„The House by the Stairs"
Stiegl becomes Salzburg’s largest brewery
Mozart drinks Stiegl beer
Beer treasure: A lager cellar is built under the fort
Salzburg is thirsty, and Stiegl needs space!
A fire destroys the new brewery
The Huemer-Kiener family leads Stiegl to new heights
The birth of Austria’s most popular beer
The glorious years of beer
Two world wars leave their marks
On the way to becoming Austria’s leading private brewery
The Art of Brewing at Its Highest Level
A globally unique malthouse arises
525 years of beer history in Salzburg
Click on an element in the timeline to jump straight to this chapter!
Let’s take a trip back to Salzburg at the end of the 15th century. The earth is no longer flat and is, according to Copernicus, a spinning ball. As a result, America is discovered.
This is the setting when Das Bräuhaus an der Gstätten was first mentioned in the written record on June 16, 1492. The Prewhaws, as it is then called, stands at the heart of Salzburg Old Town at Anton–Neumayer–Platz, where the Haus der Nature is now found.
The name Stiegl (‘small steps’) shows up a little later. The eponym is a small set of steps next to the brewhouse. At the “Haus Bey der Stiegen” (house by the stairs), brewing water is fetched from the Almkanal, which supplies the city with fresh water.
Business operations at this time are simpler: The brewer brews his beer, slaughters his own animals in the house, and accommodates strangers who drink and eat his goods. The townspeople also drop by in the evenings for a drink at the brewpub or to take their beer home in pitchers and tankards.
In the city and region of Salzburg, over 100 brewers are producing beer at this time. Transport obstacles, short storage life, and small brewing coppers are the main reasons for this multitude of small breweries.
The brewing copper at the Stiegl Brewery has a capacity of 17 buckets, just under 1,000 liters (264 gallons). Despite this, the Pierprew of 1664 brews 1,800 buckets of beer, corresponding to around 100,000 liters (26,417 gallons).
For the 17th century, this is a considerable volume. Stiegl is thus the highest-capacity brewery among the twelve in the city.
Drinking – or more precisely “boozing” – happens in excess. Huge amounts of beer and liquor flow down the thirsty Salzburg throats. Even the restrictive government brewery regulations at that time and an avalanche in the Gstättenviertel district can’t halt the road to success.
The custom among beer-brewing families to ensure that their children marry others in the craft is also held in high regard at the Stiegl Brewery at the time. In 1765, the affluent Johann Ambros Elixhauser marries into the family. He is a good businessman whose family has long been involved in Salzburg’s brewing circles. Under his influence, the Stiegl Brewery flourishes.
Even Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart savors the dark, aromatic Stiegl beer around this time. In August 1780, his sister Nannerl writes in her diary: “… at 3 o’clock we swung by the Stielgbräu to watch them play skittles.” “A couple of good beers” surely accompanied their socializing. It is around 1808 that the Stiegl Brewery’s coat of arms comes about – its heraldic imagery includes symbols for determination and loyalty.
Declarations of war, changes of government, explosions and occupation by Napoleon’s army were some of the major threats faced by Salzburg at the beginning of the 19th century. A more peaceful period was welcomed as the city and Duchy of Salzburg became Austrian crown lands in 1816. At this time the owner of the Stiegl brewery modernised the brewhouse, and in 1820 purchased a storage cellar in the mountain beneath Fortress Hohensalzburg. The beer was served in the garden above. This became the legendary ‘Stieglkeller’ brewery restaurant and drinking rooms, and has remained here to this day.
Salzburg is just awakening from its long slumber when Josef Schreiner takes over the brewery. A new regime, more accommodation options, and the city’s connection to the international railway network ensure plenty of thirsty consumers.
The Stiegl Brewery expands too and moves out of the city’s narrow streets to the spacious district of Maxglan. In 1863, Schreiner opens a highly modern business for its time.
Thanks to this seminal decision, Stiegl is spared the fate of six other traditional breweries in Salzburg, which are forced to close their doors due to economic upheaval. The old brewery inn located on the Gstättengasse continues to run as a popular restaurant with hearty cuisine. And above all, plenty of beer.
Thirteen years after opening, a devastating fire destroys Josef Schreiner’s life’s work. On December 29, 1875, a fire breaks out in a faulty furnace of the malt kiln.
“The most beautiful brewing establishment in Salzburg was yesterday engulfed by flames within just a few hours,” the Salzburger Zeitung reports the following day. The owner of Stiegl says he “gazed at the brightly flaring flames with tears in his eyes.”
The agile brewer is hit hard. Nonetheless, he begins rebuilding at once. Just a few months later, brewing resumes, making around 20,000 hectoliters (528,344 gallons) a year – even more than before the fire. However, Josef Schreiner does not recover from the blow. After these troubled years, he passes away on July 22, 1880.
Following the passing of Josef Schreiner, a consortium oversees the brewery to the effect of more bad than good. Seven years later, farmer and grain trader Franz Huemer has had enough of this mismanagement. He takes over at the Stiegl Brewery and puts his nephew Heinrich Kiener in charge as director.
Under new leadership, Stiegl beer once against brings pleasure to the people of Salzburg. And investments are made for the future: Stiegl acquires two steam engines, a brewhouse, a larger storage cellar, an automatic barreling and bottling facility, and even a small power station.
It is on December 10, 1912, that representatives from the Stiegl Brewery head off for the Chamber of Trade and Industry for the Duchy of Salzburg in order to have the new beer name “Stiegl Goldbräu” entered into the brand register. This name – which has endured to this day – is derived from the many awards and gold medals given to the “Stiegl lager.”
