Strong Beer Season in Munich

Munich City Hall.jpg
••• München Neues Rathaus. Erin Porter

Oktoberfest is the most well-known beer festival in Munich, Germany, and possibly the world, but it is far from the only beer festival. Germans love their brew and there is a reason for celebration almost any time of the year.

Described as the “insider's Oktoberfest”, locals shake off winter hibernation with beers of Herculean strength. Starkbiers (strong, dark beers) are the drink of the season in this festival tied to monks, fasting and the changing of the seasons.

History of the Strong Beer Festival

The Paulaner brothers started brewing their Starkbier, Salvator, in the old Benedictine process in 1651. 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 kegs 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 the German Purity Law a true Starkbier packs a punch to the liver and stomach. With a minimum alcohol content of 7%, 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) 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.

Popular Starkbiers:

Salvator - Paulaner-Brauerei
▪ Trimphator – 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 2017, the festival runs from March 10th - 26th.

This festival of strong Lent beer is held after Karneval. On weekdays, the 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 crosshairs. 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 and Dirndls, plenty of beers and some very happy festival goers. Take a seat at the table with some real Germans and sample the heavy world of dark beers.

  • 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.

Other locations for Starkbier Tasting

And if you miss this festival, just remember that Germany has great beer festivals all year long.