The Austro-Bavarian Beerlands

Schaerding is definitely worth a visit. It’s 12 minutes on the train from Passau, or a nice 15km bike ride along the banks of the Inn. It claims to be Austria’s prettiest baroque town. As it’s the only Austrian town we’ve ever been to, we can’t confirm the superlative, but it’s certainly pretty.

There are two breweries in town, handily located opposite each other on the way into town from the station. As in Bamberg, the air was heavy with the smells of brewing: first, malt and then the exact green, tea-like smell you get when you dump hops into the boil. This boded well.

We sampled Baumgartner in the hilariously named Wirtshaus zur Bums’n, apparently a staple of the local Good Beer Guide. We started on the zwickl, which seemed to be the only beer advertised, and it was a stunner — really bitter with a very subtle sourness.  We asked what else they had, and in the babble of Austrian German that followed we discerned “the normal maerzen and dunkles”. Both were extremely good. The maerzen was heady and sweet, and the dark actually tasted dark (as opposed to tasting like the helles with brown food colouring in it, as with so many). It was like treacle, in the best sense.

Then onto Kapsreiter. First up, hearty “landbier” helles and dunkles. The helles was almost chewable — sourdough bread? It would certainly have passed for a pils in much of Germany. The dunkles meanwhile had a lovely deep caramel aroma and an absurdly high, rocky head. Boak thought it lacked a bit in the aftertaste but Bailey thought it was as good as the Baumgartner.

We approached the Bio-bier with caution, having found in the past that organic beers are usually much ado about nothing, but this one was as good if not better than the helles, with a little spicy note at the end (almost a little gingery). Their wheatbeer was also a little spicy, making it more interesting than the others we’d had over the holiday, while ticking all the right banana clove notes as well. Finally their pils (only available in bottles) was more aromatic, paler and sparklier version of the Helles.

Which brewery was better? Hard to say but, on this evidence, we’d say a little local competition is healthy thing.

And so, in conclusion, the best brewery in Passau is actually in Austria…

Beer history london

Barclay Perkins 1, Austria 0


We spotted this on the site of the old Anchor brewery near London Bridge, round the corner from another plaque spotted by Jeff/Stonch a while back.

According to (“Anything and everything Thrale or Thraill”), here’s the story:

The Austrian General Haynau was notorious for the brutality with which he put down rebellions in Hungary and Italy. So… when the word spread that the ‘Hyena’ was in the brewery… he was attacked by draymen and brewery workers with brooms and stones, shouting ‘Down with the Austrian butcher‘. Haynau fled along Bankside pursued by the angry men and took refuge in the George pub… from which he was rescued by the police with difficulty, and spirited away by boat across the river. The Austrian ambassador demanded an apology, but the Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston sided with the brewery men, saying they were just ‘expressing their feelings at what they considered inhuman conduct‘ by a man who ‘was looked upon as a great moral criminal‘. Only after the intervention of a furious Queen Victoria and the threatened resignation of Palmerston was a more conciliatory letter sent to Vienna. Even then Austria was still so resentful that it sent no representative to the funeral of the Duke of Wellington in 1852.


Austrian Imbiss near Marble Arch

Hirter Korchl dark lager
Hirter Morchl dark lager

UPDATE May 2012: the Imbiss sadly closed at some point in 2010 or 2011.

Who opens an Austrian cafe in London? Seriously?

Imbiss is hidden away on Seymour Place, a back street near Marble Arch, in London’s West End. It’s next door to the Carpenter’s Arms.

Stepping inside is like travelling abroad. The staff are distinctly Germanic; there’s a huge display of various lurid leberkaese (meat loaves); and baskets full of pretzels. It’s minimalistic and bright, offering quite a contrast to the wonderful but gloomy Zeitgeist.

The food tastes authentic, too — i.e. processed, meaty and bad for your health — and it’s pretty reasonably priced, making Kurtz and Lang‘s overpriced sausages look a bit redundant.

The authenticity continues into the beer selection. Stiegl lager and wheat beer are available on tap, both fairly bland but crispy fresh, and much nicer than Stella Artois and Erdinger respectively. There’s a rotating range of bottled beer from Austria, too, including a selection from Hirter Morchl, whose dark lager we’ve enjoyed in the past. A quirky organic hemp beer is also on the menu.

If you’re jonesing for Mittel Europa but can’t get away from the UK, this is the perfect substitute, and deserves more custom than it seems to be getting.

It’s closed on Monday, but open until 11ish the rest of the week.