Australians love a crisp and refreshing beer.
But where on Earht is the best place to find such a brew?
It might just be Austria.
Austria is home to dozens of brewers, many of which began operations more than 500 years ago. At one of them, you can even go swimming in beer.
Earlier this month, I went to Austria and tried as many beers as I could.
I decided to put my palate to the test against radlers, pilsners, hefeweizens and lagers.
And one runs a brewery that offers you the option of quite literally swimming in beer. Have a look. If you happen to like one recommendation so much, you just might
Here are some great options to enjoy on a hot day, rated from one to four steins.
Radlers are very low on alcohol (a meager 1.5%-2%!) because they're about half-lemonade, half-beer. Still, they are super-refreshing with a strong citrus taste. The Ottakringer Radler is smooth and accompanies any day over 82 degrees just right. Ottakringer was founded in 1837 in the Ottakring district of Vienna. Rating: 3 steins.
Puntigamer is a pretty good beer for a hot day. Which is exactly when I had it: on a warm Vienna afternoon to accompany the first of many schnitzels. It is a brew that veers closer to Busch than toward Heineken, however. There are a lot of mediocre lagers in Austria, to be honest. This one comes from the town of Graz in southern Austria. Rating: 2 steins.
This is very different from the Ottakringer's Radler and very, very good. Reminiscing of a Heineken with this tasty little feller. The Helles bier is the most popular Ottakringer brew, and for good reason. The lager is a big upgrade from Puntigamer, for comparison. Rating: 3 steins.
This will be the first in a number of Stiegl slides, as it's one of the top Austrian brewers. Know how they serve some of these with a slice of orange to add flavour in stateside bars? Wholly unnecessary here. Refreshing, citrus-y and the colour of this brew is probably one of the most inviting things about it. One of my faves from the trip. Stiegl has been brewed for more than 500 years and was founded in Salzburg. Rating: 4 steins.
This one will be tough to find outside of Hallstatt, a tiny Austrian town tucked into the Alps that sits right on top of a lake and is thousands of years old. It's the house brew of a restaurant there. The local brew is tasty, mild and unfiltered. Despite the similarity in colour, completely different in taste compared to Stiegl Weisse. Rating: 3 steins.
It's really tough to make a standout Pilsner. Generally, they all taste about the same. The Austrian ones are virtually identical and I can't say a lot of good things about Zipfer -- especially when held against better-known European standouts. (I'm a big Beck's fan, sorry Team Zipfer). Rating: 2 steins.
I've had this in the U.S. and I can see why it's popular. The Edelweiss tasty hefeweizen is perfect for an afternoon. Not as great as Maisel's (a German hefeweizen) but worth a pour. That it was founded in 1475 is pretty impressive. Yes: 500+ years ago. Sadly, the company ceased production in Austria in 2010. That doesn't make it any less tasty, or less deserving of a spot on this list. Rating: 3 steins.
After trying so many lighter beers, I thought it would be fun to take a crack at a Maarzen lager. Egger is brewed in
Unterradlberg, Austria. And the Egger brewers sure do it right. Whereas some pilsners and lagers are bland to the point of tasting like Busch, Egger's Maarzen lager (at less than one Euro per can) is a great bargain. I came across this one at a train station in Innsbruck and was very pleased to check it off the Austria beer-bucket list. Rating: 3 steins.
There are two things that one begins to appreciate the more one drinks Radlers. A, they're super-refreshing and B, at roughly 2% ABV, you can have about as many as you please. Spending a day hiking around the Alps, it's pretty easy to see how someone decided there was a need for a low-alcohol beer with a lemonade kick to it. Rating: 2.5 steins.
The biggest upside for the radlers is that they're refreshing to the point where you might not even realise you've downed, say, three straight. And this is in a country where brew isn't particularly expensive, either. The only downside to radlers is they all taste very similar after you try a few brands. That doesn't make it any less delicious & refreshing after a long hike, however. Rating: 2.5 steins.
This is pretty similar to the Brauhaus unfiltered brew. These unfiltered drafts are similar to hefeweizens in colour, but come up a little short on flavour. The difference is kind of a big deal when you'd prefer to be quenched by a more flavorful brew, like a Maarzen or a hefeweizen. Gösser was founded in Leoben, Austria, in the 1800s by a Polish brewer. Today, it's one of the country's more popular brands. Rating: 2.5 steins.
Like many European beers it's light on carbonation (a plus!), tastes like a Maarzen and an amber ale. Another great brew for a hot day. Unfortunately, a lot like the Hallstatt Brauhaus home-brewed special, it might be difficult to turn up outside Austria. Hallstatt Das Bier bills itself as being 'of an intense abmer colour and of strang character with a distinct malt bouquet and a subtle hop note.' I can agree with that. Rating: 3 steins.
Stiegl makes a wide range of brews (it purports to be the biggest private brewery in all Austria). The Stiegl Goldbrau is a tasty lager that you might confuse for a Heineken or a Stella in a pinch. I was a much, much bigger fan of Stiegl's Weisse beer but this is a tasty alternative. Some of New York's top pubs don't carry Stiegl, despite its popularity in Austria. But there are a few here. Rating: 2.5 steins.
I only had one opportunity to sample Starkenberger on this summer's Austria trip. But, if I had to visit any brewery, it might have to be Starkenberger. It's not for the beer itself. It's because the Starkenberger brewery (which sadly, we didn't have time to visit) has actual pools of beer you can soak yourself in. This 'Radler' is actually more a mix between a pilsner and a shandy but it leans more in colour and taste toward the former. It still has a sweet, lemon taste and isn't too filling. It's one of my favourites from the trip, in part because I enjoyed this one on a hot day. Rating: 3 steins.
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