Ackernalm Alpine Dairy
Thiersee Alpine herbs guarantee its success
Half a century ago, Hans Degeser was already discussing something that is still a hot topic today: the price of milk. At 1,400 meters above sea level he saw the chance to develop his Alpine dairy to focus on quality. And as everyone knows quality comes at a price. But it also leads to success. In the long term.
The biggest "nut" had the largest Alpine dairy
Hans Degeser values what he's achieved in his life. Being able to be out in nature all the time, on an alm 1,400 meters above sea level. Surrounded by the picturesque backdrop of Thalerjoch, Veitsberg, Ackern alm and Sonnwendjoch. From up here he looks down into Hinterthiersee, and in the background the Kaiser Mountains are on the horizon. The alm is between Landl in the Thiersee Valley and Bayrischzell, a two hour walk from the tollgate. Hans Degeser took over the Alpine dairy on Ackern alm after doing his apprenticeship at a cheesemaker. When he arrived the alm, now central Europe's largest and most modern Alpine dairy, was nothing like it is today. At that time there wasn't even electricity or flowing water. The latter only happened when it rained and flowed into what is now the shop. Hans Degeser realised that he had to work hard. His strategy was self-marketing. And it worked out well. "I equipped the dairy, the farmers financed the walls and the roof", he explains. The same applies to the land and floor. It belongs to the farmers, along with the cows. From the very start they have been paid above standard rate for the milk they deliver. They received the equivalent of 50 cents per litre, and depending on the quality sometimes even more.
"What works, works"
"Unfortunately only seven of the original 15 farmers are still active. But they deliver three times the amount of milk as back then", says the cheesemaker. The cows graze on the Alpine pasture from June 1st to September 30th, and in good summers produce up to 300,000 litres of milk. Organic. The meadows aren't sprayed with artificial fertilizer or pesticides, and the cows aren't artificially pushed to their limit with concentrated feed. "What works works". The peacefulness that the location and the cheesemaker radiate is reflected in the balanced flavour of the cheese that is produced up here. It is accentuated by the natural flavour of Alpine herbs, which are very different from the feed in the valley. The Alpine dairy has won a lot of silver and gold medals for its Tyrolean Emmentaler. But guests are also happy to walk two hours to buy some mountain cheese, alm butter and butter cheese.
The secret is intuition
Milk is the main thing responsible for the good cheese that Hans Degeser has been producing here for 50 years. But his intuition during preparation also contributes. "You have to be on it every day so that you always produce the same high quality", reveals the cheesemaker. Visitors can watch in the show dairy, where cheese is made twice daily.
A difficult farewell
At the impressive age of 78 years, Hans Degeser will leave the Alpine dairy at the end of the season. With a heavy heart. Even though the farmers would like him to continue, the cheesemaker is moving down into the valley after about 50 years. By that time the alm will be handed over to a worthy successor. A cheesemaker from Walchsee is at the top of his wish list. Though he's not worried about finding a cheesemaker. "People love our beautiful nature - so these days it's easier to find people who want to work on an alm". Anyone who visits the Ackern alm is enchanted, with a fresh glass of buttermilk, a schnapps or a piece of Tyrolean grey cheese. And enjoying a 360 ° view. The cheesemaker loves the view: "I don't need alcohol or cigarettes to be happy. The best thing in life is that I can be up here."
As well as the Alpine dairy, the industrious man also set up a milk room in Thiersee and a kiosk at Achensee. That's where he'll retire to now, and leave the alm to the younger generation.
Ackern alm show dairy: Open from May to October