Christoph Bichler Would Like Austria to Add This to Boost Country’s Craft Beer Industry

BEER! A Love Story was produced by Director Friedrich Moser and Maarten Schmidt. Moser, who directed the Oliver Stone-backed A Good American among many other documentary films, now brings his filmmaking prowess to featuring craft beer. This film weaves together the stories of 30 international protagonists — including Christoph Bichler, the head brewer and co-founder of Bierol in Schwoich, Austria.

Bichler shared with Brewer in this International Insights piece about the movie and business insights on the Austrian brewery.

BREWER: Can we have a snapshot of the history of your brewery? How has your business strategy evolved to help grow and stay competitive?
BICHLER: ​(Shared from brewery website) ​At the foot of the Scheffauer mountain in Tyrol, in the midst of forests and meadows, valleys and mountains, you can find the Stöfflhof in Schwoich. Formerly a farm, now a brewery. And that as early as 2004, when the owner of the farm, Peter Bichler, opened the district’s first brewery, back then producing classic beer styles. Almost ten years later, his son Christoph was more and more drawn to the Stöfflhütte at the Walleralm towards the mashhouse, because he had discovered craft beer in the USA. And this was completely unknown in Tyrol. You couldn’t buy it for the world. Thus he said to himself: I’ll simply brew it myself – together with his friends Max and Marko. The first Tyrolean IPA was born, the first ​Stout, the first special brew matured in casks. Then the Bierol men attended the first, brand new Vienna craft beer festival still using labels they glued onto the bottles by hand. And the people just loved it! Today, they are, with the same philosophy but a new team, a fixture of the Austrian scene – not just because their beers are unconventional, but also top quality and fresh. They love experimenting with local grains, they started a barrel project, they interpret classic styles in new ways and, in 2018, were awarded the Gault & Millau ‘beer of the year’ trophy for their Bomboclaat brew. They are no traditionalists, but they know where they come from. And you can taste this in every single beer.

​BREWER: ​How has the Gault Millau award affected your business and brand recognition, both in Austria and also in Europe in general?
BICHLER:​ ​Austria is a wine country at all so we were pretty stoked to get that award. It put us on the map with the best wineries, restaurants, ​and ​hotels ​Austria has to offer and especially in our region where we have a lot of tourism this guide has a good reputation. To be honest, the beer that got awarded was supposed to be a one-off, we always wanted to get a ​Stout in our core range​,​ but at about the same time we released this one we also had a nice ​Baltic ​Porter with coffee and vanilla called ​Koida ​Kaffe (​Tyrolean dialect, means cold coffee), so we were about to decide which beer gets in the core range, so the award made also our decision a little bit more easy. Now the Koida Kaffe is still a seasonal release.

​BREWER: ​How has the documentary ‘BEER! A Love Story‘ helped shine a light on your brand and what sort of doors do you feel this could open? How do you see yourself on the screen?
BICHLER: Fritz Moser did an outstanding job picturing our work, really authentic I would say. Seeing myself on the cinema screen was really fun, especially when a lot of my friends and family were celebrating my haircut in the first scenes. I guess the biggest opportunity for us here in ​Austria is that a lot of people see a different picture of breweries. Austria has a nice traditional beer scene, but sometimes it seems a little boring, so seeing really creative folks​ —​ as Peter for example —​ ​is definitely an eye opener for them.

BREWER: ​What were some memorable moments during filming that you will always remember about being a part of a documentary like this?
BICHLER:​ ​The whole work with Fritz was pretty exciting. The trip to the states was definitely a highlight, meeting so many great people, drinking awesome beers, seeing a lot of different breweries and talking to a lot of people from the industry was just great. But also besides filming and beer and everything​,​ it was not feeling like we ​were doing a documentary, it was more like a great road trip with friends.

​BREWER: ​What idea did you or your team come up with lately that has been a big benefit to how your brewery functions?
BICHLER:​ ​In 2020 everything was a little more back to the roots. We kind of reactivated the farm more, planted a good bunch of apple/pear trees, started with our first hop garden, got some nice sheep to the farm, started with a big vegetable garden for our restaurant and got our project with ​Tyrol​-​grown barley more into focus. Here we work with farmers from our surroundings and also use some of our fields for growing winter barley.​ ​Besides that we mainly focused on distributing into bars, restaurants, small bottle shops, so everything where we had people behind us, that knew how to treat beer right, loving our beers, telling our story. So the ​Coronavirus made that pretty tricky for us as everything had to close down, or is still closed. So we started building our own online shop. That helped us a lot and we realized how much people are out there that supported us. Though we are really looking forward to going back to bars and enjoying tapped beers!

BREWER: ​If you had one business strategy that you could implement to better the brewing industry in Austria, what would it be?
BICHLER:​ ​Something like a Brewers Association for Austria. Austria has an association for brewers, this is for everybody, from small to big and from independent to Heineken. So I would say we need something that puts us small, independent brewers, bar owners, restaurants, beer shops, and whoever that is willing to join more on the map, helps us work more strongly together and benefit from each other.

Photo Credit: 2020 @ BEER! A Love Story, beermovie.org

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