1912 is also the year when the Stiegl Brewery becomes the biggest brewery in Salzburg thanks to the introduction of new technologies and the preservation of high product quality. At this time, there are three beer varieties – pale lager, pale double-malt beer (special beer), and dark lager beer. Additionally, bock-style beer is popular in all seasons – from Christmas through Easter and May up to Pentecost. Plus a festival bock for special occasions.
The decades before the First World War are blessed for beer. In 1910, no fewer than 174 gastronomic businesses are registered in the city. Between 1893 and 1914, consumption is roughly over 200 liters (53 gallons) per capita. Thus, Salzburg is clearly ahead of other cities, as the Austrian average is around 100 liters (26 gallons).
Beer production also reaches gigantic proportions during the last few years of peacetime: In 1914 alone, the Stiegl Brewery makes a record with 130,000 hectoliters (3,434,236 gallons) of beer.
The war years are a severe downturn for Stiegl too. It is not until the 1920s that business picks up again. In 1924, one of every two beers consumed in Salzburg is a Stiegl.
The war causes a drop in production due to a lack of good raw ingredients, which also hurts quality. In 1944–1945, the Kiener brewing family produces only 40,000 hectoliters (1,056,688 gallons) of a thin brew. Confiscations and bomb attacks take their toll on the brewery.
67,000 liters (17,700 gallons) of a 2.5-degree light beer: That’s all Stiegl can offer the people of Salzburg due to the dire supply situation in the first year of peacetime. It isn’t until two years later that a half-decent beer can be brewed thanks to better raw ingredients.
Things are going better for American soldiers in Salzburg. Since they have access to sufficient raw ingredients from the United States, they can toast with “high-grade” beer. “Brewed and bottled at the Stiegl Brewery” can be read on the labels and coasters. The signing of the Austrian Independence Treaty in 1955 ultimately seals the fate of this Ami-Bier (American beer).
Shortly before the death of the “beer patriarch” Heinrich Kiener I in 1950, both Vollbier (with 12-degree gravity) and even special beer (with 14-degree gravity) are back. Under Heinrich Kiener II, the brewery is back on course for success. Between 1950 and 1960, the Stiegl Brewery goes on to produce 100,000 hectoliters (2,641,720 gallons) of beer.
In 1954, Kiener brings Coca-Cola to Salzburg by founding the Salzburger Getränkeindustrie (Salzburg Beverages Industry). Already in its first year, the enterprise produces and sells 100,000 crates of this caffeinated soft drink.
In 1990, the 80-year-old Heinrich Kiener passes away after 51 years at the brewery. A family member, Dr. Heinrich Dieter Kiener, takes over the company so steeped in tradition. His wife, Mag. Alessandra Kiener, is also involved in the business.
Dr. Kiener brings a breath of fresh air and new ideas to the brewery. He loses no time, expanding the fermentation and storage cellars in 1991, followed by the 1995 opening of Stiegl-Brauwelt, Europe’s biggest beer exhibition and an attractive venue for a number of highly regarded concerts, plays, and cabaret performances. A new loading facility and heat recovery facility are also built. In 2004, Stiegl expands the railway system so that even more raw ingredients and beer can now be transported by the environmentally-friendly Stiegl Bahn.
In 1992, under Dr. Kiener’s leadership, the beverages and service association Stiegl-Vertriebsunternehmen GSG is established with several branches.
Picture: 1. Stiegl-Braukunstedition
In 2005, the most modern brewhouse in Europe opens in Salzburg: In tanks weighing 18 tons, Stiegl brews in a traditional fashion in strict accordance with the purity law of 1516. Brewing remains a handcraft, even in the new brewhouse. “The highest level of brewing art” is the result of sophisticated ingredients and a 12-degree gravity.
Picture: The most modern brewhouse in Europe, 2005.
Home-grown farming has always played an important role at Stiegl. The Stiegl-Gut Wildshut on the Upper Austrian border has allowed the Stiegl Brewery to uphold its own organic agriculture and cultivate ancient grains such as spelt, black oats, and emmer wheat.
Special malt has been produced on site from a globally unique combination of malting and roasting. It is ultimately used for house beer specialties such as the Wildshut Sortenspiel and other house beers.
Details at: www.biergut.at
With passion and great craftsmanship arises a great variety throughout the year under the leadership of Dr. Heinrich Dieter Kiener. In addition to the well-known Stiegl beers available throughout the year, specialties such as house beers and vintage beers are also brewed. In order to make these more available to a wider audience, a tasting cellar is created at Stiegl-Brauwelt.
Since May 2013, it has been possible, in fitting surroundings, to admire and sample beer specialties from around the world. A barrel-aging cellar for house beer specialties is also created directly adjacent to this tasting room. The development and high level of beer-brewing is inextricably linked with gourmet pleasure.
Details at: brauwelt.at
525 years of Stiegl beer – a good reason to raise your glass. Brewery owners Heinrich Dieter and Alessandra Kiener announce a whole weekend for the anniversary celebrations in 2017. The celebrations commence with a festive procession through Salzburg Old Town to the Maxglan district into the Stiegl Brewery. Such a historic date is an important occasion for the brewing family to come together to toast Stiegl’s impressive history and what is yet to come. Because it takes time.
Have you had the pleasure?
Visit the museum at Stiegl Brauwelt
and experience history
at close quarters!