SUN, BEER, AND YOU’RE READY TO GO

Simone Massenza

birra e settimana bianca

After the chaos of the Christmas holidays, far from the overly groomed ski slopes and unmanageable crowds of the high season, the best time to spend a week in the snow is finally here.

For those who love the mountains in winter, January is the month that offers the best price/quality ratio and the opportunity to ski in peace, without long lines at the slopes.

But during this vacation dedicated to sport and nature, between skiing, chalets, and breathtaking alpine landscapes…why not enjoy a nice beer?

Here are the 10 best European destinations where you can enhance your ski vacation with a (good) brewery.

10. GSTAAD, CANTON BERN (SWITZERLAND)

A well-known destination for luxury tourism, at the border between French and German Switzerland, it offers 250 km of ski runs and 62 slopes. In the town of Saanen, just 4 km from the snow, you’ll find a small (truly small) family-run microbrewery, Saane Gutsch. Despite the Heidi-esque landscape, its inspiration is entirely Made in the UK: Golden Ale, Amber Ale, Chocolate Stout, and an interesting Mango Ale.

God Save the Queen!

9. MAYRHOFEN, ZILLERTAL (AUSTRIA)

Capital of the Zillertal ski district, with its 245 km of ski runs and 77 slopes, this is a must for snow lovers. And remember: here it’s possible to ski year-round, thanks to the Hintertux glacier at 3,250 m asl.

The Harakiri, not for the faint of heart (only the brave), is the slope that made Mayrhofen world famous, with its incredible 78% gradient (VM14). At less than 8 km from the snowy runs, in the town of Zel am Zillertal, you’ll find a true piece of brewing history: Zillertal Bier.

Founded in 1506, it’s the oldest brewery in the region, and in 1678 became the first Privatbrauerei in all of Tyrol. The Jobst family has managed the company for the past 16 generations and today serves 17 different beers.

These beers, focused primarily on low-fermentation, range from the Zwickl to the Weizenbock. Two stand out: Granat, Barley Wine (the only example of high fermentation), and Guader Steinbock Reserve, a Bock aged in a Sherry Cask.

8. SELVA DI VALGARDENA, SOUTH TYROL (ITALY)

A well-known tourist destination of the southern Tyrol valley by the same name, Selva’s Skiarena boasts 79 slopes and 175 km of ski runs, including the Saslong, world famous for the Downhill and Super-G competitions which take place every year during the world championships.

It is, furthermore, part of two big ski districts, Sellaronda (483 km that connect the valleys of Fassa, Livinallongo, Badia, and Gardena) and Dolomiti Superski (500 km “skis on your feet” between South Tyrol, Trentino, and Bellunese).

In the Santa Cristina hamlet, you’ll find Eguia, a brewery with an attached brew-pub and Tyrolean food, where you can taste, also on tap, the 9 beers that they produce, perhaps paired with a nice piping hot Weisswurst!

A beer for everyone, spanning every brewing style.

Of note is also a line of barriques aged in oak barrels, exclusively in champagne-style bottles, to share with friends (compartir es vivir) after a day on the slopes.

val gardena scii

7. BAQUEIRA, VAL D’ARÀN (SPAIN)

When we think of skiing, it’s unlikely that Spain comes to mind, more associated with Sangria, playa, and nightclubs, but the Pyrenees, at 3,312 m asl, are a perfect destination for winter sports.

The Baqueira district is the mate proof: 160 km of ski runs and 36 slopes make it the most important ski town on the Iberian Peninsula.

Without leaving the district, you can find the Refu brewery in Bossòst, open since 2010, complete with its own tap-room, where you can taste its 7 beers, heavily inspired by the British brewing style, like the Palisandro (Brown Ale), the Wee (Wee Heavy), and the Huxley (Best Bitter), in memory of Steve Huxley (RIP), master brewer of Liverpool who moved to Barcelona, where he became the “Herbert Marcuse” of the Spanish craft beer movement.

Just 15 km further north, in Vielha, you’ll find their pub with restaurant, complete with an English-style hand-pump!

6. BERCHTESGADEN, UPPER BAVARIA (GERMANY)

The last town along the Deutsche Alpenstrasse, the Alpine Road of the Bavarian Alps, with its 180 km of ski runs and 71 slopes, Berchtesgaden is one of the most important ski towns in Germany.

It’s on these beautiful slopes that the Fabulous Five of the Italian national team, World Cup 1974, placed with 5 athletes in the first 5 spots (in order of appearance: Gros, Thöni, Stricker, Schmalsl, and Pietrogiovanna) in the Giant Slalom, giving birth to the legendary “Blue Avalanche”.

Here you’ll find the Hofbrauhaus-Berchtesgaden (Berchtesgaden’s beer hall), one of the most historic breweries in all of Germany, built in 1645 by Maximillian I, Duke of Bavaria.

9 beers produced, all, it goes without saying, in the Bavarian style.

