Australians can’t stand our beer, and I can understand why. For centuries our beer has tasted the same. The most noticeable differences in taste are restricted to more or less ‘hoppy’ beer, the difference between Pilsner, Maerzen and wheat beer, while occasionally we pour some lemonade into our chilled lagers. That is how it has been and continues to be.
Thanks to the extremely conservative nature of our taste buds, which shy away from change like our politicians avoid long-needed reforms (or like vampires avoid garlic) we have been drinking the same rubbish for years. What has come of that? A giant beer company that manages nearly all of the big breweries in our country and only does just one thing, quite according to our own wishes – producing the same taste year by year. Everything new just isn’t something for us. That is exactly why Australians can’t stand our beer.
A few years ago things were more or less the same for our friends Down Under. They had two or three big breweries that had produced the same beer for decades. A terrible situation. Then what happened? (In contrast to us?) Some drinkers switched to wine and others began to brew their own beer. As time went by more and more were doing this. Small, specialist breweries emerged. With time, not only the know-how but also the fan base grew. It did not take long until Australian craft beer was born. (Craft beer is rare, but you can get it in Tyrol)
These days the Australians are giving us ‘tutoring’ in beer brewing (even if the modest Australians would not put it that way!) One of them is Ben. He is not your classic Aussie, but almost half Tyrolean, with love binding him firmly to the Ötztal valley. How did that come about? That much is clear. If a friendly Australian who studied winemaking in his home country visits Italian and French winegrowing regions along with Innsbruck on a European tour and therefore decides to work in a Tyrolean ski resort (Sölden, initially as a dish washer) then he inevitably has to fall in love either with Tyrol or a Tyrolean girl.
Upon arriving in Austria as a trained winemaker and being interested in all the good flavours of nature – he asked straight away to do an internship at the Tirolerbier brewery. Excited by this fantastic beer, he put the wine behind him and founded a craft beer brewery in his home country. After nine years he does not only have a large fan base but some real success. His drive, as he says himself, comes from curiosity. The curiosity of his customers and of himself. Australian beer drinkers do not want monotony. They want to try something new all the time. New types, new experiments, new tastes. They are just true beer nerds.
As Australians are inclined to go through the world with open eyes, ears and arms, Ben is increasingly coming to Europe to give something back to ‘good old Europe’. The courage to try out something new. On his travels he has already developed many friendships. Norwegians and Australians are regularly exchanging bold beer creations in both countries. The Italians (whose beer Austrians are keen to poke fun of) also have a flourishing new beer scene (with 800 craft beer breweries). Austria should now also follow in their lead. The Starkenberg brewery is a pioneer here. Despite the long brewing tradition, it wants to take a chance with something new. That’s a reason why you can notice at Schloss Starkenberg that a successful Australian master brewer has lost his heart to Ötztal.
Not too much has been revealed. In the last few weeks there has been loads of planning, production and experimentation. A special beer has been born with a unique taste as result. It remains to hope that the traditional Tyrolean taste buds throw out their prejudices and learn to drink outside of the box – the Höpfen Köpfen not only has a great name but is an awesome beer!
Von Felix Kozubek 2014-06-5 in Gschichten.com