Gluten Free Travel in Europe: German and Austrian Reformhaus Product Reviews including GF Beer and Croissants
Produkte Ohne Gluten (Products without Gluten-German)
It should be no surprise to you, my readers, that when I found myself in Austria and Germany, I was very excited to explore the various types of European Gluten-free products offered that aren’t accessible here in the States. I had visions of arriving in Vienna and immediately dashing to a health food store (called Reformhaus in German), but it didn’t quite work out that way. However, before too long I did find some grocery stores, and I did scour the shelves until I found the health food section. Tip: just look for the rice cakes!
Supermarkets you can expect to find in Austria and Germany include: MERKUR, BILLA, INTERSPAR, EUROSPAR, SPAR, dm-Drogeriemarkt. I found Spar to be especially nice, as they had a more diverse collection of rice cakes. Yes, yes, I know. I’ve sneered at rice cakes many a time. Who wants to eat puffed cardboard when you COULD be eating homemade bread, fresh from the oven, or some lovely rice pilaf? But these were no ordinary rice cakes. They had chocolate and coconut dipped rice cakes, plain chocolate dipped rice cakes, and even Strawberry yogurt dipped rice cakes. YUM! My non GF DH was stealing them, that’s how good they were.
How to find a reformhaus in Austria or Germany:
The rice cakes from the grocery store were nice, and some grocery stores even had gluten-free corn flakes or muesli, but I really wanted to explore Reformhaus/ health food stores in Austria and Germany to find out what they had to offer. We finally managed this in Augsburg, Germany. I had addresses of reformhaus, but we found it too difficult to find things by address alone without GPS or the internet. Luckily our hotel (Ibis) was in walking distance of the train station, so we used an internet terminal at the train station. I went to www.reformhaus.de/branche/reformhaeuser.htm, entered in the city, and got a list of Reformhaus. (Note: site is in German so the Google translation feature was very helpful) Then I entered addresses into Google Maps and came up with about 3-4 in walking distance of the train station. I was glad we’d mapped that many because the first reformhaus had gone out of business- luckily reformhaus #2 was open and I was thrilled when I found their gluten free shelves, labeled with “produkte ohne gluten.” Sometimes shelves will be labeled “gluten frei” or not labeled at all, but the products are all in one place so once you find the right section, you are set. I have to admit, I went a little crazy, although the pile you see above was actually the result of me stopping every time we saw a reformhaus and getting “just one more thing” to try. The two major companies in Austria and Germany seem to be Schaer and 3Pauly.
The best Schaer Products I tried:
This was the only product I bought multiples of on our trip- Although I’m not a huge fan of apricot, these jam filled sponge cupcakes are absolutely delicious and satisfying. They are also individually wrapped, making them perfect for travel, even on the airlines. DH liked them too. 9/10 I would buy them back home, too, for the right price.
These crisp rolls looked promising in the package and were just as I expected them to be. They are crispy, crunchy bits of bread perfect for jam or an impromptu sandwich- and best of all, don’t need toasting to be delicious! They aren’t individually wrapped, so it is best if you can put them in a sealed ziploc bag once they’re opened so crumbs don’t get everywhere. As time went on, they got a bit broken up in the bag, but they were perfect for a bite of bread with breakfast. I have a feeling these aren’t the healthiest of snacks- they have a strong margarine or butter flavor, but I didn’t care- we were on vacation! 8/10 Great for traveling. I probably wouldn’t buy them at home.
These decadent little wafers taste just as you would expect them to from the package. Chocolatey wafery goodness, conveniently packaged. I’m sure they’re terribly bad for you, but they’re perfect for staving off depression after you watch your DH eat his 5th apple strudel of the trip. (That boy really loves his apple strudel!) DH also gave them a big thumbs up. 9/10 for taste 7/10 for high calories and being junk food. I might (guiltily) buy them at home, very rarely, if they were not too expensive.
