The Third Generation Of The Musical Von Trapp Family Is Now Specialising In Award-Winning Lagers And Hospitality Experiences

The von Trapp name is one that has become synonymous with music and song, and love and war in 1930s Austria, thanks to a certain musical and movie inspired by the family’s life story. Today, the famous family’s name has become associated with so much more, with a portfolio that has diversified and expanded over the decades.

The famous von Trapp family.

With their interests now mainly in the hospitality and food and beverage industries, the family runs the 96-room Trapp Family Lodge with indoor and outdoor resort amenities, and the von Trapp Brewing company. Both businesses are situated on the family’s 2,500 acres of prime land in Stowe, Vermont in the United States.

From left: Johannes and Sam von Trapp

The Trapp Family Lodge’s tagline, “A little of Austria … a lot of Vermont” summarises a lot of what to expect with the von Trapp businesses, where Johannes von Trapp – the youngest child of Baron Georg and Maria von Trapp and the last living member of the Trapp Family Singers – has masterminded most of the various expansions of the family business. In fact, von Trapp Brewing is his brainchild as he envisioned creating an American version of the lagers he enjoyed while traveling to the countryside near his ancestral Austrian home.

Johannes felt that lagers were under-represented in the United States market and decided to create a brewery that makes more traditional styles of beer, with a focus on lagers. The fact that these lagers could also be served to guests at the resort added to the appeal of setting up the brewery.

The von Trapp Brewery officially opened in Spring 2010 as a modest facility located in the lower level of the Trapp Family Lodge’s Kaffeehaus. In 2015, von Trapp Brewery opened its new 30,000 sq ft brewery located on Luce Hill Road. Johannes’ son, Sam, is responsible for the brewery and operations and liaises with the head brewer.

The von Trapp Brewery has since won numerous awards for its beers. This year’s accolades include having four of their beers recognised in the country round at the 2022 World Beer Awards, followed by winning grand champion for their Bohemian pilsner and Kölsch style ale at the United States Beer Tasting Championship in Boston a week later. For the World Beer Awards, von Trapp Brewing won gold for their Dunkel Lager and Golden Helles, silver for the Bohemian Pilsner, and bronze for the Kölsch style ale. After winning the gold for the United States, the Dunkel went on to win gold in the worldwide finals to be named “Best Dark Lager in the World.”

“All of our beers have won awards but the Bohemian-style Pilsner has won the most prestigious awards and it has really done well in a lot of our bigger markets,” said Sam von Trapp during this interview at the Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont.

“We have a brewing team that knows more about beer than we (the family) do. Our Helles is a classic, crisp, clean Austrian/Bavarian style of beer and the brewery was basically created to make it. However, the Bohemian Pilsner has passed the Helles and become our flagship,” added the 50-year-old Sam von Trapp.

The von Trapp Brewery is capable of producing up to 36,000 barrels of beer annually, using high-quality specialty malts from Weyermann® Specialty Malts in Germany for all of their beers. Their entire brew house and cellaring system is from Rolec, which is well known in the craft brewing industry worldwide.

According to Sam, when it came to the brewery, their two key principles were a little in opposition – one is to do things in the most authentic, genuine way possible, and the other is to be as local as possible with the sourcing of ingredients. “We decided that the goal was to replicate the Austrian styles of beer and we needed to do it with the right ingredients. We use almost all European ingredients with most of them from Germany, some from Czech Republic, and a small amount of hops from the US,” he expounded. “We follow the Reinheitsgebot, the German law of purity of brewing which goes back to the year of 1516. Our core beers all follow that law,” he added.

“It’s also fun to make some different things so there are times where we do. For example, we have a Grapefruit Radler right now that would not be Reinheitsgebot legal,” said Sam. “As for the Rolec Brew House, it’s all from Bavaria and again, the best brewing equipment comes from Germany so that made sense.”

The von Trapp family also has its own private label wines but unlike their beers, the wines are made for them by the family-owned Höpler winery in Burgenland, Austria. The five Höpler wines that the von Trapps have under their brand are a Höpler Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Höpler Zweigelt, and Höpler Grüner Veltliner.

“We don’t have any input on the production because they’re good at what they do. We tell them what wines we want to have here and the wines are sold throughout the United States,” he expounded.

The von Trapp beers can be enjoyed at the Trapp Family Lodge, the Bierhall or in multiple restaurants and bars throughout Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington D.C. and Virginia throughout the year.

Here, brewery tours are also offered on Tuesdays and Saturdays throughout the year, which are included in the resort fees for guests staying at the Trapp Family Lodge. These brewery tours are also open to the public, to those aged 21 and above, where tickets can be purchased.

Their annual Oktoberfest celebration, on the other hand, is held once a year on the property and allows visitors to listen to music, drink beer from the von Trapp Brewery, and savour a spread of German and Austrian cuisine. At the meeting with Robb Report Malaysia, Sam von Trapp shares his thoughts on life as he knows it, a good eight decades after his famous ancestors made the arduous flight from their ancestral home of Austria in search of freedom and a new home.


