Beer Capital of the World: Munich, Germany
Is Beer a synonym to Munich, Germany?
Let’s say it is an important part of the city and has long standing traditions like Oktoberfest and Nockherberg and is home to major breweries.
The big city atmosphere and rural charm, art treasures, customs and high-tech: This very special “Munich mix” has helped the capital of Bavaria to achieve world renown. But what adds the final touch to the city’s popularity is the drink that is associated with Munich throughout the world: beer.
Internationally Munich is undoubtedly the Number One beer metropolis. The Oktoberfest, a festival of Munich’s beer and one of the Bavarian capital’s trade marks, is a household term in all parts of the world. It is not without good reason that there are 3,000 “sister” Oktoberfests spread out all over the world. And who doesn’t dream of experiencing the original in Munich sometime in their life or at least of visiting the “beer Mecca” one day? There are opportunities for revelling in the joys of Munich’s beer on the River Isar at all times of the year.
Nockher Hill (Nockherberg)
The strong beer season – tapping the barrel on the Nockher Hill is a long-standing tradition
In Munich it is looked upon as the fifth season of the year, the strong beer season.
The strong beer barrel tapping of the “Salvator” (strong beer) at the Paulaner Brewery on the Nockher Hill is opened each year by the merry drinking bout called the “Salvator Polit Show” on the Nockher Hill (Nockherberg).
Read on if you want to learn even more about the Nockher Hill (Nockherberg)…
As mentioned, the strong beer season is the so-called 5th season in Bavaria – it has its origin on the Nockher Hill. Nockherberg is the name of a small terrace on the slope of the eastern bank of the Isar in Munich, situated in the urban neighborhood called Au.
We owe the “strong beer” season to the monks who used to brew a strong, nutritious beer in the monasteries at this time of year so that they could survive Lent with no ill effects. The enjoyment of Lent beer was not regarded as a sin: “Liquid nourishment doesn’t break your fast”. The tradition of strong beer lives on to this day. During the weeks of March strong beer is served in all the breweries’ restaurants; there are music and festive events on the program.
The strong beer barrel-tapping is opened each year by the merry drinking bout called the “Salvator Polit Show” on the Nockher Hill (Nockherberg) at which Brother Barnabas pours forth a good deal of ridicule and not a few scathing remarks over the heads of the powerful political figures.
In addition to the strong beer barrel tapping of the “Salvator” (strong beer) at the Paulaner Brewery on the Nockher Hill, there is another spectacle that stands out: in the “Löwenbräu Keller” (german: Keller == english: cellar) beer hall strong men from all over Bavaria take part in a stone lifting competition to pit their strength against each other with a 508-pound stone belonging to the legendary figure of Hans Steyrer. Using his middle finger only, he reportedly lifted the huge block of stone. In keeping with this is Löwenbräu’s slogan: Off we go to the “Triumphator” (strong beer).
Incidentally, the names of the tasty strong beer sorts of the other Munich breweries also end in “-ator”: “Maximator” at the Augustiner Brewery, Spaten’s “Optimator” (for export only) and “Delicator” brewed by the Hofbräu.
Löwenbräukeller (www.loewenbraeukeller.com), Paulaner am Nockherberg (www.nockherberg.com). Find more Munich beergardens and websites further below in our list.
Some general Bavarian beer history
The age-old traditions and recipes of strong beer season established by Bavarian monks long ago are practiced today in taverns and breweries throughout the region. The traditional serving of the spring strong beers in Munich begins as always during Lent after the end of Fasching and lasts for about four weeks.
This tradition goes back to the 17th century when the Paulaner monks set up shop in Munich in 1627. Within a short time after their arrival, they started to make a very strong and malty beer which they brewed according to a medieval Benedictine recipe. During Lent citizens drank the beer as additional nourishment during the Lenten fast, as a substitute for bread and the tradition evolved into an annual festival.
As mentioned before the highlights are the celebrations in the original Paulaner restaurant on the Nockherberg, where the first barrel of the season is tapped, and in the Löwenbräu Cellar, where the program includes groups in local costumes and a stone-lifting competition.
The history of Munich’s beer
Soon after Munich was founded as a town (in 1158) by the Guelph duke, Heinrich the Lion of Brunswick, the Wittelsbachs came to power (1180). They turned Munich into their seat of royal power (1255) and quickly realised how important beer was for the town’s tax revenue, but also for their own pockets. Brewing rights were only issued by the ruler of the day.
Brewing itself was a matter for the monks. The Augustinians – Munich’s oldest still extant brewery goes back to them – set to work as far back as 1328. In order to put a stop to adulterating the beer from the outset Duke Albrecht IV issued strict Beer Regulations for the royal seat of Munich in 1487 – so before the official Bavarian Purity Requirements, which were decreed by Duke Wilhelm IV in 1516. The Munich Beer Regulations are the oldest written food laws in the world. They stipulated that beer could only be brewed using barley, hops and water. The word yeast did not come up in the regulations. Its use for certain brewing processes had long been accepted. And at that time wheat was in such short supply that it had to be reserved for baking bread. The Munich brewers still adhere to this historic decree to this day.
On Brewers’ Day, which was already a tradition in the Middle Ages, the Munich brewers solemnly swore an oath to observe the Purity Requirements. In even years the Brewers’ Day is celebrated together with the Town Foundation Festival and is a festival for all Munich’s citizens and guests, with a pageant, groups in local costumes, brass bands and brewery coaches with their magnificent teams of horses.
Munich Bock beer has a history of its own. About 450 years ago it was imported to Munich from the town of Einbeck in the Netherlands. The beer had to be brewed especially strong for the long journey. From the 17th century Munich brewers themselves began to brew it in the Einbeck way.
This then became known as Einbeck and was popularly referred to as Bock beer. It is brewed as Festbock in Advent and as May Bock after the Strong Beer Season.
Six large breweries for Munich
Whereas at the beginning of the 20th century there were still 25 breweries, today six large breweries are responsible for keeping up Munich’s reputation as the beer metropolis: Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräuhaus, Löwenbräu, Paulaner and Spaten-Franziskaner.
These six world-renowned brands – today under the roof of only four companies as a result of mergers – together brew some 5.8 million hectoliters of beer each year.