Munich’s Secret Spring Beer Festival – Starkbierzeit:
Oktoberfest is well known around the world (beer drinker or not). But Munich has another huge beer festival that is not so well publicised. At the Starkbierzeit ask for “ein Doppelbock bitte” and you’ll be served with a very potent double strength beer! “Bock” stands for strong beer and “doppel” means double so the beers have an alcohol volume of no less than 7.5%.
Munich’s Starkbierzeit spring festival usually begins during Lent after the end of Fasching (carnivale) and lasts for about four weeks. The modern-day version of this festival is meant to help people forget the harshness of winter and celebrate the arrival of the spring season, although I must say that after weeks of drinking this potent beer, there might not be much that people will remember.
The Starkbierzeit official opening sees the first barrel of the new season’s Salvator Doppelbock tapped at the Paulaner Wirtshaus restaurant on the Nockherberg, with many prominent guests in attendance. Celebrations are also held in other beer halls and cellars like the Löwenbräu Keller and the Augustiner Keller, where blaring oompah bands, singing, dancing and comic performances are part of the events. Of course there’s plenty of malty, amber-colored Doppelbock on tap and sausages and pretzels.
Munich owes its “spring health cure” festival to the Paulaner monks who set up shop in Munich in 1627. In preparation for Lent, the monks brewed a very strong, malty beer according to medieval Benedictine recipe so as to give them strength during the period of fasting. During Lent, only liquids could be consumed and the double strength stout provided the replacement sustenance. The stronger the brew, the more it helped the monks to not break their fast. The friars called their brew Sankt-Vater-Bier (Holy Father Beer) and the name later evolved into Salvator which is Latin for saviour.
Today, most Bavarian breweries make their own version of a Doppelbock and they usually label their brew with a name that ends in ‘ator’ such as Maximator, Optimator, Unimator, or Triumphator, in deference to the Salvator brew that started it all. But for the people of Munich, the Salvator, the oldest Doppelbock, still takes prime honour in the Strong Beer Season festivities.
So why have we not heard as much of this festival as we have Oktoberfest? I suppose the good people of Munich want to keep this festival to themselves and it might not be appropriate to tell too many people that this is what they do at Lent. So next time you’re planning a Spring trip in the vicinity of Munich, why not head for one of the following beer halls and enjoy a Doppelbock or two.
Paulaner am Nockherberg (See here on how to book)
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David Sirabella says
Sad to say the Unions-Bräu went out of business 30 Nov 2012. The owners could not afford to compete with the larger establishments. The Stark bier was one of the best Stark biers in town. As a side note they used to post a sign on the tables that translated as ‘Warning Strong beer. Drink slowly”
Helen Page says
Thanks for the update David. I hope you’ll find another stark bier that you like, and if you do, please come back and share here.
Kind regards and drink slowly!
This was much more helpful than the Munich tourism office, thank you.
I’m also interested in going to a Bayern Munich match, can you make any recommendations on getting tickets?
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The Strong Beer Festival usually begins in Lent and Lent in 2012 starts on February 23. Löwenbräukeller is starting their Starkbierfest on February 24th and the link below takes you to their reservation page.
Paulaner am Nockherberg is running their Starkbierfest from 09.03 – 25.03.2012. Their website is in German only and does not have any information as yet – probably after the New Year. Website: http://www.nockherberg.com/index.html
Other beer halls like Unions-Bräu-Haidhausen and Augustiner Keller have not posted their dates as yet and I think you’ll see more information coming out in the New Year.
Starkbierfest is organized by the individual beer halls and I am not aware of any central website for this festival.
Hope the above is of help. If you do find out any other information, I would appreciate you letting me know so that we can share it with others who are interested.
All the best to you for the festive season,
Hi, I’ve seen on your website that the Strong Beer Festival starts on 24 February but have seen on other sites that it starts later in March. Can you confirm that it is in February and is there an official site for it?