Located in Algund, or Lagundo if you have an Italian guidebook, — a suburb of Merano on the road to Switzerland — this extraordinary fantasy of a brewery (think medieval version of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory) is a must for any traveller visting the region. This sort of neo-Gothic brewery/castle with wooden bridges defies architectural classification and is in itself worth the visit. The actual brewery is something out of an old James Bond movie and could have been the set of one the “evil” laboratories with its outdated 1960s scientific design. In the summer, it boasts a real beer garden — not one of those wannabe beer gardens that have become popular. The restaurant has been serving great ale and traditional fare at unbeatable prices since 1857. Its ambiance is popular, loud and medieval with wooden tables and benches. It’s both a local and Italian tourist hang-out — so be ready for the wait as they don’t take reservations. The service is sloppy to say the least, yet surprisingly quick.
There are six types of locally-produced beers of which I recommend the full, unfiltered and naturally bitter hausbier which is a real rough traditional Alpine beer. The food is simple but good, however, be warned: this is not spa food. This birreria does not do “light”, especially in winter but what it does — Alpine gastronomy — it does well. I strongly advise the gerstsuppe — a delicious and very nourishing barley soup specific to the region with smoked Tyrolean bacon (called speck), celery, carrots and potatoes. Another seasonal specialty, the hirshragout or venison stew was very tasty and filling, accompanied with spätzle, typical Alpine mini-dumplings made of flour and eggs, and blaukraut, a regional cabbage cooked with apples seasoned with cinnamon. Another specialty, the hausmeisterteller or the chef’s dish consisted of a very generous composition of sausages such as the meraner wurst (a larger version of the frankfurter), smoked pork chop and pork shin with sauerkraut and knödel, a massive dumpling made of bread and speck.