First thing you do in the morning?
Check the forecast, make a plan for the day, and hug my boys.

What would make the biggest difference to your life?
Developing better personal organizational systems, I’m working on it…

What do you crave most at the end of the day?
A little bit of “me time”. A little time to myself when no one wants anything from me. To me, the end of the day is after the boys have gone to bed, when all of my responsibilities are finished. I have a brief moment (to myself) and the first thing I do is go for a walk on the road. I live on a nice steep dirt road and get a good workout there.

How do you find calm?
Meditation and exercise. I use the Sam Harris Waking Up meditation app. Meditation was something that I recognised the value of for years and the pandemic was a great opportunity for people like me to bring something new into their life. It’s a really good way to find calm, to fall back asleep if you wake up in the middle of the night, and a good way to prepare for a stressful situation.

If you could learn a new skill, what would it be?
I am becoming a better handyman to maintain my property and make my family happy.

How much do you trust your gut instinct?
A lot but I also try to pay attention to the areas where I might have a blind spot. If everybody disagrees with me, I have to put some serious consideration into whether they might be right.

What watch are you wearing?
I am currently wearing an Apple Watch Series 5 but I’m happier when I’m wearing my Nixon Surf watch, a Nixon Minimal Time Teller. The Apple Watch is for general everyday wear but if I’m doing sports, then I’ll wear my surfing watch.

What is something you’ve done recently for the first time?
Kite-surfing. That’s an amazing sport because of the way it harnesses the wind.

What do you do that is still analogue?
Taking notes – some people take notes on their phone or in a meeting but it just doesn’t work for me. Maybe someday it will. I’m also a fan of hand tools in the woods. I often use a hand saw where other people might use a chainsaw, because we all need exercise.

What is the most recent thing you’ve added to your collection?
A longboard surfboard. I probably have about 10 surfboards in total, around different places. Some of them are in South America. I don’t really collect anything specific because I already have so much stuff. I have tons of skis but they’re equipment, not collection pieces.

Surfing is just a magical sport. I learnt a lot from surfing in terms of how relaxed you need to be to surf well. You can’t get tense and you can’t put pressure on yourself when you’re surfing or you’re not going to perform. You need to just relax and be in the moment. When you get held down by a big wave, you need to go to a peaceful place. When I get held down by a wave, I just relax, picture myself lying on my back on the moss looking up at the sky at a really beautiful peaceful spot here on our trails and keep my heart rate low. Then after I feel like the ocean is done with me, I head for the surface.

What do you regret not buying?
A used excavator, back in 2008. My friend was selling it and I wanted it for work here on the property to maintain our trails. I told him later that I regretted not buying it and he told me that the person he sold it to called him a year later to say that it was one of the best purchases he’d ever made.

What does success look like to you?
Feeling at peace.

Drive or be driven?
More than happy to drive, don’t mind being driven.

Last piece of advice you gave?
Relax, it’s not that big a deal. I give that advice a lot … to myself. I’m someone who’s hard on himself and that’s a bit of an Austrian characteristic. I’m getting past perfectionism and focusing on good enough. We’ve all been impacted mentally and emotionally by this pandemic and it’s just a really important time for kindness, compassion and patience.

What causes are important to you?
The environment and justice. I’ve always struggled with injustice.

Who is your guru/inspiration?
I have no particular single guru or inspiration, but I’m always inspired by those who have learned to bring out the best in others. Athletic team coaches at the high school and college levels come to mind.

Your most treasured possession?
My boys and my surfboards. I can’t call my wife my possession.

Is there a piece of advice you received that changed your life?
Stop taking yourself so seriously. That’s a theme that I will be revisiting many times in my life and a test that I will fail many times but then I’ll try again. That’s what meditation has really helped me with – I’ve been learning to cut myself some slack. Many people believe that they can’t meditate because they get distracted but that’s part of it – allowing yourself to be distracted and then bringing your focus back is what meditation is all about. I never once make it through a 10-minute meditation without getting distracted by something. I’m a human being. But I stay there and do the 10 minutes and it still makes me better even though I’m not perfect.


What in your wardrobe do you wear most often?
My zip-up turtleneck tops which are so versatile for the Vermont climate. You can zip it to the top on a cold day or open it up when you’re cross country skiing or hiking up a steep slope.

How do you get to sleep?
My favourite way to fall asleep quickly is to get so much exercise, outdoors, while doing something I love, that I just melt into whatever space I find to get horizontal. But if I have trouble falling asleep, I use meditation. The stoic philosophy, the concept of appreciating what you have, instead of what you want, works on so many different levels. When I take the time to appreciate my heath, my family, and our roof that doesn’t leak, I realize how good my life is, and it’s a whole lot easier to fall asleep.

The Sound of Music, a theatre and motion picture adaptation of the real-life story of Maria and Captain von Trapp in Austria on the brink of World War II, will play to Malaysian audiences from December 27th, 2022 till January 15th, 2023, at Istana Budaya in Kuala Lumpur. Tickets can be purchased here.

Photos: Trapp Family Lodge

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