Austria, Innsbruck: 5 beer hot spots

Austria, Innsbruck: 5 beer hot spots

Where beer tradition and innovation meet

It is quite a sight standing on the mountain range north of Innsbruck. Three separate cable cars take you to a height of around 3000 meters and when you walk a little further onto the snow you get a magnificent view. To the north, the mountains suddenly stop and the plains of Bavaria become visible. Turn around and look south and you see mountains with a highway bridge leading to the Brenner pass into Italy. And nestled in between is Innsbruck. Not a metropolis by any means, but well located. 

View over Innsbruck from a cable car

Innsbruck is not the first city you think of when it comes to beer in Austria. Salzburg for example is home to Stiegl, the largest privately owned brewery in the country. The capitol Vienna even has its own beer style that, although lost for a few decades apart from Mexico, is making a comeback. Yet the capitol of the Tyrol region does offer some interesting beer spots that are worth a visit.

Its location tells you a little bit about what to expect with Bavaria to the north, Italy to the south and the rest of Austria to the east. A fine mix of traditional, mostly Bavarian, breweries and beer styles but also with room for some newer ‘craft’ breweries and beers.

Traditional Innsbruck beer spots

German beer hub Munich is only two hours away and of the many big breweries from there, Augustiner has the biggest foothold here. There are two Augustiner restaurants that we visited. One is downtown on the site of a former nunnery and called  Stiftskeller. When you go downstairs to the bathroom you will still see the old stones that were once the foundation.

The old stones in the hall to the bathroom, once the foundation of nunnery Stiftskeller.

This place is a typical German/Austrian restaurant. Wood paneled walls, high ceilings and in this case a lot of paintings and symbols that show things from the reign of Emperor Maximilian. His palace and cenotaph are adjoining buildings and well worth the visit.

Augustiner beer at Stiftskeller in Innsbruck

The beer as always is excellent, and they had their Bock on tap as a special. Because of its location it does attract a fair number of tourists. Fortunately most people in Austria now speak English as well, and there are English menus available. 

Heller Bock beer coaster

A second Augustiner spot is Kulturgasthaus Bierstindl. It is located at the foot of the Bergisel, an important historic hill that is located between the city and the mountain pass to Italy. Nearby Tyroler freedom fighters fought battles against Napoleon’s army, as you can see on the beautiful panorama painting nearby.

Signpost in the direction of Kulturgasthaus Bierstindle in Innsbruck

Now it is mostly known for the ski jumping arena that hosted the Olympics twice and is one of four legs of the Four Hills tournament every winter. What sets this place apart is the beautiful outside seating area with tables and occasionally live music.

Outside seating area Bierstindle in Innsbruck

The food, as always, is great and the menu seemed longer than at other places we went to. So always something for you to try. After a visit to the ski jump tower and a hike in the park surrounding it, Bierstindl is a perfect place to finish.

Augustiner Bier at Bierstindle in Innsbruck

Traditional beer, less traditional location: Tiroler Bierhalle

A brewery that makes traditional beers but isn’t centuries old is the Tiroler Brauerei. On my last visit to Innsbruck ten years ago you could already find their beers in some bars and restaurants but now they have their own spot, Tiroler Bierhalle, though located a bit outside the main city center.

Tiroler Bierhalle in Innsbruck

It isn’t the nicest place from the outside. A weird industrial block and concrete structures, parking spots with nothing special around. It made me think of an American strip mall.  Once you walk into the door things change. A huge room with wooden tables and benches, dominated by the color yellow. It may be somewhat industrial, but it has to be really interesting when the place is full.

Strands of hops at Tiroler Bierhalle in Innsbruck

Oh, and the lights from the ceiling had beautiful strands of hops hanging around it. Is the beer the best ever? Probably not. But it is interesting to see something else for a change. 

Traditional beer with a modern twist: Bierfabrik.

During my visit to the Bierfabrik (the Beer Factory), their brewpub was open and their brewery about to open once the right paperwork was processed. This awesome place is located in one of the arches under the railway connecting Innsbruck to all of Austria to the east.

Brewhouse of Bierfabrik in Innsbruck

Something familiar to anyone who visited breweries in London. Even though the beers they had on tap were traditional styles, a Helles and an Amber, it felt more like a place for the younger, hip, inhabitants of Innsbruck. Their attitude to brewing and serving attests to this as well.

Interior of Bierfabrik in Innsbruck

A Helles beer from tap at Bierfabrik in Innsbruck

It isn’t a huge space but if you want a mix of traditional beer in a more 21st century setting the Bierfabrik is the place to be. And again, people working speak English, even when you try to speak German. Now I know how foreigners in Holland feel when they try and speak Dutch.

Innsbruck craft beer spot: Tribaun

If for some reason you had enough for a while of all the tasty Helles and Weizens, Innsbruck houses one of the best craft beer places I have ever visited south of Belgium. It is called Tribaun and is located in a cellar in the downtown area.

Interior Tribaun in Innsbruck

It has fifteen taps with great stuff from local Tyroler and Austrian breweries but also quality stuff from abroad. There was a beer from Dutch craft brewery Baxbier Brewery on tap, with a few cans in the fridge as well. Leftovers from a Tap Takeover a few weeks before.

Baxbier Brewery beers at Tribaun in Innsbruck

Of the Austrian breweries, in particular Bierol (Ty rol, Bie Rol, get it?) occupied some of the taps and brewed the house beer. One very interesting beer they had was a dry hopped Zwickl, first time ever for me having this type. Tribaun offers the best of the old and new with styles ranging from the traditional to the cutting edge of brewing. If you are really into ‘craft’ beer with an inclination towards IPA’s this bar should be on your vacation itinerary, even if you are just on your way to Italy and passing through. A must visit for any beer lover.

Menu at Tribaun in Innsbruck

Innsbruck craft beer bottle shop: Bierwelt Tirol

In many German speaking countries the concept of a bottle shop or beer store is still quite foreign. Some of the bigger cities will have stores that exclusively sell beer but most beer is still sold in supermarkets. To be honest, a huge Spar supermarket had a good selection, including a craft beer section with local things. Most of these local beers are your pilsners and helles, but also include IPA’s and other non-Germanic styles.

Innsbruck fortunately has a beer only store. In a tiny store in downtown you will find Bierwelt Tirol and it offers things you won’t find anywhere else. Not only local Austrian breweries but also bottles from across the border from Bavaria or even further. I also saw Dutch beer from craft breweries Oedipus and De Molen, so those breweries have also made it over there. It is run by a friendly Ukrainian who can tell you everything about the beers and the breweries. So if you have some room in your luggage a visit is worth it. 

Innsbruck is a great travel destination for several reasons. There is plenty of history and culture downtown and if you want something more active the hills and mountains are nearby for biking and hiking. And while it may not be the beer destination like nearby Munich or Salzburg, there is enough to enjoy if you are going for a few days. Oh, it is also very easily accessible by train with a night train leaving for Amsterdam every night (and vice versa).

Author: Martijn Buisman | Picture credits: Martijn Buisman