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Stories of the Zillertal tradition

The art of brewing

Beer wins

Tradition meets modernity, and quality meets variety. Beer has been brewed in the Zillertal for more than 500 years. The art of good taste has been a family affair for 16 generations.

Exactly “12,132 incomprehensibly spoken declarations of love” are said to have already been given in the 600-year history of the legendary Gauder Fest – Austria’s largest spring festival on the first weekend in May. This is something revealed to the guests of the BrauKunstHaus in Zell am Ziller, where a real world of experience around Zillertal beer has been created on 5,000 square metres in 2020. The proud development of the family business and its success story are documented there in a cool, modern atmosphere. Martin Lechner smiles. He then draws a classic Pils, lifts the glass and … starts talking. Or rather: The Managing Director of Zillertal Bier, who continues the work of a dynasty of brewers, reveals his declaration of love for an extraordinary beer culture to us. The philosophy of brewing has not changed over the centuries. It is as follows: Springfresh mountain water from the Zillertal. Malt from the best local grain. Finest aroma hops from carefully selected growing areas. And, very importantly: Time! Because it is, above all, the patience with the process of fermentation and storage that creates an unmistakable character.

Room for new ideas

“Our beer is also an essential piece of our identity,” says Martin. “We, as a company, have special ties to the valley and maintain many, many personal relationships. Quality and regionality, an all-embracing idea that became our credo. Regional satisfaction, rather than a big export business, is our vision. “We are not interested in limitless growth, but in the further development of quality, the expansion of the merchandise and regional distribution.” And, of course, a contemporary image.

“We, as a company,
have special ties to the valley and maintain
many, many personal relationships.”

Martin Lechner, Managing Director Zillertal Bier

When they took over the family business from Waltraud Kolbitsch five years ago, it was important for Eva-Maria and Martin Lechner to have room for new ideas. “The quality of the beer has always come first,” says Martin. “We aim to also work on the image and achieve a carefully cultivated brand development for Tyrol.” Zillertal Bier employs more than 60 people. The BrauKunstHaus was created to introduce customers and guests to the art of brewing beer directly on-site in the Zillertal. Where a multimedia tour with an unparalleled level of transparency awaits the visitor. Martin: “We wanted something special.” And as Eva-Maria likes to say with a smile: “Be careful what you wish for, it might come true.” Which is precisely what happened.

“We looked at a lot of options to get international inspiration for how an interactive exhibition could work out. Now we are happy and proud of a true world of experience on beer,” Martin remembers. From the presentation of the carefully selected ingredients via the brewing process all the way to bottling, three floors provide impressions for all senses. Moving from one room to the next, you’re accompanied by modern aesthetics, animations worth seeing, and vivid exhibits inviting you to get active yourself and discover the secrets of the art of brewing – with a beer tasting as the crowning finale.

“At least as far as our imagination and creativity are concerned, we can keep up with the big corporations,” says Martin. As well as with the amazing product portfolio. Production is of course lower than with the big companies, but they manage to fill 14,000 bottles per hour (at 0.5 liters) at Zillertal Bier as well. This corresponds to around 10 million bottles a year. And the variety is huge. 13 different types of beer are part of the repertoire, “in addition we brew four special beers in our microbrewery,” Martin describes. The palette of enjoyment ranges from Pils (the main variety), Märzen and Weißbier to Dunkles, Schwarzes and Granat, all kinds of Bock beers, and Radler. And, in order to create further delights, whisky and gin will soon be produced here as well. And what does Martin drink when, for once, he does not indulge in beer? Again that smile: “I love a good glass of wine. Or even a cup of verbena tea, at the risk of sounding a bit odd.” Well, either way, then: Cheers!

Image: Christof Lackner, Bernhard Huber and Text: Michael Hufnagl
Zillertal magazine Summer 2021

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