Most beer-loving travellers have Munich high on their must-do list for an autumn visit.
That’s when it’s Oktoberfest. Yes it is probably the best-known beer event in Europe and the whole world.
But the spring festival Starkbierzeit has crowds half as large, and beer twice as strong as the Oktoberfest.
If Oktoberfest seems a little too crazy for a first visit to the city, the Strong Beer Festival is a slightly more mellow introduction to Munich.
You can still dance on tables, sing rowdy drinking songs, admire the locals’ legs in “lederhosen”, and celebrate Bavarian culture.
And of course, you can drink a lot of lovely local beer.
Munich Strong Beer Festival is a bit of a local secret
For around three weeks in early spring, breweries all across Munich set up their beer halls.
This beer festival might be the city’s best-kept secret. It’s actually even older than Oktoberfest, started in the mid 1600s, by Munich’s Paulaner monks.
The crafty monks concocted a beer beverage to sustain them through the Lent fast, and called their pick-me-up ‘blessed father’s beer’ or ‘the holy oil of St. Francis’. Finally, they settled on ‘Salvator’ – Latin for saviour.
In Munich, they still brew Salvator. Some locals still call Starkbier “liquid bread”.
Where is the Starkbier festival?
It’s the Paulaner Brewery at Nockherberg that’s the main venue for the festival.
There are also other smaller and bigger breweries celebrating the strong beer. Among them is the well known Löwenbräukeller.
Augustiner Keller is also a very nice one.
Reserve a table by phone or online, and do it early, to be sure of getting seats with a good view of the entertainment.
Löwenbraukeller – https://www.loewenbraeukeller.com/en/starkbierfest/
Paulaner Nockherberg – https://paulaner-nockherberg.com/strong-beer-festival/
Augustiner Keller – https://www.augustinerkeller.de
Join this funny and entertaining walking tour about beer and enjoy a beer tasting.
So what’s goes on at the Strong Beer Festival?
Each brewery opens a marquee for merrymakers, just as they do during Oktoberfest.
Unlike the autumn festival, it’s not an all-day affair – the tents open at around 6 pm, so there’s plenty of time for sightseeing before you start ordering your first strong-beer.
Expect to leave before midnight – it’s a local celebration, not a wild party.
True Starkbier must be made within the Munich metropolitan area – the most popular brands come from four of the city’s main breweries, Paulaner, Löwenbräu, Augustiner and Unions.
They brew small quantities, just enough for the short spring season.
Munich Strong Beer Festival is a celebration of all things Bavarian, not just a tribute to ale.
As with Oktoberfest, brash oompah bands fill the tents with the din of drinking songs, while waiters and waitresses put on traditional costume and carry up to ten Steins each.
What does Starkbier taste like?
Strong Beer is exceptionally good.
The taste doesn’t hint at its potency.
Strong doesn’t really mean the alcohol content – it’s a reference to its sweeter, full-bodied flavour, created by adding extra malt.
It has a nutty taste, with flavours of toffee, caramel and cloves, and an ample helping of sugar.
Guidelines for “Starkbier” guarantee an alcohol content of at least 7.5%. Some reach 9%, making a potent brew to ward off the last of the cold winter weather.
A creamy butterscotch head settles on glowing amber beer. It’s the colour, along with the maltiness, that gives Starkbier the characteristics of what the Bavarians call ‘double bock’ beer.