We’re back! After several years of reduced festivities or cancellations due to the pandemic, Starkbierfest is back in full swing in Munich.
Ahh, the period before lent, that gluttonous time of beer drinking and sinning as much as humanly possible at Karneval, Rose Monday, and Fat Tuesday. After burning away those sins for Ash Wednesday, the period of Lent begins. Lent is also known as the “Fifth Season” here in Germany. One would assume that Lent is a time to abstain from drinking and partake in fasting, but it’s Munich, so it is time to drink Starkbier, AKA Strong Beer! Starkbier is consumed at Starkbierfest, a cultural event and beer festival in Munich. People gather to drink a strong Doppelbock Bier, sing songs, dance, make merry and forget they are ‘fasting.’ I mean, we have a fresh slate given to us, so we might as well start sinning again – am I right?
Since this strong beer will put you on your ass, this survival guide to Munich’s Starkbierfest will help you get home in one piece while ensuring you have all the essential details to have a great time. I also apologize in advance for the lack of photos because I’m usually, you know… white girl wasted.
What is Starkbierfest?
The History of Starkbierfest
Let’s dig deeper into the history and cultural significance that brings us this hot mess of a yearly celebration. Back in the good ole days of the 1600s, the monks at the Paulaner monastery (now a brewery and restaurant) began brewing beer. When the Lental fast came around, they realized they could use beer as a meal replacement (drinking liquid didn’t count as breaking the fast). So, they brewed a beer strong in calories and flavor, and thus the father of all Doppelbock beers was born, the Salvator! “dun dun dun!”
This delicious beer kept the monks going for hundreds of years, but they weren’t allowed to share it with the public due to restrictive laws. These laws began to change in the late 1780s, and beer began flowing from the monks to the public. The monks could finally (legally) share their secret to surviving Lent with the city folk of Munich. A few short years later, an annual event surrounding Starkbier was born. However, it wasn’t until 1891 that the first ‘Salvator Speech’ was given, paving the way for Starkbierfest in its current form in Munich. The ‘Salvator Speech’, known locally as derbleckt is when politicians gather for the first tapping at Starkbierfest and get epically roasted by some of Germany’s best comedians. Unfortunately, most of us peasants are not invited to that event, but as soon as the beer is tapped and the politicians are roasted, the public is free to join in the festivities.
The Salvator Battle of 1888
It wasn’t all smooth sailing after the first tapping. As the festival gained popularity, so did the demand for beer. Well, the monks knew they were onto something and started raising the beer prices. It was either the strong beer or the steep prices (or a combination of both) that caused a riot in 1888. A military man attending the fest drew his saber and a fight broke out in which people used their heavy ceramic beer mugs as weapons. The entire military was called, and they rode in with swords swinging. The drunken public met them with more clashing beer steins and walking sticks. Thankfully the fight calmed down, and today while the prices are a bit steep, most people tend to keep their swords put away.
So, survival tip #1, leave your saber at home.
The Beer: Starkbier
Starkbier literally translates to ‘Strong Beer.’ Known as liquid bread or Flüssigesbrot auf Deutsche. Starkbier is a thick, high-calorie beer meant to be a meal replacement. It is a double-fermented dark copper beer with a rich malty flavor, roasted notes, and very few detectable hops. The first monks of Paulaner brewed their Starkbier and named it Salvator.
At Starkbierfest, the beer is consumed from ceramic steins to keep it cool and fresh.
Meet the Beers
Each brewery has its own name for its unique Starkbier, traditionally ending in -ator. You’ll notice some subtle differences in the flavor, but they are all similar in color and body.
- Paulaner is serving up: Salvator
- Löwenbrau is serving up: Triumphator
- Augustiner is serving up: Maximator
- Hofbräu is serving up: Delicator
- Airbrau is serving up: Aviator
Looking for more beer-related fun in Munich? Then don’t miss my ultimate beer guide to Munich, including the best breweries, beers to try, beer culture, and day trips centered around beer!
The Modern Starkbierfest in Munich
Now, every year for a few weeks in Lent, Munich gathers together to drink Starkbier and celebrate! The event is like a mini, but hyper-local Oktoberfest, taking place in a large beer hall. There are plenty of traditional songs played by a German band, lots of dancing, singing, and drinking. It is still a local event, as tourism is relatively low during the months of March and April here in Munich, so experiencing it is something special. Expect a mixed crowd of young and old traditional Bavarians and immigrants/ex-pats at Paulaner. Everyone comes together to play cards with the table, share a meal, and Prost their beers.
Many major breweries now host their own, but the biggest and original is still at Paulaner.
What to Wear to Starkbierfest
Since this is a traditional beer fest in Bavaria, you should suit up and put on your tracht, AKA Lederhosen, and Dirndl. Since this takes place in early spring, it is still quite cold outside, so make sure to bring your traditional Bavarian sweaters and vests to keep warm. The events are inside with an outdoor beer garden, but it can be chilly walking to or from the event if you sit outside.
