Resident: Florian Mandl
Photographer Bernhard Müller in conversation with Florian Müller, owner of Café Mandl and brewer of Mandlbräu in St. Michael. He is a native of St. Martin in Lungau, where he lives and works.
“A beer should stay a beer”
What was your career like?
I was born in St. Michael in Lungau, then I went to classical primary school, secondary school, then I went to the tourism school in Bad Hofgastein and finished there. Then I went out into the world of tourism in Europe, via Portugal, Ireland, Malta, Cyprus, I looked at it all for a few years, from a tourism point of view it works quite well. And I also say that a young person first needs to get out a bit. I have combined that with travelling – with working. When you are on the road, you always meet people and they tell you and you think: yes, that would be great too. When I was young, I didn’t have any obligations with my family, that was good for me and I saw a lot and that brought me a lot further in my life. Then I went back home to Salzburg, I worked in the Gwandhaus, then I was drawn more and more to the Lungau and brewing beer has always been omnipresent anyway, that’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I even had the opportunity to do an apprenticeship as a brewer with a landlord. But when you start an apprenticeship, the company makes sure that it invests in you and that you stay with it for the next 20 years. And that’s also a cost the business has to bear, because you have to become a master brewer in Munich. My father used to brew beer when I was a little boy, in winter with the ice machine, in summer the ice and in winter the beer, only small quantities, about 15 to 20 litres, and when it was brewed it was usually gone by the evening. Well, then I looked at different breweries and also brewed with them, and in 2013 I got together with a company that produces microbreweries. When I came back to the Lungau to work in the family business, then I would have had my way with brewing beer.
You taught yourself how to brew beer then?
More or less. I studied food technology in Upper Austria, but you go through a lot in theory, but not much in practice. Then I looked at smaller breweries and they didn’t have any secrets about the recipes, but I wanted to go my own way.
You only brew once a week?
Yes, once a week I brew about 250 litres. The first few years were for learning and then it went quite quickly. Of course, you have to trust yourself, because it’s a financial thing and I didn’t have much money. But someone else buys a car and I bought the equipment and then it went. It used to be our garage and workshop and I converted it. With the small quantities I brew, most of it goes to our family business, to the café, and in summer also to the Blasnerhof in Hintermuhr, which is a museum we run. I never have too much beer, and if it is too much, I have regular customers who buy it from me. And I also like to drink a beer myself. And now I’ve been brewing beer for over 8 years.
But you also run the Cafe Mandl in the village centre?
Exactly. The coffee house, my parents’ business, which I took over this year, both of my parents retired. It fits and it suits me.
Are there still several small breweries here in Lungau?
I was the first here in 2014, then Katschbier was added up on the Katschberg, then Mühltaler over there, but he makes more bottles for festivals, and now also in Tamsweg at Franzlabauer, the father is quite famous for distilling schnapps and the boy makes the beer, but more bottles, I mainly brew for Fassl. But in the past there were 5 breweries in St. Michael alone, the Rohnacher, the Schöndorfer, at the municipality there was also brewing in the past.
Do you see beer as a cultural asset of the Lungau?
Yes, I do see it that way. A lot has happened throughout Europe in recent years. Today you can vary so much and I’m also open to that and have already experimented with a few little things. I’ve already thought about what we have in Lungau that has the same hop characteristics and I’ve also tried gentian root, because it also has bitterness, but you have to be careful because gentian root is so intense. A beer should remain a beer. Beer is a stimulant, but it is culture, history and tradition.
What actually made you come back to the Lungau?
The Lungau is simply a super quality of life, a super place. And then it was just the opportunity to go into the family business. For many of my friends who have returned to Lungau, it’s not so easy, work-wise, that’s the main reason. The situation is difficult. The earnings are usually better in the city. Many say it’s cheaper in the countryside, but I don’t think so at all, you are dependent on many things that you might not need in the city, a vehicle for example, because the infrastructure here is not so ideal. But a friend of mine has just come up from Graz, he has become a father and he knows how he grew up here as a child and he wanted his children to grow up like that. The Lungau is simply our home.
How do you see the cultural situation in Lungau and what constitutes culture in Lungau?
Culture for us is tradition, customs. The people themselves are part of it. We have many customs, whether it is the Easter fire, the Krampus or the Kaasmandl, from young to old, a lot of value is placed on them. We are glad that we have so many different things, whether for our guests or for ourselves. Art is rather rare, but there are many good musicians, different music too, just as in the past there was often only folk music, now there are also bands that go beyond the borders, like the Querschläger, who also reflect this in their lyrics, the Lungau, the customs. The old people are often against modernity, but things are happening and we in Lungau are often 20 years behind. But here we have, for example, the choir festival in St. Michael, where about 1200 singers come, international from Hungary and Germany, it goes on for three days. Or the Donnerwetter, as it is called here in St. Michael, or the Z`sammsitz`n in Tamsweg, where musicians also meet or there is international street food. There is already something going on.
What would you wish for the Lungau?
The transport connections are already difficult, also for old people, for young people anyway with the nightlife. Older people often need a taxi when they have to go to Salzburg, there are enough who have to go to hospital once a week, hospital is also a problem here. In terms of leisure time, more should be done for cyclists. Not everything has to be done overnight, it just has to grow.