Schaer Products that were Not too Bad:
These rolls, like most of Schaer’s bread products, require a toaster oven, so I didn’t actually try them until I came home. Once heated for 10-15 minutes in the oven, they have good texture and satisfying “roll” like qualities- a nice crunchy exterior and fluffy interior. The powdery corn flour taste on the outside bothers me a little bit- it can taste slightly bitter and “off” to me if I think about it too much. However, these rolls were pretty nice with some butter, honey or jam. Not good for traveling unless you have access to your own oven or toaster oven!
7/10 I might buy them at home, if I had no time at all to bake.
GRISSINI breadsticks were ok, but nothing special. Tolerable for travel. Good as a side with salads. 7/10 I wouldn’t buy them again, unless traveling and nothing better was available.
Schaer Products that were Not good:
I was really excited about these baguettes. It made me wonder why we don’t have any nationally available shaped breads available like this in the States, when Schaer has more than you can count. However, when I finally tried it, I was disappointed. I tried it three ways- first, toasted, and then cut in half horizontally. The bread was gummy and did not slice well post toasting. Then I tried cutting the bread in half horizontally and then toasting it. It maintained its structural integrity much better, and wouldn’t be half bad with tomato sauce and cheese melted on it- or some other flavorful topping. The bread itself had very little flavor. I also tried slicing the bread in little circular rounds- they were quite crunchy and would be good for crostini. I didn’t like the flavor of the bread especially, but it was ok.
6/10 for texture and flavor. I would not buy these at home.
These gluten-free chocolate “croissants” were the biggest disappointment of all. It sounds like a good idea, especially described on their web site. “Quickly warmed in the oven, they taste heavenly!” they claim. They come in a two pack, with two “croissants” per side, for a total of four “Croissants” all together. These must be toasted to be palatable. They smell very gluten-free and bland. Toasted they taste just as gluten-free, and just as bland. The chocolate is mild and not especially sweet. Far inferior to other European gluten-free croissants. Edible but not deserving of the name, with no butter flavor whatsoever. One positive- they don’t taste rich enough to cause feelings of dietary guilt. 5/10 I would not buy these again, anywhere.
Schaer Products that were Pretty Awful
This bread looks fairly typical for packaged gluten-free bread that is antiseptically sealed for long storage, a la Ener-g foods. I haven’t eaten Ener-g foods bread in years because there are so many better options out there- Whole Foods Bakehouse gluten free bread comes to mind. If I had any better option, I wouldn’t have eaten this bread either. I toasted it in safe toaster bags in one guesthouse that we stayed at- none of the others had toasters. I made grilled cheese sandwiches by packing it in the toaster bag with cheese between the bread- it wasn’t too bad. I would not enjoy it plain, or even with jam- it just tastes too bland. Gluten-free bread can be so much better than this! 5/10 with cheese, 4/10 without. I would not buy this again unless I was traveling and wanted a grilled cheese sandwich and had no other options. Bleh.
Funkies taste like they sound. Funky. I thought that corn wafer snacks might be tasty. I was wrong. These are awful. DH refused to even try them after getting a whiff of the seasonings. I wish I hadn’t bought or tried them. 2/10 I would never buy these again, anywhere, anyhow. I wouldn’t even accept them if they were free.
FETTE CROCCANTI, gluten-free cracker toast- about as tasty as corn Styrofoam. They seemed like a good idea, but weren’t. I couldn’t even finish the package on the plane. 3/10, higher if you put really flavorful sandwich fillings on them. I wouldn’t buy them again as I disliked the texture.
3 Pauly Products I regret that I wasn’t able to try more 3 Pauly products while I was in Europe, as I get the feeling that they are more innovative than Schaer with new flours. Schaer seems pretty comfortable with their corn flour, but 3 Pauly is experimenting with various teff products, and I say more power to them! I would have to try more of their products to really give them a fair assessment, however.
