Last weekend I jetted off to Munich for various reasons one of which was to attend the Stark bier festival. This is the strong beer festival and is a fairly hush-hush affair (see how few hits on Google). We landed Saturday morning and after visiting friends in the sleepy suburb of Dalfing we had a few Franziskaners in the typical Bavarian local bar / restaurant to wash down our schnitzel and fried potatoes.
Next was off to the Irish Folk Pub off Leopoldstrasse to watch the rugby. Here we were jammed like sardines into what claims to be the oldest Irish pub in Germany. Not bad for an Irish pub and it isn’t actually that tacky. It doubles as HQ for the Munich GAA team. Here we had the obligatory one pint of Guinness which was actually good (but one of my rules from day one when travelling is drink local, eat local). The rest was pints of Spaten (served in manky stackable pint glasses).
The Stark bier festival is based in the bräu houses of Munich, the big one being Paulaner am Nockherberg where Salvator is the brew, and a more intimate affair at Augustinerkeller where the tipple is the none-too-gentle sounding Maximator.
As soon as the full-time whistle went I had to rally the still-revelling troops and hurry them onto the main event at the Augustinerkeller . Here we were served one-litre helpings of Maximator. This stuff is weighing in at 7.5% and to see it in a giant glass in front of you after a nice few beers is intimidating (especially considering I hadn’t been out since Christmas). In fairness we took it handy all day knowing that we had a lot to face at the Festival. We drank VERY slowly as it’s like playing with fire. If you drank one of those too fast it could be lights out (we saw a few signs of injury like blood on the floor but no victims or hassle was seen by us). If this were to be held in Ireland I think the army would have to be called in to restore order.
At the festival you can sit upstairs in the quiet, calm restaurant area or go down the many, many steps in the depths of the cellar for a more raucous atmosphere. Down in the guts of the building the oompah band churn out the Bavarian classics such as Anton Aus Tirol, Ein Prosit, Hey Baby and all the John Denver hits. The thing you realise here is that the crowd is a lot more local and a lot younger that at the Oktoberfest. This also means it’s a bit more rowdy. But it was late in the day when we arrived…
It’s almost impossible not to get into the swing of the atmosphere but all the time it’s in the back of your mind that you are drinking litres of loopy juice. We did use the trick of eating the pretzel bread with the beer to prevent falling over. We managed two liters before we decided tomorrow was another day.
We left at midnight and went back to the hotel to get ready for the next day’s festivities. The next day we started slowly in the local bar in Dalfing staying for a while then heading off to a few places in centre of town as recommended by Ron Pattinson’s superb guide. One of the lads kept asking for pils which appears to be frowned on in those parts. He always settled for helles (Augustiner Helles is fantastic by the way). Then on to the Hofbräu house for old time’s sake, possibly unable to face the strong beer again. Here the atmosphere was the usual lively bunch of tourists singing Bavarian drinking songs and general merriment.
Up fresh as a daisy Monday for the flight home…
I have been to Munich a few times, mainly for the Oktoberfest, but really there is a case to go for the smaller festivals as they are less packed. Having to be in the tents before 10am at Oktoberfest busy weekends is a bit of a pain. We didn’t go to the festival on the Sunday as we were having such an enjoyable few drinks around the town it felt like a chore to have to go somewhere specific as opposed to rambling around the smaller pubs. I hope to get over to Munich again in the summer to spend a weekend sunning myself in the beer-gardens and Oktoberfest is always a possibility.