The Eisbock is the hall’s must-taste beer, obtained through cold distillation and with 11.9% ABV.

To be drunk in moderation (consider yourselves warned).

eisbock

5. KRANJSKA GORA, UPPER CARNIOLA (SLOVENIA)

Despite not being a huge ski district, with its 20 slopes and only 20 km of ski runs, in recent years Kranjska Gora’s star has begun to shine ever more brightly.

Located in the Triglav National Park (Triglavski), in the Sava Valley, today it has become a regular stop for the Giant and Special slaloms of the International Ski Federation’s circuit thanks to the Podkoren (a legend!), considered to be one of the most spectacular and technical slalom runs in the world, famous for its inclines of up to 59%.

After a strenuous day, in the center of the town you’ll find Kranjsko Pivo waiting for you, a brewery with a connected brew-pub, ready to assuage your hunger.

Open since 2016, it serves German and Bavarian style beers which are ready to be paired with the classic Kranjska Klobasa, Slovenia’s traditional Carniolan sausage.

4. DAVOS, CANTON OF THE GRISONS (SWITZERLAND)

An Alpine town, known for its winter sports since the late 19th century and loved by authors of the caliber of Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Thomas Mann (who set his masterpiece “Magic Mountain” here), today Davos is one of the most famous and popular ski destinations in Switzerland, with 59 slopes and 320 km of ski runs.

Right in the center of town you’ll find the Davoser brewery, serving only three beers: Golden Ale, Pale Ale, and IPA, all strongly inspired by American beers.

birre e neve

3. KITZBÜHEL, TYROL (AUSTRIA)

The much-loved “Kitz”, a regular and mandatory stop for the FIS World Cup of Alpine Skiing, with its two iconic slopes, Streif (for downhill) and Ganslern (for the Special slalom), earns third place on this list with its 170 km of ski runs and 55 slopes.

Just 10 km away, in the town of Sankt Johann in Tirol, there’s Huber Bräu, the historic brewery of the Huber family, founded in 1727.

16 different beers, including (God, please forgive me) two run of the mill Radlers, all strictly low fermentation and German-style, or better yet Bavarian-style, as we must rightly expect from a historic brewery.

This is the paradise of Helles, Bock, Weizen, and Pils, but we also find the less common Zwickl and Münich Dunkel.

A traditional Stübe is located on the ground floor to warm your body and palate.

2. LIVIGNO, UPPER VALTELLINA (ITALY)

Our silver medal goes to the northernmost town in Lombardy!

We’re talking about Livigno, Upper Valtellina.

An altitude of 1816 m, 115 km of ski runs, and 44 ski lifts that let you ski at up to 2,800 m asl, make this one of the most popular mountain towns in Italy.

The altitude of the town inspired the name of the local artisan brewery, the 1816, established in 2001 during what’s known in Italy as the “Second Generation” of the craft beer movement.

Six different beers are produced here, ranging from great classics, like the Pils or the Bitter, all the way to more hyped beers like the DDH Session IPA.

One that stands out? The Canapa, West Coast IPA made with Valtellina hemp.

Less than 1 km from the brewery, there’s Campo Base, 1816’s brew-restaurant, a Valtellinese-Nepalese fusion restaurant, where you can enjoy a steaming dish of pizzoccheri or a yak curry (it’s amazing!)! Namaste.

settimana bianca a livigno

1. ALPE D’HEUZ, GRANDES ROUSSES (FRANCE)

Twice crowned Europe’s Best Ski Resort by EDEN (European Destinations of Excellence), with slopes that reach 3,350 m asl,…having saved he best for last, we present to you Alpe d’Heuz, on the massif of the Grandes Rousses in the French Alps, the first place winner of our special classification!

A historic tourist location, it has 82 lifts and 245 km of ski runs, including the infamous Sarenne, a black diamond run that (if you’re up for it) will take you from 3,350 m asl to 1,510 m asl in just 16 km. Not for the faint of heart!

At the foot of Alpe d’Heuz, less than 14 km from the slopes, on Route Nationale 91, the legendary climb of the Tour de France, in the town of Le Bourg-d’Oisans, you’ll find The Goodwin Brewery.

It’s the only microbrewery in the district and serves ten different beers, both high and low fermentation, which range in style from British to Belgian to Czech to American.

Labels with minimalist graphics featuring an early 20th century style and evocative and captivating names, like Brass Monkey (freezing cold) or Slippery Slope, fitting for the Alpine town.

The crown jewel of the brewery’s production is The Last Straw, a Bière Blanche, which won the Gold Medal in the 2020 Concours International de Lyon.

All that’s left is for you to book a hotel, reserve a ski pass, pack your bags, and take off!

And upon arrival? Operating Instructions: Ski. Beer. Repeat.

Or at least… for as long as your legs and your liver hold up.

Happy skiing! Zum Wohl!

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