Brew­eries in Mu­nich

Ok­to­ber­fest is known the world over, but Mu­nich’s leg­endary beer scene can be en­joyed through­out the year, says

Business Traveller (India) - - CONTENTS - An­drew Eames

There’s no doubt­ing the re­fresh­ment of choice in Mu­nich. Even as you step off the plane, there it is in the ter­mi­nal – the Air­brau, the only air­port brew­ery in Europe, with its gleam­ing vats and mash tuns in situ at the back.

In­side, an ap­pre­cia­tive pub­lic will be set­tling down to that es­sen­tial Bavar­ian pre-flight pick-me-up – white sausages, pret­zels and a freshly brewed halflitre of May­day, Jet­stream or Ku­mu­lus. Or all three.

The air­port’s show­cas­ing of beer cul­ture is no sur­prise to any­one who knows Mu­nich. This is, after all, the home of the Rein­heits­ge­bot – the pu­rity law that in­sists Ger­man beer should con­tain only malted grains, hops and water (yeast was added later), a prin­ci­ple that still gov­erns do­mes­tic pro­duc­tion 501 years after it was first en­acted. It is also the city with the most fa­mous beer fes­ti­val in the world, Ok­to­ber­fest, where seven mil­lion litres of the stuff are con­sumed in the course of a very merry fort­night.

But you don’t have to be here in Oc­to­ber (ac­tu­ally the fes­ti­val starts in late Septem­ber) to get the full, con­vivial ex­pe­ri­ence. This is a city that takes great pride in its tra­di­tions, and to ig­nore its beer gar­dens and beer halls is to miss out on an im­por­tant part of ur­ban life.

Although it has since spread through­out the world, the con­cept of the bier­garten orig­i­nated in Mu­nich a lit­tle over 200 years ago, when King Max­i­m­il­ian I granted per­mis­sion to the city’s brew­ers to sell di­rect from their cel­lars. Back in those days, there was no re­frig­er­a­tion, so brew­ers did most of their work in win­ter, stored their stock un­der­ground and then planted trees (usu­ally horse chest­nuts) to pro­tect their cel­lars from the summer sun.

For cus­tomers ar­riv­ing at the cel­lar door, this com­bi­na­tion of leafy shade and “liq­uid bread” proved too much of a temp­ta­tion, and rather than lug the beer home, they set­tled un­der the trees to get stuck in. Even­tu­ally, they also brought their own food and the con­cept of the beer gar­den was born.

These days, the best Mu­nich gar­dens, such as Hirschgarten (hirschgarten.com), be­side a deer park, and See­haus (kuf­fler.de), set on a lake­side in the English Gar­den, are open year round, but are busiest be­tween spring and au­tumn.

Of the two, See­haus tends to ap­peal more to the schickim­icki (trendy) crowd. Hirschgarten is much more in­for­mal, and reached through typ­i­cal in­ner-city al­lot­ments. This is the big­gest beer gar­den in town, with 8,000 seats, and you can still bring your own food, but main­stays such as spare ribs, sausages, smoked fish and Back­hendl (chicken) are avail­able from stalls through­out.

While gen­er­ally beer gar­dens tend to be sea­sonal, the down­town beer halls re­main pop­u­lar all year round. The most fa­mous by far is the Hof­brauhaus (hof­braeuhaus.de), and with its 3,000 seats and a brass band from 11am, it is no place for shrink­ing vi­o­lets. To ig­nore Mu­nich’s beer gar­dens and beer halls is to miss out on an im­por­tant part of ur­ban life

Most of the drinkers here will be vis­i­tors, but there are still ta­bles lined with wa­tery-eyed, leder­ho­sen-wear­ing gentle­men who’ll will­ingly pose for self­ies with tourists. The food served – tra­di­tional meat, bread and pota­toes – is re­mark­ably good value, but the chal­lenge is find­ing a seat and hear­ing your­self think.

The Hof­brauhaus cer­tainly has its place, but if you’ve only got time for one beer hall visit, lo­cals would point you to­wards any­thing Au­gustiner, a pri­vately owned Mu­nich brew­ery with sev­eral stun­ning old halls and a high-qual­ity beer that is largely un­known in­ter­na­tion­ally – the brew­ery is kept busy enough with lo­cal de­mand.

One of the most cen­tral Au­gustiner venues is at Gross ga st sta et ten (au­gustiner-restau­rant.com) on Neuhauser Strasse, with its art nou­veau in­te­ri­ors, pol­ished table­tops and walls cov­ered in antlers.

This is a far more re­laxed am­bi­ence than at the Hof­brauhaus, although you’ll prob­a­bly be shar­ing a table and your neigh­bours will likely want to clink glasses in a toast. Here, as in the rest of Ger­many, you must look them in the eye as you do so.

Tra­di­tions aside, there are changes afoot in the Mu­nich beer scene, par­tic­u­larly with the in­tro­duc­tion of un­fil­tered, cloudy beer that re­tains the friendly bac­te­ria. A new mi­cro­brew­ery such as Giesinger

(giesinger-braeu.de), south of the Isar, with a bar-restau­rant above the brew­house, is an ex­am­ple of the newer, fresher ap­proach. The air­port’s Air­brau pro­duces un­fil­tered, too.

Then there are the craft brew­ers, such as the hip­ster-friendly Hopfen­hacker (hopfen­hacker.de), based in Haid­hausen, where they hand-make de­li­ciously fra­grant beers. Un­like Berlin, where the craft beer scene is well de­vel­oped, there are only three or four such brew­ers in Mu­nich, says Hopfen­hacker, but then this is a more con­ser­va­tive so­ci­ety and change comes slowly.

Beer cul­ture doesn’t be­gin and end in Mu­nich, and it can be a great ex­cuse for wider ex­plo­ration of the sur­round­ing area. For ex­am­ple, 40km south­west of the city and stun­ningly lo­cated on a lit­tle hill­top above Am­mersee, the Bene­dic­tine monks of the An­dechs monastery still brew the “liq­uid bread” they started to pro­duce for pil­grims sev­eral hun­dred years ago. To­day, the num­ber of holy pil­grims may have dwin­dled, but the beer gar­den nev­er­the­less at­tracts a mil­lion vis­i­tors a year.

Over in the north-east of Bavaria near the Czech bor­der, the Zoigl (zoigl­bier.de) tra­di­tion con­tin­ues at a pace. Fam­i­lies in vil­lages in the Oberp­falz re­gion, around the town of Windis­cheschen­bach, take it in turns to use the com­mu­nity brew­house to make their own beer, cart it home and then throw open their front doors to in­vite the beer pil­grims in.

Even if you don’t par­tic­u­larly like the taste of the brewed stuff, there’s no deny­ing that its dis­cov­ery is a cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence. Q

Left and right: See­haus beer gar­den; and Air­brau brew­ery at the air­port

Pic­tured: Giesinger bar

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