We spent a few days in the charming town of Fieberbrunn, Austria, and between skiing, sledding, singing and staying in a castle, we visited the town’s very own schnapps producer…
As we approach the distillery following a candlelit walk from the centre of Fieberbrunn, we’re greeted by a blast from a trombone and a yodel from afar. It’s a surprising welcome, that’s for sure, it must be the schnapps.
Our coats are taken and replaced with our first glass of schnapps and we’re introduced to Gidi and his family. I’d imagined it to be a generational enterprise, with secret recipes handed down from father to son but no, Gidi Treffer has run the place with his family for just five years now, but that doesn’t make it any less of an interesting story. Bonus fact: they opened at 10.10am on 10.10.10.
The Treffer’s have owned the land for generations, farming cows, growing fruit and keeping bees. In 2004, Gidi bought a small distilling unit and, from his own orchard, made his first batch of apple schnapps in the cowshed. Following that success, Gidi worked to become one of the Tirol region’s first ‘schnapps sommeliers’ in 2009 and, with the improvement in the schnapps that brought, he swapped the cowshed for a restaurant and distillery and opened to the public the following year.
But how is this alcoholic wonder created?
Well, fruit ferments and creates schnapps.
More detail, please.
OK, you asked for it. The fruits (typically raspberry, apple, pear, apricot and plums) are washed, sorted and mashed down. Yeast is added to kick-start the fermentation process and after three to four weeks a low alcohol, thick liquid is left. This ‘mousse’ is pumped into the 150 litre still (below) and heated by a wood fire below.
At 80°C the alcohol begins to evaporate, passes through the cooler and condenses back to liquid, initially producing an 87% alcohol, also known as methanol. Needless to say, this is discarded. It’s after the methanol has been produced that the good stuff comes.
But how do you know when it’s the good stuff? Well, that’s where the skill comes in – Gidi takes a sniff and knows when it’s right and once the alcohol level has reached 80%, it’s schnapps time!
Not quite. You’d be a damned fool to mess with 80% alcohol, so the schnapps is diluted down to around 40% and then, yes… it’s schnapps time! If your schnapps is a little cloudy, it’s nothing to worry about – as the water is added, it calcifies creating the cloudy appearance. For schnapps purists, this is the way it should be.
As part of the evening you get to try a few of Gidi’s schnapps from the extensive menu. My recommendations would be the Signum Apfelcuvée and the Zigarrenbrand, which is a 70% schnapps (yes, really) made with apple and honey. Did I mention Gidi keeps bees too? The story goes he had some high alcohol apple schnapps left over one year, decided to add some of his bees’ honeycomb to it and the result became Zigarrenbrand, a darker schnapps with a higher alcohol content that’s smooth to drink because of the honey. There you go.
Gidi’s sits above Fieberbrunn and can be visited as part of an evening excursion including a 40 minute candlelit walk with a guide. You can, of course, visit independently too. After all the schnapps, and a sizable board of meats and cheeses, you’ll be pleased to know you can easily get a taxi down.
Yes, this is all very well, but tell us about the après-schnapps…
If you’ve had a hard day on the schnapps, there’s plenty of skiing to be done in the area as well. The big news for the 2015/16 season is the new Tirol S lift linking the smaller resort of Fieberbrunn, where we were based, to the Saalbach, Hinterglemm and Leogang resorts. The whole area straddles both the Tyrol and Salzberg states and offers 270km of pistes joined by 70 lifts. There’s some more information about the area and the new lift on John Barr’s recent blog – All roads lead to Saalbach.
For those looking for a challenge, check out the Skicircus circuit. This route takes in the whole ski area, covering 60km of piste, 28 lifts and 10,000m of ascent all in seven hours (and that’s without breaks). There are other, less intense circuits available across the resorts, click here to see what’s available.
The smaller resort of Fieberbrunn has always been better known for its off-piste and freeriding skiing than its piste skiing. With the new lift, that’s sure to change – those in Fieberbrunn get access to the full Skicircus area, visitors to the larger resorts can visit the vast freeriding area of Fieberbrunn. It’ll be interesting to see how it pans out for the smaller resort – watch this space.
Matt stayed at the 4* Schloss Hotel Rosenegg in the resort of Fieberbrunn in the Pillerseetal, with prices starting from €84 per person per night based on two sharing.
Flights are available to Innsbruck or Salzburg with a choice of airlines including easyJet, Monarch and British Airways. Affordable resort transfers are available through www.transfer.tirol.at
Get the low-down on Gidi’s Schnapps here.
Transfer times to Fieberbrunn from its nearest airports…
Salzburg – 60 minutes
Innsbruk – 90 minutes
Munich – 120 minutes