Vienna and Austria in general has a very strong beer culture, with your average Austrian consuming around 106 litres of the stuff each year. In fact, only the Czechs and Germans drink more beer on a per head basis. There’s clearly something in the water in this part of the globe.
Like German and Czech beer, Austrian beer is very high quality. All the major breweries (as far as I’m aware) brew to the standards enshrined in the Bavarian Rheinheitsgebot of 1516, which declared that beer be made from nothing more than water, malt and hops (they didn’t know about yeast back then).
In fact, it’s nigh on impossible to find a bad beer in a typical store or bar, but the biggest brands in Vienna include Ottakringer (Vienna’s local brewery), Stiegl, Zipfer and Gösser. And there are dozens of small and private breweries and specialty beers, too, none of which will disappoint the discerning beer palate.
There’s no great demand for imported beer here, but you’ll have no trouble finding German and Czech brands, like Warsteiner or Starobrno, and the usual corporate exports from North America and Western Europe (Heineken, Budweiser etc.) Guinness, for example, is growing in popularity but is expensive compared to local brews.
In bars, cafes and restaurants, beer generally comes in two sizes:
A “Krügel” or “grosses Bier” (large beer)… 0.5 litres (0.88 UK pints)
A “Seidl” or “kleines Bier” (small beer)… 0.3 litres (0.53 UK pints)
A Krügel typically costs around 3.5 – 4 Euros and a Seidel 2.4 – 3. In the supermarkets, most beer is sold in half litre bottles or cans beginning at about 60 Euro cents a bottle (+ a small deposit) or slightly cheaper if you buy aluminium cans.
The standard beer varieties have between 4.8% and 5.2% alcohol by volume, which is stronger than you’d get in the UK, for example.
The vast majority of beer is Märzenbier, basically a full-bodied lager. But you’ll find the usual array of Pils, wheat beers and other typical examples of central European brewing skills.
In the last couple of years, light (Leichtbier), alcohol-free (alkoholfrei) beers and shandy (Radler) have grown in popularity, stimulated in part by a growing awareness of the dangers of drink driving.
Note: Despite Austria’s heavy consumption, beer drinking is a restrained affair compared to, for example, UK drinking habits. Drunk and disorderly behavior is relatively rare. And if you want to know the right way to say “cheers” in Austria, read this.