Everything You Need to Know for Starkbierfest 2023
The following details are for the main event at Paulaner am Nockherberg. I list some alternatives below.
When is Starkbierfest 2023?
Starkbierfest typically starts around St. Joseph’s Day and lasts 20 days! While associated with the 5th season or Lent, the festival is also associated with the Holy Father Feast, celebrating the founder of the Paulaner religious order. That means the celebration can happen anywhere from mid-March to the end of April, but the dates change yearly, so check back for new details every year. The dates for each brewery vary, which I’ll cover below.
Where is Starkbierfest?
The OG Starkbierfest is located at the traditional Paulaner brewery and beer hall. It sits on a hill just outside of the Munich city center. However, over the years, more breweries, such as the Löwenbräu and Augustiner, have started to host their own events.
The OG Paulaner am Nockherberg Starkbierfest
- Dates: We have dates! The event is happening from March 10, 2023- April 2, 2023
- Location: Hochstraße 77, 81541 München
You can get there via several public transportation options, including the bus, S-Bahn, and U-Bahn. Plug the address into Google maps, and you’re good to go.
I also highly recommend you download the Free Now app because you’ll be a hot trashy mess at the end of the event and might be unable to navigate Munich’s public transportation system. Being able to hop in a taxi and get safely home is well worth it. There are usually loads of taxis in the area, but the app works just like Uber, so you don’t have to try and speak German to your driver.
Cost and Money
Entrance Fee: Unlike Oktoberfest, Starkbierfest in Munich is not free and has an entrance fee. If you arrive first thing in the morning, you must cough up €2. If you arrive after 5 pm on a weekday or 3 pm on the weekend, you’ll need about €9. With your ticket, you should expect to also pay for one beer with a voucher that is 12,90 in 2023. So, to summarize, your entrance fee should be between €14.90 and €21.90.
Tickets can be bought on-site at the entrance.
*Please note entrance fees change annually and may vary slightly from the price listed.
Beer Cost: 1 Liter of beer is €12,90
*Prices of beer change annually; please note they may vary slightly from the price listed
Cash or Card?: Before the pandemic, the card was not accepted, and you had to pay in cash. Cash is generally the preferred method at most large beer events in Munich. So, ensure you have cash or an ATM card to withdraw money. They might be accepting cards in 2023, but I am not sure.
Reservations for the Paulaner Starkbier fest are encouraged for Saturday, Sunday, and evenings. You will book for a group of 10, and each person pays €14.90 for a total of €149. Each person gets a €12.90 voucher for a drink. Don’t worry; you don’t need a reservation if you arrive early enough, but you can’t sit at a reserved table.
Other Starkbier Festivals Around Munich
The above details are for the OG Starkbierfest at Paulaner, but as I mentioned, a few other breweries host their own events. Make sure to check out these other events to celebrate the 5th season.
Dates: – March 10 – March 25, 2023. Löwenbräu is hosting a festive event for the lent season with live music and a Starkbier special.
Reservation: Reserve a table in advance.
Where: Löwenbrau Kellner: Nymphenburger Straße 2 Stiglmaierplatz, 80335
This is going to be a hip crowd with a lot of younger people in the mix. It is more of a mainstream, see-and-be-seen Munich party. Live bands and contents are at the show.
When: Starting Feb 23, 2023, and ending April 1, 2023, Auguestiner Festhall hosts the longest Starbierfest. However, they are only open on weekends for the festival.
You need to buy tickets in advance. They are €9.80. Doors open at 5 pm.
Where: Augustiner Arnulfstr. 52
This is going to be a bit more traditional and old-timey. Live bands play music.
Survival Tips for Starkbierfest
I mentioned the alcohol content already but I want to drive it home. Take it from the girl who usually wakes up in her dirndl passed out on the couch with no recollection of how she got home and a cut on her forehead… Do not drink too much too quickly, especially if you are a tourist and don’t know how to get home. I can drink quite a lot, but one liter usually puts me on my ass. This isn’t like Oktoberfest, where you drink 5-6 liters and can still be semi-functional. Always have a safe plan to get home, know where you are staying, slowly drink or share one liter at a time, and stick with a buddy.
Ensure you eat something before you arrive, drink slowly, order food, and drink plenty of water.
To avoid crowds, I suggest you aim to go on a weekday or early on the weekend. If you haven’t reserved a table for yourself and your 10 friends (who even has ten friends these days?), you will want to ensure you arrive just after opening to get a seat.
Bring a card game or two. Playing a card game like Uno or something easy and silly to pass the time is expected. It also helps you drink more slowly.
Pack a portable phone charger. You’ll have some regrets if your phone dies and you cannot call a cab or navigate home.
Most of All, Enjoy Starkbierfest!
That should be everything you need to survive the Munich Starkbierfest or Strong beer festival. Save it to your favorite trip planning board or just an excuse to visit Munich for this cultural event! See you there!
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