Vienna and Austria in general has a very strong beer culture, with your average Austrian consuming around 105 litres of the stuff each year.
- Very high quality of beer
- Full-bodied “continental” lagers from regional breweries are most popular
- Try an “Ottakringer” when in Vienna
- Typically served in 500 ml and 300 ml glasses in bars
- See also: Vienna craft beer festival | Wiener Bierfest | How to say “cheers” | Festival of Beer Culture
Only the Czechs drink more beer than Austrians on a per head basis. There’s clearly something in the water in this part of the globe. Just over 270 breweries produce around 1,000 different beers in total.
Despite the heavy consumption, beer drinking is a restrained affair compared to, for example, UK drinking habits. Drunk and disorderly street behavior is relatively rare in Vienna.
Like 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.
The biggest brands in Vienna include Ottakringer, Stiegl, Zipfer and Gösser, but there are dozens of small and private breweries and specialty beers, too, none of which will disappoint the discerning beer palate.
If you want to go truly native, though, then Ottakringer is Vienna’s local brewery, located in the working-class 16th district since 1837. A beer guru of my acquaintance even rates its basic canned “Ottakringer Helles” beer as one of the country’s very best.
There’s little demand for imported beer here – Austrians tend to stick to their own regional beers – but you’ll find 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.
The question is more why you’d want to bother with imports, given the excellent quality and variety of local beers.
In bars, cafes and restaurants in Vienna, 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 €4.20 and a Seidel €3.20.
In the supermarkets, most beer is sold in 500 ml bottles or cans, beginning at about €0.80 a bottle (+ a small deposit) or slightly cheaper if you buy aluminium cans.
Types of beer
The vast majority of beer is Märzenbier, basically a full-bodied lager. But you’ll find the usual array of Pils, Weizenbier (wheat beer) and other typical examples of central European brewing skills.
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.
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.
And on a cold winter’s night, you might want to try a Bockbier, typically a dark beer with around 6.5% alcohol by volume.