Oktoberfest is the most well-known beer festival in Germany - even the world - but it is far from the only bierfest. Germans love their beer and Munich is the site of several large beer festivals, such as the Starkbierfest (strong beer festival) between winter and spring.
The “insider's Oktoberfest”, locals shake off winter hibernation with beers of Herculean strength. Starkbiers (strong, dark beers) are the drink of choice in this coldest of seasons. The festival is tied to monks, fasting and the changing of the seasons and has been celebrated since the 16th century.
History of the Strong Beer Festival
The Paulaner brothers started brewing their starkbier, Salvator, in the old Benedictine process in 1634. Originally, these heavy beers were brewed so strong to fortify the monks who brewed them and abstained from eating during the 40 days of Lent. The malty, nourishing beer became known as "liquid bread" (Flüssiges Brot) and helped keep up the strength and spirits of the monks.
Bavarian rulers took note of the new brew and began ceremonial tappings of starkbier in the early 1700s. By 1751, the first of the Starkbier festivals was held. The celebration has continued to grow with more and more brewers and revelers gathering in Munich every year.
What is Starkbier?
A variety of beers can be created with only water, malt, hops and yeast. Following the strict guidelines of reinheitsgebot (German beer purity law), a true Starkbier packs a punch to the liver and stomach. With a minimum alcohol content of 7.5%, there is also a high degree of Stammwürze or "original wort", which relates to the amount of solids in the beverage. Paulaner’s Salvator has an original wort of 18.3 percent, meaning that a maß (one-litre glass) contains 183g of solids, roughly equivalent to a third of a loaf of bread.
No wonder those monks stayed so plump and jolly!
Paulaner’s Salvator beer is still brewed today with more than 40 other starkbiers in Bavaria. Purists claim that the only beers worthy of the title are within the Munich metropolitan area. Popular breweries Löwenbräu, Augustiner, and Hacker- Pschorr are also well-known for their Starkbiers, only brewed in quantities large enough to satisfy the season. Beers are traditionally served in a 1-litre stein, called a keferloher. To get your fill of starkbierzeit, try Hacker-Pschorr’s Animator which has a Stammwürze of 19 percent and alcohol content of 7.8 percent.
Today, real food is on the table and you should definitely partake. First of all, because it is is delicious. Second of all because you are going to need those non-alcoholic carbs
▪ Salvator - Paulaner-Brauerei
▪ Triumphator – Löwenbräu / Spaten-Brauerei, Munich
▪ Maximator – Augustiner-Brauerei, Munich
▪ Unimator – Unionsbräu Haidhausen, Munich
▪ Delicator – Hofbräuhaus, Munich
▪ Aviator – Airbräu, Munich Airport
▪ Spekulator – Weissbräu Jodlbauer, Rotthalmünster
▪ Kulminator – EKU Actienbrauerei, Kulmbach
▪ Bambergator – Brauerei Fäßla, Bamberg
▪ Rhönator – Rother-Bräu, Rothenberg ob der Tauber
▪ Suffikator – Bürgerbräu Röhm &Söhne, Bad Reichenhall
▪ Honorator – Ingobräu, Ingolstadt
▪ Bavariator – Mülerbräu, Pfaffenhofen
When is Starkbierzeit?
In 2019, the "fifth season" of strong beer season ran from March 15th - April 6th.
On weekdays, the Munich beer halls are open from 2pm to 11pm, and 11am to 11pm on weekends. The end of beer-serving is at 10:30pm daily.
A prelim to the event is Derblecken, a comedic joust with local politicians in the cross-hairs. The celebration kicks off with the tapping of a Salvator Doppelbockkeg.
Where is Starkbierzeit?
The opening festivities go down at Paulaner's Festsaal (festival hall) at Nockherberg. Each beer hall and brewery also host their own starkbierfest. Expect to see tracht (traditional Bavarian outfits) of lederhosen (leather pants) and dirndls (Bavarian dress), plenty of beers and some very happy festival goers. Take a seat at the table with some real Germans and sample the delicious world of dark beers.
Visitor Info for Paulaner's Festsaal
- Paulaner's Festsaal Address: Hoch Strasse 77 81541, Munich
- Directions: U-Bahn 1 to Kolumbusplatz or U-Bahn 2 to Silberhornstrasse; Tram 25 to Ostfriedhof or Tram 17 to Schwanseestrasse; Bus line 52 to Mariahilfplatz.
- Reservations: You can reserve a table by phone (089 4 59 91 30) or on the Paulaner's reservation page.
- Cost: €12.90 in 2019 (€2 entrance plus €10.90 for a liter of Salvator, Helles, radler or an alcohol free drink)
Other locations for Starkbierfest
And if you miss this festival, just remember that Germany has great beer festivals all year long.