An insight into the life of a sutler

In the glamorous world of traditional associations, where customs and heritage are upheld, a special figure plays an important role: the sutler. But the task of the sutler is not simply to put schnapps in the barrel and get the party started. There are also a few things that have to be done behind the scenes. Fortunately, I can assess this very well, as I have been accompanying the Bauernschützen Kleinarl (Farmers’ Guards) as a sutler since 2017.

We always meet one day before the march and collect flowers and greenery from our gardens which, if possible, will keep for a long time. Depending on the weather and the season we sometimes face a few challenges. For example, in spring and autumn, when we have a snowfall, it can be difficult. We usually don’t follow any particular pattern but collect what we like and then bind it. A “Kranzei” (a wreath) for each “Banzei” (small wooden schnapps barrel) and of course, the basket must not be forgotten.

With the harvest festival in Kleinarl, a summer full of outings comes to a close. And this Church Festival is just around the corner. The club dirndl dress is washed and ironed, and the reusable schnapps glasses are cleaned. Our traditional shoes are shining, and our long wool socks are laid out ready. Now only one thing is missing: the flower arrangements.

So off we go and meet up to tie flower arrangements. We really collect everything we can get our hands on, from wild vines to every colourful flower we can find. We take everything and sit down at a table. There is a clear division of labour here: One binds, one sorts and hands the flowers to the “binder”. The “Kranzei” has to reach diagonally across the schnapps barrel and is attached to the outside of the barrel. There is also some colourful decoration for the basket. After all, at the Harvest Festival, we must celebrate the splendid gifts that nature has given us. It won’t be long anyway before our valley is covered in a white splendour of snow.

On the day of the Harvest Festival, the clubs and associations meet at 8:30 am in front of the Primary School in Kleinarl and march together to the church. There the priest arrives with his altar boys and the procession begins. Mass is celebrated outdoors and then the march continues. Afterwards, the clubs march on to the Hotel Guggenberger, where we end the day with a festive celebration.

When the whole “official” part is over, everyone heads to the Hotel Guggenberger and has dinner together. The Trachtenmusikkapelle (Brass Band) provides musical accompaniment and entertainment. After we sutlers have eaten, we make the first round with our schnapps barrel and provide everyone with schnapps. We always get our schnapps from different local distilleries. As an aperitif for all those who are still waiting for their meal or as a digestif for those who have already eaten. And so it goes on throughout the afternoon until we bring our barrel of schnapps back to the clubhouse and finish the day with a few drinks ourselves.

In the late afternoon, everyone starts heading home and the schnapps barrel is stored away, and everything is cleaned. After this day, it’s another six months until the next outing! Reset and off into the winter break.


Have you ever been to a traditional festival and tasted the sutler’s schnapps?

Bildnachweis: Belina Huttegger