The Best 3 Pauly Products
3 Pauly Croissants are a world away from Schaer’s travesty of a gluten-free croissant. They do require heating in the oven, and I found I liked them better baked more like 15 minutes than 10 minutes, but they actually taste buttery and flaky. They may not be the perfect gluten-free croissant (see the French products below sold through Amazon for a superior gluten-free croissant) but they’re pretty good! They have that guilt-inducing richness we all look for in a croissant, and taste nice with jam, or pretty much whatever you care to put on them. They are not quite as fluffy as they could be, but they were pretty good! 8/10, mostly for novelty. I would buy them again IF traveling with access to a toaster oven.
Glutenfreie Brezeln- Gluten-free pretzels- These corn-based pretzels are not much different than gluten-free pretzles from Glutino or Ener-g Foods. Great travel food; I ate them up faster than almost anything else. High in fat, though. 8/10 I would buy them sometime for travel on the road.
Corn Flakes These hardly need explaining- any gluten-free corn flake you can find should be good, and I was very happy to have them at breakfast time. 8/10 Great for travel but nothing special, persay.
The Worst 3 Pauly Products
These light tomato crackers were about as bad as the Schaer version of this type of cracker. They may be healthier for you, but again, who really wants to eat corn Styrofoam? Certainly not me, even if it is “tomato-flavored.” These might be ok with some great toppings, but I didn’t enjoy them. 4/10 I wouldn’t buy them again unless dieting and desperate.
Other products to be on the lookout for:
Gluten-Free Beer in Austria and Germany
Luckily we now have Redbridge Beer and Bard’s Tale to stave off our hunger for gluten-free beer, but it can be fun to try new gluten-free beers, and I loved the two Gluten Free beers that I tried in Austria.
The German Schnitzer Brau is the best sorghum beer I’ve ever had! It contains Water, Sorghum malt *, Sugar *, Hops *, and Yeast *, and comes in at least two varieties- a golden lemony beer and a regular beer. I tried the lemony beer and it was sweet and wonderful for this hard-cider loving gluten-free girl! We found it at the Reformhaus in Augsburg, so keep your eyes open for it on the shelves!10/10 I wonder if I can Buy it Here I would buy it if I could!
Austria’s gluten-free beer, “Up Bier,” is made from a blend of Sorghum Buckwheat, Corn malt, Hops, and water, which may explain its authentic beer taste and complex flavor notes. It was really very, very good and I was happy to get the chance to try it at the Gluten-free pension in Austria. 8/10, perfect for real beer lovers. Buy it Here I would buy it if I could, although that lemon beer was really my favorite.
I also enjoyed little pizza flavored cracker wafers (Great with cheese), by an unknown company, and there were many things on the shelves I would have liked to try. In retrospect I would have tried less breads and more cookies and cakes- they don’t need toasting and are better for snacking. If I’d had my own kitchen with toaster oven I think I could have enjoyed more of the products- next time I really think we’d consider renting a place with a kitchen, or maybe buying a cheap toaster oven for on the road.
Want to read more about gluten-free croissants in Europe? Read Catherine’s story here about the French Croissants sold through Amazon now. (Also see slideshow below- looks pretty yummy, huh?)
Other Gluten-free European croissant options include the frozen ones offered by Dietary Specials. What I want to know is why no gluten-free companies in the US have jumped on this and created a gluten-free croissant? C’mon guys, what are you waiting for??? Are you really going to make us order our gluten-free croissants from France through Amazon? Really? Well… ok…
Or, you can follow the amazing Kate’s example and make your own, using her Gluten-free homemade Croissant Recipe
For more information on traveling gluten-free in Austria, contact the very nice people at Austrian Celiac Society (But don’t put it off until the last minute, like I did! Way too stressful!)
For information on traveling gluten-free in Germany, go to the German Celiac Society
Traveling in Switzerland? Read this article on Gluten Free Travel in Switzerland
Traveling in Italy?
Let Catherine of a Gluten-Free Guide Help you! Read her gluten free experiences in Italy- sounds like an amazingly yummy trip!