When you say the words “Munich” and “beer” in the same sentence, the natural assumption is that you’re talking about the city’s famous Oktoberfest held each September. But there’s another beer festival in Munich – the Strong Beer Festival – and this one’s in March, when there are more budget flights to Europe anyway. Every March, the breweries in and around Munich present what are called either their “strong beers” or “potent beers” during the annual Strong Beer Festival (or Starkbierzeit in German).
The Strong Beer Festival lasts roughly two weeks and occurs during Lent, the period leading up to Easter. The timing of the festival isn’t random, either. It dates back to the mid-17th century when Paulaner monks, all too aware that they could only consume liquids during Lent, brewed an extra-strong beer to serve as liquid sustenance. The beer was (and remains) so potent one of its nicknames was “liquid bread.” The clever idea caught on, and to this day Starkbier (strong beer) is very popular at this time of year.
A visit to Munich in March isn’t just an opportunity to imbibe in some “liquid bread,” however – it’s also an opportunity to enjoy the year’s first beer festival. In a city like Munich, so wedded to its brewing, the calendar is dotted with beer-related festivals (not to mention the fact that beer is present at pretty much every single other festival year-round). The Strong Beer Festival, however, marks the first official beer festival of the year, and generally coincides with the first spring thaw – meaning locals will be even happier to be out celebrating the strong brews.
In addition to the plentiful potent beers on hand, the Strong Beer Festival also features comedians, music, dancing, and food. The center of the festival is the Paulaner Keller, but because it’s grown significantly over the years it has spilled into other venues around Munich as well.
If all of this sounds a bit like Oktoberfest, there’s a reason for that – it’s likely what Oktoberfest used to feel like, before Oktoberfest became an enormous tourist attraction. The Strong Beer Festival is still more of a festival for the locals than for outsiders, so don’t be surprised if you don’t see lots of other tourists – but if you’re prepared to join in the fun, it’s a great time to experience an authentic beer festival in Munich without paying the high Oktoberfest prices.
– by Jessica of BootsnAll
Get around the city with mTrip’s Munich Travel Guide
photo by Nick Perretti