Munich: where the beer is strong and the men wear Lederhosen

You didn’t really think the city of Munich was going to make us wait until autumn for a beer festival, did you?

The Starkbierfest, or Strong Beer Festival, take place every year for a few weeks during Lent. Drinking beer doesn’t count as breaking a fast, you see, so rumor has it that the monks invented this weighty beer as a form of nourishment to consume when they were fasting for Lent. The ‘strong’ in the beer’s name is supposed to refer more to its gravity than its alcohol content, but at around 8% it’s not the weakest beer out there, either.

Various local breweries open their banquet halls for the Starkbierfest, but the only one we’ve been to so far is the one at the Paulaner brewery. Some friends had a table reservation for Saturday, and naturally we took them up on this offer to get to know the local culture a bit more intimately.

In order to claim a reserved table on the weekend, you have to arrive by 2pm. The entire scene at this hour was entirely civilized – just like at a large restaurant which seats 2,000 people. There was live music, heavy German food, and, of course, a lot of Starkbier, served in liter krugs.

A couple hours later, the band changed from one with a tuba to one with guitars, and the audience started showing signs of life. Slowly, at first – only a couple lone dancers popped up at a table here and there. A couple popular songs were played which got the whole room singing along. And then, all of a sudden, it seemed like everyone was dancing on the benches. Everyone.

The band took breaks from time to time, during which some revelers took the opportunity to power-nap.

The crowd got bigger and bigger, and we had to get a little defensive of our prized seats whenever someone in our party got up. I can’t really blame people for trying to poach a table spot – those krugs were heavy. Not exactly something I’d want to drink out of while standing around mingling.

Speaking of drinking beer, naturally we did a lot of this, but I have to admit I only had one Starkbier before switching to the Helles. Starkbier is fine in small doses, but it’s too sweet for my tastes.

There seemed to be more people wearing Lederhosen and Dirndls than not, making me wonder if we’re going to have to break down and get our own Bavarian clothing to wear to such events. What do you think?

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9 thoughts on “Munich: where the beer is strong and the men wear Lederhosen

  1. AAAARGH! Lederhosen? NOOOOOOOOO! None of them damned dirndls, either.

    For a nation which sports the most fattening ethnic cuisine on the planet, Germans have designed folk costume which is incredibly unforgiving of an expanding waistline.

    Besides, trachtenmode ain’t cheap. Though I understand that Loden Frey has an outlet shop near the Olympia Einkaufzentrum, where those in the know shop.

  2. Yes, it was tons of fun! I realize I kind of left this point out of my post, but we totally had a blast. It was a lot more fun than I expected, actually, since I tend to not like big crowd scenes.

    Headbang, I’ll concede that a Dirndl might not be my best look (although given my ample cleavage, I think I could do worse), but Scott’s boyish figure would look damn hot in some Lederhosen, I promise you…

  3. GLH has been to the Paulaner for Starkbier a few times in the past. He’s very upset we weren’t able to make it this year. His favorite memory is how the crowd goes nuts when the oompah band played “99 Luftballoons” by Nina! She’s the German Beetle.

    And go ahead, get a dirndl and a lederhosen. Some folks I know who live in Munich say it’s the best way to get into a beer tent for Oktoberfest. And get a place to sit. Not to mention free drinks from the Italians on their weekend! Especially if the cleavage is prominently displayed.

  4. If you think Nockerberg is as good as it gets you ain’t seen nothing yet…. have fun at the Oktoberfest. And – as you are a local now – you should buy a Dirndl. ;-)

  5. GL – I’ve also heard that a Dirndl will increase one’s chances of being groped by an Italian during Oktoberfest… and while in my younger days that might have been a positive, now that I’m old and married maybe I’m happy to not have their attention…

    Corregio – I’m tempted to say that yes, I like the relatively small Starkbierfest better than Oktoberfest (since I’m not really a crowd person), but I’ll give Oktoberfest one more chance before I level my final opinion. :)

    And yes, I’ll probably end up with a Dirndl sooner or later. If only it didn’t involve shopping…

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