When I think of Salzburg, there are always a few things which immediately come to mind. It would be too easy to simply say Mozart and the Sound of Music. You can hardly read a paragraph in any guidebook about Salzburg which doesn’t include either of those. I sometimes wish I could have discovered these two cultural icons in Salzburg a bit more organically. While I do think of Mozart and Sound of Music, more specifically, I think about Mozart Balls and the opening credit sequence in the Sound of Music. But what I also think about is the color white, like the Hohensalzburg fortress and its imposing walls looking caked in the salt that gives the city its name. There are buildings of many colors around the city, but in the filter of my memory, they all seem to fade to white. I think of Alpine scenery, distant snow-peaked mountains rising sharply above the wide surrounding plains, and the rapid Salzach River dividing the city. Salzburg is a wonderland of Baroque. It is a collection of sculpted palaces, churches, and monasteries all crammed together at the foot of the Monchsberg hill creating a confusing but charming array of alleys and passageways. Nothing is parallel in Salzburg and the city seems to be built in layers. There is no place I have been to aside from Venice where one of the best experiences is to just walk aimlessly around trying to get lost. Eventually you will find yourself in some provocative churchyard or fairytale square or suddenly looking down on Salzburg from above. But of all the exquisite things that swirl around in my mind’s eye when I think of Salzburg, one of them interestingly has never been… beer.
I speak only from my own perception, which may not particularly reflect reality, but Austria in general has never given me the impression of being a beacon of beer culture, like it’s neighbors Germany and Czech Republic. Austria has the Alps and similar to Switzerland, the essence of Austria is as a mountainous paradise where beer is simply something to wash down all of that Alpine beauty after a hike. Think about it, even beer fans might have a difficult time even naming an Austrian beer. In that respect, Salzburg will never be confused with Munich or Prague, but when I arrived in July earlier this year to finally give Salzburg the itsabrewtifulworld treatment, I was quite impressed with the beer pilgrimages I discovered. There is clearly a vibrant underlying beer culture in Salzburg, which seems quite content to forgo all the attention given to Wolfgang and the Von Trapps. There is one beer, however, that shows its face everywhere in Salzburg, and that is the obvious place to start this journey…
Stiegl is Austria’s largest privately owned brewery and has a heritage dating back to 1492. The name of the brewery comes from a staircase (stiegl) which used to lead from the original brewery to a nearby canal. In 1863, the brewery was moved to a suburb of Salzburg where it remains today about a 30-minute walk from the Altstadt. During the American occupation after WWII, when Stiegl had a production shortage, the Americans imported ingredients and brewed their own beer in the Stiegl facilities. After 1948, the brewery was able to return to normal production and today the brewery is a beer visitor extravaganza. It has a restaurant, a nice biergarten, a plentifully stocked gift shop, and the Stiegl Brauwelt museum.
While the brewery is a must, it may not actually be my favorite place to enjoy a Stiegl. That honor goes to one of the three best places to enjoy an itsabrewtifulview in all of Salzburg.
Stiegl-Keller (itsabrewtifulview #1)
Located on the Festungsgasse just past the tram entrance to the fortress, Stiegl-Keller is a great place to have a lunch or dinner along with a couple Stiegl beers and just kick back and look at one of the most beautiful cityscapes in all of Europe. Goulash is usually a hit-or-miss dish for me, mainly linked to the amount of fat in the beef chunks (I hate beef fat), but here it was definitely a hit. The beef was succulent, melted to the touch of a fork, and the gravy was delectably umami. The perfect counterpart for a delicious Stiegl Weisse.
If you continue up the steep Festungsgasse road, eventually you come to the entrance to the Hohensalzburg fortress.
Hohensalzburg (itsabrewtifulview #2)
To enjoy the second of the three itsabrewtifulview locations in Salzburg, it is necessary to pay the entrance fee, but this goes without saying, as the fortress should be on everyone’s to do list. After your visit, head to one of its cafes. I recommend the cafe on the backside of the fortress which gives a commanding view of the region south of Salzburg towards Germany. On the day of my visit, a storm was brewing, whipping the terrace umbrellas into a frenzy. Hold onto your weissbier glass.
Hohensalzburg sits on the pinnacle of the Monchsberg. One of my favorite activities in Salzburg is to explore Monchsberg where one can enjoy a nice wooded walk and see other ramparts and fortified walls. This walk will bring you to the third and final itsabrewtifulview in Salzburg.
