Visiting Außermelan Alm Alpine Pasture Hut in the Tux Alps, chances are that you will carry more weight out than in. After all, the Alpine dairy at this chocolate box Alpine Pasture Village sells finest homemade specialties. Produced on premises, the handmade Wattental Alpine Cheese is one of the most sought-after Alpine cheeses and has won praise and awards from foodies and chefs alike. And the “Tirol Alpine Pasture Pig” thrives here, too.
The historic word Lizum means “Alpine pastures and meadows at the head of the valley” in Tirolese. However, this particular head of the valley is not only an end, but also a beginning: Here at an elevation of 1,850 meters above sea level, where the Alpine pastures are dotted by the rustic cabins of the tiny Alpine Pasture Village of Außermelan, the jagged and lofty peaks give way to uninterrupted panoramic views. And although you have already walked all the way up from Walchen for 1.5 hours, it feels as if your day is just beginning.
If you arrive here in the morning, you might wonder about the rustic smell of a wood fire. It’s a warm and sunny summer day, so why would anyone fire a wood stove? Well, it’s cheesemaker Ludwig Klingler and Thomas, his son. When it comes to the art of cheese making, they like it the traditional way. While most Alpine dairies nowadays use electricity or gas to heat up the milk vat, these two artisans are committed to uphold the operation to its original standards. Which includes a wood fire. “They always used to heat with a wood fire and we want to keep up with this tradition. We are dedicated to perfecting those old recipes and methods of production as they give the cheese just the right flavour,” they say.
The Wood Fire Heats the Cheese Vat
As a young boy, Ludwig Klingler fell in love with the life on an Alpine pasture. Having finished school, he decided to make his passion his profession and became a dairyman. He managed the cooperative dairy in Terfens for many years. For a short time, he worked at an industrial dairy, where he mainly had to operate machines. Which isn’t exactly the greatest desire of a passionate nature lover—instead, he wants to smell the rain and feel the wind. He wants to see the cattle grazing. And thus he became an Alpine dairyman at Außermelan Alm on Wattenberg Mountain in 1999. They had resumed cheese making there in 1996; in the years prior to this they delivered the milk to Lizumer Alm for further production.
Since 2000, the Klingler Family has been running the Alpine dairy at Außermelan Alm. Milk is provided by six farmers, who have their cattle grazing the nearby pastures and by one farmer from neighbouring Innermelan Alm. In the meantime, son Thomas Klingler has taken over the operation of the dairy, yet he is still fully supported by his father Ludwig, who has great knowledge, experience and skills in cheese making. Ludwig simply loves seeing shelves stacked with rows and rows of cheese in the maturing cellar of the Alpine dairy—and continues to do so.
It is Quality Rather than Quantity that Matters
Ludwig’s wife Margit is a teacher—and she is as well passionate about living up on the Alpine pasture. She is responsible for the tiny snack bar during the school holidays. They serve delicious platters with fresh and handmade dairy produce and bread. And most guests want to buy some butter and cheese afterwards. Lucky ones can take some of the delights home with them—often, the demand is bigger than the supply. All in all, 100,000 kilograms (liters) of milk are made into cheese each summer at Außermelan, along with roughly 1,200 kilograms of butter. These figures are quite remarkable, yet they could sell more. The tiny milk room on premises, however, is not suitable for bigger production—and the Klingler Family wouldn’t appreciate that anyway. They are convinced that it is quality rather than quantity that matters. And together with the nine owners of Außermelan they are pleased that so many people love their dairy produce.
Tender Pork from Lucky Pigs
“This is a wonderful place to be and to live.” That’s what I think when I continue wandering towards the Upper Alpine Pasture Hut, which sits somewhat above the Alpine Pasture Village at an elevation of 2,000 meters. This is a good choice for peace and solitude. But suddenly, the mountains are alive with the sound of…oinks. How come? Do the cows speak a different language up here? No, it’s the Alpine pigs grunting and squeaking that are living up here, too. The Klingler Family raises them with kindness and care.
A few years ago, they started keeping pigs at Außermelan. Much sought-after, the meat of the “Tirol Alpine Pasture Pig” is tender, juicy and full of flavour. The dairy whey is now used to feed the pigs. The pigsty is located somewhat off the Alpine Pasture Village, so the curly-tailed friends can enjoy their summer up here on Außermelan Alpine Pasture in peace. The pigs are thriving in their high altitude living arrangement. Lucky ones.
My daypack is filled with tasty Alpine cheese, but what about the wonderful pork? Well, this fine meat is available at all shops of Hörtnagl Company. You won’t find more blissful pigs than the breeds roaming around Außermelan Alpine Pasture. You won’t find better pork, either. And yes, there is a connection!
Außermelan Alm is readily accessible from the military training area at Walchen in Wattenberg within a one hour walk. Learn More.