As it says in the Vienna Würstelstand Manifesto: “We’re not really sure what’s in a Würstel (sausage), and not sure if we want to know.” However, whatever is in the Vienna-based Britwurst sausages, people are going crazy for them.
It’s a glorious sunny Vienna winter’s day as I make my way over to the weekly Saturday Karmelitermarkt. There’s really nothing quite like strolling around this little farmer’s market with a cup of steaming hot coffee. Today, I’m here to chat to a man with an increasingly famous sausage (this article was always going to be riddled with cheap innuendos): Richard Holmes. He’s here every week selling his authentic, home-made British sausages. Come again? A Brit’ making sausages in Vienna? How did this happen, and how are they being received in Käsekrainer country? That’s what I’m here to find out.
Mr Britwurst smiles as he greets me and asks how I went smuggling his Chipolata sausages back to the Netherlands in my carry-on luggage. That he remembers me and my last sausage, offers an insight into why his young business is doing so well.
During our chat, we’re interrupted by a number of customers, most of them regulars. You can tell Rich genuinely likes braving the cold every week to have a chat with these people in between sausage sales. Having been in Vienna for almost 10 years now, he easily jumps between German and English.
Britwurst was founded about a year and a half ago and originated, as most good businesses do, from a hobby that had Rich’ producing sausages for friends and family. “I was doing it privately for friends and family, just a bit of fun to hone my skills – then when I realised I could do it, I formed the business,” Richard explains. “Six months later, I was lucky enough to get a spot here on the Karmelitermarkt, which is my main selling spot.”
Britwurst’s sausages can also now be found in the likes of the boutique bakery, Joseph Brot, where you can have them with your breakfast, and they’re also being grilled up in the back garden of the Volksgarten Pavillon during summer. “Those places are great for promotion,” he says as he sells another one of his mix-packs, a combination of three pairs of the weekly sausages available.
Richard’s recipes range from the traditional British breakfast sausage, to bolder creations like a Thai-inspired sausage, apple and leek, apricot & stilton and carrot & smoked almond, just to name a few.
It seems Vienna’s Würstel connoisseurs have accepted this foreign sausage merchant. “I do get a couple of funny looks from some of the old boys – ‘This is keine Wurst!’ they tell me, but generally, a lot of people like it as something different.” And this has led to something of a cross-cultural-sausage exchange.
“I actually started to appreciate the Austrian sausages more, as it’s a change from the British sausages I eat all the time – but yeah, the Austrians have really taken to it and I like that a lot.”
They certainly have taken to it – Britwurst produces, by hand, some 700 sausages a week, which equates to some 30-40kg of meat. That’s a lot of sausage to process on your own, hence why Richard has teamed up with Fleischerei Hödl to produce the Britwursts in a professional setting. But he does still experiment with his recipes with his sausage stuffer at home.
When I ask about what the future holds for Britwurst, Richard’s eyes light up even more. “There’s some things in the pipeline – broadening the market, maybe opening a stand at a second market. I don’t want to announce anything just yet,” Richard says. That’s not enough for me though. I need a scoop for this article, I tell him. Some gentle prodding gets me the information I want.
“I’d really like to expand the product range, not just sausages, but also jams, marmalades, sauces, pickles, things like that. I wanna make use of the space I have here, perhaps an extra table here.” And to conquer our fears, we finally ask Richard the golden question: What’s in the perfect sausage?
“The perfect sausage is made using the perfect ratio of meat,” Richard reveals. “I use 60% pork shoulder (for the flavour) and 40% pork belly (for the fat and also for flavour) – the better quality the meat, the better sausage as well.”