Friday, April 22, 2011

S is for Starkbierzeit

You've all no doubt heard of Oktoberfest, the huge festival in Munich that has become an international phenomenon.  But Oktoberfest is not the only beer festival held in Munich, and I don't even think it is the coolest.  My money is on Starkbierzeit.

Starkbierzeit literally translates to "strong beer season."  It is a two week celebration that takes place in March every year, during the period of Lent.  Its origins date back to the Paulaner monks, who during the Lenten fast were only allowed to drink (not eat).  The Paulaner monks were already exceptional brewmasters, and during Lent they would brew a stronger version (nearly 8-9% abv) of their dark beer that they called doppelbock (literally "double" bock).  The beer was sweeter and more nourishing than the regular bock, and thus perfectly suited for making it through Lent.

Now the people of Munich celebrate Starkbierzeit every year.  The Paulaner beer hall on Nockherberg remains the center of the celebration, but all the beer halls in Munich participate.  The famous Paulaner brewery produces the original doppelbock called Salvator, and other breweries in Munich follow suit, following the naming convention by ending their brews with "ator".

The Paulaner beer hall in Nockherberg
My friends in Switzerland and I found out about Starkbierzeit, so in March 2007 we drove from Lausanne to Munich to take in a weekend at the event.  After getting lost in Munich and asking for directions from old Bavarians in their local bar, we finally found our hotel and then quickly hustled to closest beer hall, the Augustinerkeller.  Their doppelbock is called Maximator, and like all beer in Bavaria, is served in one liter glasses:
At Augustinerkeller (faces cropped out to protect the innocent)
Two liters of 8% abv dark beer and less than an hour later, I was done.  The next day, I could barely eat or drink anything -- I did not even try the Delicator at the Hofbrauhaus, I had a few sips of Salvator at the Paulaner beer hall, and finally a small glass of Triumphator at the Löwenbräukeller.  In retrospect, I think I would drink my Maximator more slowly next time.  But if you want to go to a great beer-centric celebration in Munich, one still owned by the locals and not dominated by sloshed tourists (and before you comment, despite drinking too much, I was still well-behaved), Starkbierzeit is the place to be.  And despite overdoing it, I had a fantastic time.  

1 comment:

  1. One liter glasses...the only way to serve beer. Wow, you are so lucky to have been there. Must have been a lot of fun!