Sunday 19th August 2012
Villach is a major city in the province of Kärnten which is probably better known in the English-speaking world as Carinthia. It is a major railway junction and is not far from the Slovenian border. The Brauhof is well known for its food and drink and is located in front of the Villacher brewery in Bahnhofstrasse.
The modern origins of the Villacher brewery begin in 1858 when Johan Fischer began brewing in a pub in Bahnhofstrasse. Part of the biergarten was built on the site of a defunct Capuchin monastery and was soon known as Fischer-Bräu. It ticked along through the latter half of the 19th Century until a gentleman called Johann Koutnik joined the brewery. He gained his brewing degree at Augsburg, Germany, in 1894. In 1901 he purchased the company and set in motion a program of modernisation and expansion. Up to the turn of the century a considerable amount of the production was still sold in the pub.
In 1908 a new brew house was constructed followed in 1911 by the complete electrification of the brewery and the processes. Some of the newly gained markets were lost during the First World War when the lower section of Carinthia became part of the state of Slovenia within the Kingdom of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs that became Yugoslavia in 1929.
To stabilise the brewing situation in Carinthia, in 1919 the brewery became part of Vereinigte Kärtner Brauereien Aktiengesellschaft (United Carinthian Breweries Ltd Co). The other members of this alliance were the Gösser brewery of Leoben and the Reininghaus brewery of Graz. The brewery was still known as Fischer at this time.
In 1941 Koutnik died and was succeeded by Dorothea Grubissich, a family member. Post-war reconstruction was completed in 1947 and a bottling plant was installed in 1957. Another new brew house was installed in 1964 and with this output equalled 200,000 hectolitres for the first time.
An amazing transition occurred in 1972 when a kegging plant was installed and distribution of the beer changed over from wooden barrels. I say amazing because this means that I have drunk their beer in that form as I first consumed it in 1970. Back then the only pressure used was that produced during the brewing process which propelled the beer to the font and then the glass.
Sadly Austria nowadays is one of the worst of the traditional beer countries for the amount of addition CO2 most of their pubs and bars add at the point of dispense. So, let's offer thanks to the Villacher Brauhaus, which to today still sells draught beer without added gas. A completely new Brewery was added in 2007 in a new location behind the existing building.
The Brauhof is a lovely pub which many different rooms and drinking areas with varying decor. Behind the pub is the biergarten which is overlooked by the towering presence of the old brew house. There was some debate about whether we should imbibe there, but the pub won as there were a lot of biting insects around that evening.
Just for once I had some time on my hands so I tried as many of the beers on offer as possible and my comments are shown below. As is often the case, I was joined by fellow topers Russell, Patrick and Vaughan.
Outside the pub they advertise that they sell eleven different draught beers. This proved not to be the case but the selection was still much better than most Austrian pubs. I'll start with the beers I ordered and complete the list later.
I started with Villacher Stadtbräu (5.0%) which was a standard Hell (light lager beer) but I thought it was particularly well balanced with a good bitter aftertaste. It is also known as Hausbräu.
Next up was Villacher Dunkel (5.0%). This dark beer had a malty taste and I could detect the dark malt. It had a residual bitterness.
Villacher Märzen (5.0%) was scrutinised next. This is a very popular beer and is their biggest seller in bottled form. I found it smooth and malty with very little bitterness, not as good as the Stadtbräu.
Villacher Zwickel (5.0%) followed but I was a little disappointed with it as it was quite a mild version of the style. Zwickel beers are unfiltered, thus cloudy, beers that are fairly bitter. Yet, alas, this one wasn't very hoppy. There was a little residual bitterness in the aftertaste but it wasn't assertive enough. My final taste test was on Villacher Glockner Pils (4.9%) which was very good, being a sharp bitter version of the style, lovely!
Other draught beers on offer were Villacher Weizenbier (4.9%) which Patrick declared as fine, no further details forthcoming. The rest of the group were not aficionados of Wheat beer. Also available was Radler (pre-mixed shandy) and a strange one from Franziskaner (Munich) a half dark, half light wheat beer. Although advertised, there was no seasonal special. The following have previously been seen: Sommerzwickel (3.9%), Oktoberbräu (5.3%) and Selection Red (7.0%). I went back on to Stadtbräu, as I liked it a lot.
So, should you be in southern Austria, this pub is great and should be visited. Oh, and the food is excellent!
Villacher Brauhof, Bahnhofstrasse 8, Villach A-9500
Open: Daily 09.00-24.00 (Note: there is a breakfast menu)
Just three minutes walk from Villach Hauptbahnhof (Main station) which is served by RJ (RailJet), OIC (Austrian Inter City) EC (Euro City), REX (Regional Express) and local trains.
The Central Bus Station is opposite the railway station.
The pub is only five minutes walk to the centre of Villach Altstadt (Old Town).