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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. The period that follows after burning your sins away for Ash Wednesday is Lent or the “Fifth Season”. One would assume that Lent it is a time to abstain from drinking and partake in fasting, but it’s Munich, so that means it is time to DRINK Starkbier AKA Strong Beer! Starkbier is consumed at Starkbierfest, a cultural event, here in Munich. People gather to drink a strong Doppelbock Bier, sing songs, dance, and make-merry to forget they are ‘fasting’. Since this strong beer will literally put you on your ass, this survival guide 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.
Let’s dig deeper into the history and cultural significance that brings us this hot mess of a celebration every year. Back in the good ole’ days of the 1600s the monks at the Paulaner monastery (which is now a brewery and restaurant) began brewing beer. It was around the time they were fasting for Lent they realized they could use beer as 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!
This delicious beer kept the monks going for hundreds of years, but the monks weren’t allowed to share with the public due to restrictive laws. Laws began to change in the late 1780s and beer began flowing from the monks to the public. The monks were finally able to (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, giving way to Starkbierfest in its current form here in Munich. The ‘Salvator Speech’, known locally as derbleckt is a time in which 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 prices of the beer. It was either the strong beer or the steep prices 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, met with more clashing beer steins and walking sticks. Thankfully the fight was calmed down, and today while the prices are a bit steep most people tend to keep their swords put away.
The Beer: Starkbier
Starkbier literally translates to ‘Strong Beer’.. Known as liquid bread, of Flüssiges Brot 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 and roasted notes and very little detectable hops. The first monks of Paulaner brewed this and named it Salvator.
Not only is the beer strong in terms of hearty calorie content, but it is also a pretty high alcohol content. The alcohol content ranges from 7-14% with traditional Bavarian doppelbocks on the higher side. So, this isn’t your typical 3-5% beer, so go into the fest with that in mind. I’ll give you some tips for managing your drunk later, but this beer is no joke and is almost as strong as wine. At Starkbier fest the beer is consumed from ceramic steins to keep it cool and fresh.
Meet the Beers – each brewery has its own name for the Starkbier traditionally ending in -ator. You’ll notice some subtle differences in the flavor, but they are all quite 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 beer related day trips!
The Modern Celebration
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 is plenty of traditional songs played by a German band, lots of dancing and singing, and of course drinking. It is still a local event, as tourism is quite low during the months of March and April here in Munich, so experiencing it really is something special. At Paulaner expect a mixed crowd of young and old traditional Bavarians and immigrants/expats. Everyone comes together to play cards with the table, share a meal, and of course Prost their beers.
Many of the major breweries now host their own, but the biggest and original is still at Paulaner brewery.
What to Wear to Starkbierfest
Since this is a traditional beer fest in Bavaria that means 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, or if you choose to sit outside.
The Nitty Gritty Details About Starkbierfest 2020
The following details are for the main event at Paulaner am Nockherberg. I list some alternatives below.
When is Starkbierfest 2022?
DATES FOR 2022 TBD
Mon-Fri: 2 pm – 11 pm
Sat-Sun: 11 am – 11 pm
As usual, Saturday and Sunday and after work hours are quite busy. You can manage to get by without a reservation if you go early during the weekends and before work ends on the weekdays.
Starkbierfest typically starts around St. Joseph Day and lasts for a whopping 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. Because of this, the dates change every year, so check back for the new details.
Where is Starkbierfest?
Starkbierfest is located at the traditional Paulaner brewery and beer hall. It sits on a hill just outside of the Munich city center.
Paulaner am Nockherberg: Hochstraße 77, 81541 München
You can get there via several public transportation options which I’ll list for you, but let’s be honest using Google maps is MUCH easier.
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 not be able 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.
Tram 18/N27 and get off at Mariahilfplatz, walk from there
Tram 15/25 and get off at Ostfriedhof, walk from there
Bus 52 and get off at Mariahilfplatz, walk from there
Bus X30, 148, N45 and get off at Haltestelle Ostfriedhof, walk from there
U1, U7 and get off at Kolumbusplatz, walk from there
Any S-Bahn and get off at Rosenheimer Platz, walk from there.
Cost and Money
Entrance Fee: Unlike Oktoberfest, Starkbierfest in Munich is not free and there is an entrance fee. If you arrive first thing in the morning, you need to cough up 2 Euros. If you arrive after 5 pm on a weekday or 3 pm on a weekend, you’ll need about 9 Euros to get in, but you get a voucher for a beer. There is a little ticket booth as you walk up, so make sure to pay and get your ticket for that beer.
Beer Cost: 1 Liter of beer costs about 8 Euros.
*Prices of beer change nearly every year, and who knows what it will be once it hopefully opens again in 2022, after a two year breake. I plan on trying to go the first or second day and will update the post ASAP, but be prepared for a higher cost.
Cash or Card?: Cards are NOT accepted, bring plenty of cash for the entrance, beer, and food.
Reservations are encouraged for Saturday, Sunday, and evenings. You will book for a group of 10, and each person pays 13.50 Euros for a total of 135 Euros. Each person gets an 11.50 Euro voucher for drinks. Don’t worry though, you really don’t need a reservation if you arrive early enough. Chances are if you’re reading this in February or March, it’s too late to book, so plan ahead for next year, and just wing it – you’ll be fine.
Other Starkbier Festivals Around Munich
This guide gave you all the details 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 really celebrate the 5th season.
When: Feb 27 – April 4 Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday
Where: Thur, Fri, & Sat in the Lagerkeller Arnulfstr. 52 and Saturdays also in the Festsall
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 really 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 with 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 yourself 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 semi function. 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.
Most of All Enjoy Starkbierfest!
That should be everything you need to survive Starkbierfest or Strong beer festival here in Munich. Make sure you save to your favorite trip planning board or just an excuse to come to Munich for this cultural event! See you there!
Susanna grew up in small-town Alaska where the changing climate was always on her mind. Through traveling, she gained an interest in the power of sustainable and regenerative travel. She now attends a Master's program for environmental sustainability and bridges sustainable travel with environmental science. When she's not outside playing, you'll find her drinking whiskey with her cat and partner while trying to get to level 99 in life.