Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe has always had restaurants that celebrated the Austrian heritage of its founders, but until recently they were missing that greatest of traditional venues – the von Trapp Bierhall. This is the kind of restaurant that’s short on ceremony and long on homey, hearty specialties, the kind of restaurant where you can sit at a long table and eat from a platter of delicious sausages, the kind of restaurant that’s a step up from a burger joint but where you can wear your ski pants to lunch or dinner.
The von Trapp Bierhall is the brainchild of Johannes von Trapp, of the family made famous by The Sound of Music. He is the youngest of Maria and Georg von Trapp’s children and still lives on the resort property. In 2010 he decided to start an on-site brewery to make lagers of the same type that are served in Austria. Before long the beers became so popular that they expanded their facility and when they did, they decided to add a restaurant in the same building. The restaurant and brewery are situated down the hill from the Lodge and are open to the public.
The crisp von Trapp beers are different from many of the other craft ales and porters being made in Vermont and around the United States. I wasn’t sure which one I’d prefer; happily I didn’t have to choose just one but instead had a flight of four.
Although I tend to be a fan of white beers, at my favorite von Trapp brew was not their Weissbier but the Helles, which deserves its German name meaning “bright”. It was delicious with food. There are also wines available on tap by the glass; I had a very nice grüner veltliner with my main course.
The Bierhall also serves locally made root beer and orange cream soda, so everyone can join in the toast.
If, like me, and aren’t all that familiar with Austrian food, you might be surprised by its emphasis on vegetables, many of which are lightly pickled to add a sprightly contrast to the wursts and schnitzels. I started my meal with a sampler of five salads that included cucumber, tomato, beet, carrot and celery root. They were almost too pretty to eat.
But eat them I did and loved their tangy mix of tastes and textures. Many of these salads can also be ordered as side dishes.
My younger son Teddy took a more traditional route and ordered the von Trapp pretzels with house mustards. Word to the wise: add the beer cheese dip as well – and ask for a spoon because you will want to lap up every little bit of it.
The hot entrees and sandwiches at the Bierhall are cooked on a special grill that’s tucked into one corner of the dining area. A firebox makes intensely hot charcoal, which is spread under the cooking surface. That means that the food is grilled without the meat getting smoky or charred.
I enjoyed the grilled salmon with a maple mustard glaze with roasted vegetables and spätzle, which is traditional Austrian small dumpling pasta that has a delightfully chewy texture. (The salmon is usually served with farro, a whole grain much like barley or wheat berries, but the restaurant will make substitutions if you ask).
Cooking the salmon on the grill makes it utterly succulent and delicious.
The rest of my family went an even more carnivorous route than I did. My husband Matt and older son Tommy both had what my family calls the “triple sausage” plate – bratwurst, knackwurst and baurenwurst served over saurkraut mashed potatoes. Teddy opted for chicken and beef kebabs served with an addictive yogurt sauce that’s flavored with lemon, garlic and dill.
One fun option for a group would be to order the large grill platter, which includes all the sausages as well as pork belly, potato salad and sauerkraut. This serves a group of 3 to 5 people.
After finishing our meal we couldn’t possibly contemplate dessert until we looked at the three Austrian options and decided we simply had to have one of each. The sachertorte is a thick, creamy chocolate concoction and the apfelstrudel is perfectly layered crispy pastry and lightly sweetened apples – both very good. But it was the linzertorte with its crumbly, buttery, nutty crust and sweet jam filling that was our favorite. A spirited debate ensued about whether the crust was flavored with cardamom or nutmeg, with the boys and Matt thinking it was the former and me choosing the latter.
I was delighted to discover after asking the waitress that my perfect record of always being right was undiminished.
The von Trapp Bierhall is a perfect environment for families, with casual seating and a fairly high volume on busy nights. If you’ve got a little one who wants to wander, you can take a stroll up the steps to a balcony that overlooks the brewery floor and check out where the beer is made.
They also offer a children’s menu that includes homemade macaroni and cheese and chicken schnitzel fingers. These entrees come with one side and I recommend browsing the long list of side dishes for something a little different than fries (although the Bierhall does offer those, and they are hand cut and I’m sure delicious). But why not put a little Austrian touch into your child’s meal with some bacon apple sauerkraut or roasted vegetables and farro? If your child doesn’t want to eat them I’m sure that one of the grown ups at your table will.
When you’ve finished your meal, be sure to stop by the little shop at the Bierhall’s entrance to browse for a von Trapp souvenir or some of the beer to bring home.
The Bierhall does get busy, especially on weekends and holidays. Since the don’t accept reservations for tables of fewer than six people, you may have to wait at busier times, but you can order a beer and browse the gift show while you do so (they’ll give you a beeper). The service is efficient and friendly – on one occasion my family visited on a very busy night during Christmas week and although we were told it would be a half an hour before our table was ready, we were seated in ten minutes and didn’t wait for our food. The von Trapp Bierhall is open daily year-round from 11:30 to 9.
Additional All Mountain Mama posts about Trapp Family Lodge
- Fine Dining for Families at Trapp Family Lodge
- Trapp Family Lodge: Home for the Holidays
- Music in the Meadow at Trapp Family Lodge
- Sweet Fun on the Trapp Family Lodge Sugar Maple Tour
Mara Gorman may live at sea level now, but she’s a native New Englander and mountain aficionado who grew up skiing in Vermont. She spends as many days each winter as she can chasing her two teen boys through glades and across mogul fields and regularly journeys far and wide to get on the slopes. Mara blogs about her family’s many travel adventures at The Mother of all Trips. She is also the author of The Family Traveler’s Handbook and an award-winning freelance writer whose work has appeared in various USA Today print publications as well as on websites such as BBC Travel. When there’s no snow, Mara and her family can be found hiking, biking and eating around the United States and Europe.