Beer has been around for a very long time. Since its creation, the brewing process has been tweaked throughout the years to ensure that people make the best, and most delicious brews for beer lovers to try. This past week was my first time learning about beer on an academic level, and I already feel like more of an expert. Since my last post, I have experienced the Stiegl Brauwelt, went out to my first European club, mastered the Salzburg bus system, and learned that you’ll pay more for coffee and water than you will for beer – so why not just buy beer?
My class learned the brewing process on our second day. The brewing process has been the coolest thing I’ve learned so far because it taught me how to enjoy my favorite beers even more. In our textbooks, there are pages that introduce different types of beer, such as Porters, IPAs, Pilsners, the American Pale Ale, etc. After getting the chance to study the perfect pour, what the color of a beer actually means, what to expect a beer to taste like based on aromas, and how to read an IBU scale for bitterness, our class got to test our new knowledge by doing a few beer tastings around the city. I have found that knowing more about the beer I am drinking actually adds to the experience and gives me a new and exciting perspective of my favorite beers.
Doing beer tastings in Austria has given me the opportunity to enjoy many delicious beers from different parts of the world. This has been a really cool experience because I can identify the qualities of the beers I really like, and the beers I might not be tempted to order again. Based on these qualities, I can order beers I know I will enjoy just by looking at their labels first.
At the Stiegl Brauwelt, the second biergarten we’ve tried in Salzburg, we all got the chance to try different styles of beer. While there, I tried my first European IPA and I loved it! The beer had an intense hoppy and bitter taste with hints of fruity citrus, caramel, and honey. IPAs tend to range on the bitterness scale at about 50-60 IBU. Personally, I have found that I like bitter beers more, but many of my classmates liked the more malty beers like the Stiegl Weisseber, which chimed in at only 15-20 IBU. Many of the beers made in Salzburg and the surrounding cities are weissebiers, or wheat beers. They are delicious but just don’t have that extra kick of bitterness that I have come to love.
Unfortunately for me, however, IPAs tend to be expensive, and choosing a beer to drink regularly as a college student pretty much always boils down to price. Since I work a job at school for minimum wage, the only beers in my diet have consisted of the cheapest ones available. But studying the complexity of brewing and learning more about different options has made me curious about how to enjoy my favorite beers without breaking the bank. I brought this to the attention of my professor, and she gave me some pretty great advice.
Dr. P told me that IPAs are expensive because of the amount of hops they use, which tend to have a higher price tag. But they are also the beers with a higher ABV percentage. So drinking a beer like this gives you a little heavier buzz than that of a light beer. This is a good thing for me because it means instead of spending money on typical crappy college beer, I can enjoy about three or four Flying Dog IPAs and get the same buzz I would get from pounding eight or nine Natty Lites. And as much fun as it would be to shotgun a warm Natty, I’d much rather sip a refreshing IPA and enjoy a good beer on a Saturday night.
Circling back to Austrian drinking culture, I must say that the Europeans always do it right. Even though many Austrians don’t drink IPAs, the brewers at Stiegl proved to me they can still make a killer bitter beer. But they choose not to do this often. Austrians love their weissebiers and pale ales and brewers operate based on tradition.
The drinks here aren’t all that expensive. Going to biergartens and enjoying nights out on the town have been some of the best moments of this trip so far. Don’t get me wrong, the trips to Berchtesgaden and Hallstatt have been absolutely incredible, but the ice cold beers I ordered while there were definitely a perk.
But even with a drinking culture built around community and experience, there are still Austrian drinkers that can compete with the fraternity brothers you find on any American college campus. Since the drinking age is 16, entering a European club leads to seeing 17 year-old high school students on the dance floor with a vodka-soda in one hand and a shot in the other. It took me all of 5 seconds to see that younger Europeans still drink as heavily as the new drinkers in America, but they get over the drink-till-you’re-drunk fad by the time they can legally drink in the States. So we have similar drinking experiences, just in different times of our lives.
Moving forward on this trip, I want to continue learning about how beer fits into modern society and continue trying new beers that I am not accustomed to. I also want to continue to expand my palate and get a better understanding of what I like about beer and what I dislike. The one thing Austrian drinking culture teaches me over and over again is that beer is all about experience. In order to enjoy a beer fully and authentically, I have to pick one that I know I would like to try. And once I choose something new and unique, it’ll make the beer even more enjoyable knowing how it’s made and how it’s meant to be sipped.
To continue to see my favorite pictures from my trip so far, check out our group photo blog posts on Wednesdays and follow the Mount Travel Instagram (@msmutravels) to see my individual posts on #ThirstyThursdays. In Austria, beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder!