So do you like beer, would love to attend a Beer Festival in Munich but hate crowds? Everyone knows about the grand celebration that takes place in Munich late September into early October called Oktoberfest, right? During this festival over 1.75 million gallons of beer are consumed which equates to about 30% of all Munich breweries production for the year! That is a lot of beer to drink in a short 2 week period, but is this the only time to visit Munich for a beer festival? That answer is no. In fact, unbeknownst to non-beer aficionados (myself included) there are different beers for each season and, therefore, many reasons to visit Munich for beer other than during the granddaddy of them all, Oktoberfest.
My personal opinion is, it is always a great time to visit Munich but if you are looking strictly for beer and festivals then you may want to visit in early spring for Starkbierzeit or “Strong Beer Season”. Beginning after Fat Tuesday, Munich gets ready to welcome the coming warmer weather by celebrating all that is holy, Beer. Brewers in Munich unleash their version of a Doppelbock, which actually dates back to mid-1600s. Seems the monks during this time were forbidden to eat food during Lent so they developed a nutritious version of “Liquid Bread” we call Dopplebock! You may have heard of these beers as they have names like Maximator, Optimator, Unimator or Triumphator. During this festival the breweries of Munich, such a Paulaner, Augustiner and Lowenbrau, showcase their version along with beer tents, Oompah bands, singing, dancing, and traditional German sausages and pretzels. All without the crowds experienced during Oktoberfest. What could be better?
Next we move on to Bavarian Beer Week which coincides with Bavarian Beer Day, April 23. This date is important because it was on this date in 1516 the Bavarian Purity Law was enacted. Bavarians take their beer very seriously and because of this law you will not find any rice, tree bark, corn or other flavorings in your Bavarian beer. Bavarian Beer Week is a celebration of the importance beer has in German life and includes festivals, tastings, brewing
demonstrations, brewery tours, beer seminars and even free beer! Yes, free beer may be yours if you show up on Bavarian Beer Day, in front of the Bavarian Brewer’s Federation’s Brewers House in downtown Munich.
Sorry to say, but there are no Beer Festivals during the summer! During the wonderfully warm summer months all self-respecting Germans spend their free time in their beloved Beer gardens. If you have never experienced a beergarden during the summer, it is something you definitely need to put on your list of “things to do”. In Munich, visit the beer garden under the Chinesischer Turm in the Englischer Garten. Each afternoon you can spend time visiting with Munichers on their way home sitting under the trees enjoying a relaxing beer along with pretzels or even rotisserie chicken! This experience is wunderbar! Or try visiting the beer garden at the Viktualien markt. The Viktualien markt is one of my personal favorite spots in Munich. This open air market dates back to medieval times and is a place you can gather amazing food snacks and then stop for a beer . . . or two! Beers during the summer range from blond Maibock to the straw colored Helles beers.
As summer rolls into fall, it is time for Oktoberfest but the fun doesn’t stop here! As the days shorten and the weather chills, it is time for Festbier Season. The holiday season is very special in Munich and there is no better way to celebrate than with a special brew. Festbiers are dark and great for sipping while gazing out the window as the snow falls or strolling amongst the stalls at the Christmas Market. There is much revelry and celebration that accompanies the magical Christmas Markets. The original is held at Marienplatz Square where you are surrounded by Medieval architecture and history while shopping for special trinkets. At the market you can purchase handmade ornaments, toys, and ceramics or enjoy homemade baked apples, sausages or potato pancakes all while enjoying festive holiday music! After you have wandered the markets shopping for the perfect gift, stop by a beer hall for a Festbier. In my opinion, that’s the perfect way to shop.
Share your experiences with German beer festivals . . .Oktoberfest picture courtesy of Bayern Tourismus Marketing GmbH
Chinesischer Turm picture courtesy of Andrew Cowin
Augustiner Brewery picture courtesy of Rainer Kiedrowski