Stadtalm Naturfreundehaus (itsabrewtifulview #3)
This youth hostel and cafe has the best view in Salzburg. On a sunny day, it is absolutely the perfect place to grab a light meal and enjoy a beer. My only complaint is that they apparently have a contract with the German brewery Wieninger, and it is a shame that such a place is not promoting Austrian beer. Nevertheless, that minor detail is quickly pushed to the back of your mind when you look out over the city.
At the far end of the Monchsberg, the path will wind its way down to the Müllner Kirche, a beautiful 15th century church. While the church stands proudly with an aura of loneliness, down river from all the more visited Altstadt churches, the Müllner Kirche has one particular advantage over all of the others. It is across the street from the largest beer hall in all of Austria.
Augustiner Bräu Kloster Mülln
Not to be confused with Munich’s Augustiner Bräu, Kloster Mülln of Salzburg has been around since 1625. The site was originally a monastery of Augustinian canons. It is still 50% owned by the Michaelbeuern Benedictine Abbey which is 30km outside of Salzburg. In the Braustuberl, you order and pick up your food from one of the food kiosks. For beer, purchase at one of the windows, grab an empty mug and take it to the taps to be filled.
Before heading across the Salzach River, there is one more notable beer pilgrimage in the Altstadt, this one right in the very heart.
This brauhaus representing Austria’s Zipfer beer faces lively University Square. It has a bierhall atmosphere indoors as well as outdoor seating. The building was the home of Mozart’s sister Nannerl for 28 years.
The rest of the pilgrimages take place on the east bank of the Salzach River.
Gablerbräu is an old inn and restaurant located on the Stefan-Zweig platz, an area which gives a local neighborhood feeling. For the Untappd crowd, Gablerbräu has their own zwickl house beer brewed by the Stiegl brewery. The location of Gablerbräu is perfect for combining a beer with a visit up to the Kapuzinerberg, the hill on the east bank which has a 16th century Capuchin monastery and a great view of Hohensalzburg.
This is a pub restaurant located one street away from Gablerbräu which is affiliated with Privatbrauerei Schnaitl. The brewery is 40km north of Salzburg.
Just a few meters away from Schnaitl Pub is this small bar specializing in Belgian beers. This is a cool option for visitors and locals to try Belgian beer. While for me, drinking Belgian beer is not an exotic activity, I showed my support.
This brewery, started in 1901, claims to be the oldest weissbier brauerei in Austria. Worth a visit also for dinner.
s’ Kloanste Brauhaus (a.k.a. Kastners Schenke)
Not far from Die Weisse is this brauhaus. This claims to be the smallest brewery in Salzburg. Unfortunately for me, they were still suffering the after-effects of the pandemic and had not reopened.
This microbrewery located between Die Weisse and ‘s Kloanste Brauhaus brews its beers to music. I didn’t get to try any of their beers, but visit their website for more information.
Of Salzburg, Mozart famously said “There isn’t a penny’s worth of stimulation in this town. It’s as if the audience consisted of nothing but tables and chairs.” Of course, he would not have said it in English. The point is that Mozart had great disdain for Salzburg. It was his wife Constanze who set in motion the tourist industry of Mozart in Salzburg years after his death. As witnessed, Salzburg has a number of great places to enjoy a beer. These places are linked more so to the breathtaking ambience and beauty of Salzburg rather than to their self-sustaining beer culture aesthetic. There are touches and flashes of brilliance but Salzburg is probably too small and too set in its ways to ever really thrive on beer tourism. It surprises me that for a city where Mozart’s face and name are interwoven into every aspect of tourism that there isn’t a Mozart beer. There is an obscure one brewed by Stiegl but at sixteen check-ins on Untapped as I write, it certainly hasn’t become a mainstay. To be fair, Mozart gets enough attention in this town. Perhaps the face of beer in Salzburg is better left alone as the Stiegl stairway icon and not the be-wigged composer.
Salzburg has enough interesting beer culture to fill up three full and satisfying days with copious brewtiful highlights. Unlike Mozart, I will always find Salzburg to be stimulating. After five visits in my lifetime, I can say that it is only a matter of time before I am lured for a sixth. I am fairly certain I will find Salzburg in much the same state as it was in 2021, which was the same state as it was my first visit in 2003. I will gladly take my Stiegl Weissbier again at the Stiegl-Keller and another Wieninger at the Naturfreundhaus. I don’t expect to find any new exciting additions to the beer culture. Every time I look out over the historic skyline, I am briefly timewarped to the 18th century, but with a city like Salzburg, it might as well be the 22nd.
Bräu am Berg Märzen
Brauerei Bräu am Berg Starzinger