We have all heard of Oktoberfest but you would be severely mistaken if you thought that this was the only beer festival to be found in these parts: any excuse for beer (and lots of it), the Bavarian’s grab with both hands.
Bavaria is a big place and it seems that every little village or hamlet will have at least one sort of beery celebration in the year. Some of the ones we have tried are tested are listed below, although this is far from a complete list for the state:
The 2018 Munich Strong Beer Festival will run from Friday, March 2 to Sunday, March 25. Unlike Oktoberfest, Starkbier does not have a central location with big tents – beer halls and breweries host their own Starkbierfests across the city.
The tradition of brewing strong beer goes back officially to 1651: the monks of the order of St Francis of Paola where faced with the problem of getting through Lent. Their solution was novel: brew a kick-arse beer that was filling and high in calories. (The fact that it was high in alcohol was purely accidental I am sure!) This beer was named “Salvator” – Latin for “Saviour” and is still produced today. Imitation they say is the sincerest form of flattery and so many breweries will produce their own versions. A useful tip when reading a German beer menu is that is something ends in -ator then it will be a stark beer. For more details on the different types of strong beer, see here.
The Munich Spring Festival runs from April 20th until May 6th, 2018.
This lesser-known-than-Oktoberfest-fest is really worth a look. A fraction of the size of Oktoberfest, it is less touristy and not as crazy. Plus, if you are visiting from out-of-town, hotel prices are not the typical 3 times the price you expect during the Weisn.
Rosenheim is a little town, nestled at the foothills of the Alps. Best reached by train – especially if you are going to drink beer – it is about 3/4 of an hour from Munich on the Salzburg line. Their version of Oktoberfest runs from August 25th until September 9th.
Expect fewer tourists, some great beers and lots of Bavarian (as opposed to German) being spoken. This is one of my favourite beer festivals: it is very relaxed – “locker” – as they would say. Outside of Munich, the pace of life is not as hectic and I think you really get this feel at this fest – a lot of guests will actually come from the surrounding farms and villages – and are good, down to earth people.
The Oktoberfest needs little introduction. Tracing its origins back to the royal wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig I and Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen in 1810, it has run nearly every year since. This year it runs from September 20th until October 7th.