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 ran 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, although the Paulaner festival at “Am Nockherberg” is probably the most renowned.
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.
No wonder then that Paulaner run the most well known Starkbierfest. A few words of warning though if you intend to visit in 2019:
We were not allowed to take a digital SLR inside. It was a regular size, not huge lens or anything but still we had to check it. My buddy and I were not impressed by the sign which read “We are not responsible for loss or damage”. If you are going in insist on people checking their gear in – and charge them for the privilege – the least you can do is look after it.
Despite getting there over an hour and half before most reservations kicked in, some of the waiting staff were not happy to have us sit at a table – even though from the get-go we said we understand that we have to move in a bit. As it happened, most of the reserved tables never showed so come a decent interval after the allotted time, the “Reserved for XXXX at XX o´clock” were taken down by the staff.
I put down 3 litres, felt fine and then tried to get into a pub to watch the rugby: no chance! It is quite obvious when people have been on the hard stuff:
Tag der Bayerisches Bieres – Day of Bavarian Beer – aka Freibier
Free beer: it is generally a myth – “Oh sorry mate, you just missed it… that was last night” or “What day do you leave town? Wednesday? Oh what a shame.. it is an open bar on Thursday“. Well once a year, around the anniversary of the Bavarian purity law – the Reinheitsgebot – coming into force in 1516, there is indeed free beer in Munich.
3000 Litres of it. Seriously. Free. Gratis. Buckshee. For nowt.
Find out how the 2018 Day of Bavarian Beer went by looking 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.
As well as beer, the tents sell traditional Bavarian foods like bratwurst, pork knuckles and roast chicken. After drinking strong beer and eating delicious grub, going on funfair rides might seem like a bad idea. However, if this is your thing, then you are luck – the fest also boasts a big wheel, dodgems/bumper cars and a whole host of other rides: just make sure you don´t puke 🙂
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.