, Germans and Austrians have similar consumption per capita.  However, while the beer type of choice in Munich is helles, in Austria it is more likely to be Austrian märzen (lighter than a Bavarian märzen).  The complex politics of the two countries also overlaps beer culture — for instance, pilseners originated in Czechia when it was firmly part of the Austrian-Hungarian empire, and that style influences beers across the world even today.  Another significant difference is that breweries in Austria are not subject to the Reinheitsgebot so presumably have a freer range for experimentation than breweries across the border. I found an interesting discussion of this topic in Craft Beer & Brewing by Sepp Wejwar if you are interested in going deeper.

The first stop on the route is a place in the Schallmoos district called FUXN.  It has the feel of an upscale, modern cafe with a pleasant outdoor space.  Fuxn offers a tap or two of house beers developed and brewed for them by Bio-Brauhaus Gusswerk in Hof bei Salzburg, about ten miles east of the city.  A nice amber lager brewed with citra hops called Salzburger Volksbier is their mainstay.

Nearby Kulturwirtshaus Urbankeller also serves their own house Vie brewed by Brauhaus Gusswerk called Steinbier.  Urbankeller is situated in a historic site up against a sheer wall of the Kapuzinerberg, one of Salzburg’s five mountains.  Their property uses kellers and an icehouse that were historically used by several of the city’s breweries including Gablerbrau and Sternbrau for lagering their beers.  Today, Urbankeller uses the space for a variety of music and theater events as well as their organic restaurant.  The name “Urban” comes from a family that owned the kellers in the 1800’s.

Salzburg Weißbierbrauerei, commonly referred to as “Die Weisse” was founded in 1901 and is Austria’s oldest brewer of Weissbier.   Small, but beautiful terrace with leafy Chestnut trees.  Interestingly, Die Weisse master brewer Felix Gmachl was a co-founder of KC Bier Company, one of the most noted German-style breweries in the USA.

Leaving the Schallmoos and entering the right bank of the Altstadt (old city) the streets begin to narrow and the tourist crowd picks up substantially.  Before long you arrive at Gablerbräu Wappenstube, a restaurant that is all that remains of what was once a sprawling brewery operation.  What is now Gablerbräu has been operated under a variety of ownerships from the 1400’s until today.  Brewing was ceased in 1913 but they still serve a house beer made uniquely for them by Stieglbrau called Gabler-Zwickl.

Crossing the Salzach River to the west bank Altstadt the logical next stop for me was the Sternbräu.  The first recorded mention of the brewery dates to 1542 and beer was brewed into the 1950’s.  The Sternbräu  is now an interesting amalgamation of pubs, restaurants and beer garden – there are more than 700 indoor seats and 600 outdoor seats in the complex.  Parts are traditional and historic while other parts are very modern.  Sternbräu serves a Zwickl house beer called Stern Bier made for them by Hofbräu Kaltenhausen in Hallein, about fifteen miles south of the city.

The next stop on the route is the Zipfer Bierhaus, another of the oldest inns in the Salzburg Altstadt.   Zipfer features the beers of the Zipf Brauerei located about 40 miles north of the city in the town of Neukirchen an der Vöckla.  This bierstube has retained a pure, traditional feel and was jammed when I arrived necessitating jamming into one of the few unoccupied seats.  In addition to a pair of Zipf beers on draft (I enjoyed the nice Kellerbier) Zipfer offers a variety of other Austrian beers.

No longer flat, the route proceeds up a narrow cobblestone way that begins the ascent of the Festungsberg, another of Salzburg’s five mountains.  On the way is the Stieglkeller, the Altstadt outpost of Stieglbrau, the biggest and oldest of the city’s breweries.  Upon entering, you ascend several flights of stairs to get to the terrace and its terrific views of the city center below.  The site once housed the brewery’s cellars prior to their move to a new suburban brewery in the late-1800’s.  Up the stairs I found a kiosk pouring beers and a beautiful terrace dotted with big, green leafy trees.  Sitting near the edge of the terrace, I looked down on the center of the old city and its hustle and bustle.  The “Stiegl-Hausbier” appealed to me from the list of available draft beers as the beerman told me I wouldn’t likely find it on draft in many other places.  As I understand it, Stiegl has a range of production beers (their flagship is a märzen named “Stiegl-Goldbräu”) that are broadly available throughout Austria as well as a range of house beers that tend to be more experimental and are bottled for limited distribution.  Notably, Stiegl remains a privately owned enterprise.

Sampler at Stieglkeller

From Stieglkeller it is a steady slog up the side of the Festungsberg – I thought about taking the tram that originates nearby but the guy at Stiegl looked me over and told me that would be cheating.  On top of the mountain is Hohensalzburg Fortress a medieval age fortification dating from 1077.  The view gets better and better.  There are multiple route options for heading northward to the Mülln district and my last planned beer stop.

A drop across a saddle precedes another short climb onto a flank of the Mönchsberg, named for the Benedictine monks of St Peter’s Abbey at the northern foot of the mountain.  It is a pleasant hike across the Monchsberg alternating through meadows, small forest stands, a variety of ancient fortifications, and past elegant buildings.  A small park just before beginning the descent to Mülln called Humbolt Terrasse is a place to get a great panoramic view of the old city and the fortress to the south.

Augustiner Brauerei in the Mülln neighborhood was founded by monks back in 1621 and continues to be brewed using traditional recipe and methods.  Notably, their process incorporates open cooling in a traditional cooling vessel as well as open fermentation.  The brewery is host to a classic beer hall as well as Austria’s biggest beer garden.  The beer garden is a gem.  Big leafy chestnut trees comfortably shade more than 1400 seats at communal tables.  Beer is self-serve after rinsing a clay mug in a stone basin and handing it to a beerman who fills it from a tapped wooden barrel.  Food is available from a number of kiosks and stands called “Schmankerlgang” that appear to be concessions operated by a variety of family businesses – baked goods, cheeses, roast chicken, barbeque, and other traditional specialties are offered.  The beer, a classic märzen goes down easy for me after the walk.  The brewery also produces and serves seasonal beers including their “Fastenbier” (Ash Wednesday until Easter) and “Bockbier” (November and December).  Most of their 10,000 bbl annual production is said to be consumed on-site.

Salzburg Beer Walk in Pictures

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So what is an authentic beer garden?

One response to “Salzburg Beer Walk”

  1.  Avatar

    Sounds like something I have to do next summer. Definitely a few places I’ve missed on my visits to town.

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