Starkbierzeit (strong beer season) in March is considered Munich's fifth season. It is thanks to the monks who brewed a strong, nourishing beer in the monasteries at this time of year to get through Lent unscathed. The tradition of Starkbier is still alive today and enjoys great popularity. In the weeks of March, sometimes even from the end of February, many Munich brewery pubs host Starkbier festivals. All dates and information are available here.
Alcohol, coffee, sweets, too little exercise – many of us use the Lent period between Ash Wednesday and Easter to abstain from bad habits for a while after the wild days of carnival. In the past, people had no choice at all and fasting was subject to strict rules, especially in monasteries. The diet of a monk from the mid-17th century can be summed up as ”meagre and vegan”. They were not allowed to eat more than one meal a day during the fast, and the food was to be free of meat and other animal products. Anyone who broke the fast faced harsh punishments.
By the time the beer arrived in Rome after an interminable journey, it had turned sour and the Pope is reported to have said in disgust: ”If they insist on drinking this swill, then so be it – for penance it's suitable!”
Nevertheless, the monks kept coming up with new tricks to ease their daily fast. For example, they wrapped minced meat in a coating of pasta dough to hide it from God's eye – did they really believed that God could not see inside a so-called Maultasche? They also brewed a particularly strong beer, rich in alcohol and thus also rich in calories, because liquids were exempt from fasting. Allegedly, they even sent a sample of it to the Pope to get his blessing. On the interminable journey to Rome, the beer had gone sour, and the Pope is said to have replied in disgust: ”If they insist on drinking this swill, then so be it – for penance it's suitable!”
Although most Starkbier today comes from Bavaria, its origins date back to the 13th century in the town of Einbeck in Lower Saxony. For a long time, the Munich court had beer imported from Einbeck, until it became too expensive for them and they simply poached the Einbeck brewmaster along with his brewing secret for ”Ainpöckisch Bier” for the Hofbräuhaus (beer hall). This name then developed into ”Bockbier” (buck beer), which has nothing to do with goats or other bucks.
The Starkbier, also known as ”Fastenbock” or ”Doppelbock”, is higher in original wort than usual (at least 18 per cent), as can be seen from its golden yellow colour. With an alcohol content of around 7.5 per cent, it is also significantly stronger than a normal Munich draught beer, which has about 5 per cent.
All the major Munich breweries brew Doppelbock beers. You can identify them by their names which end in ”-ator”: Augustinerbrauerei's Starkbier is called Maximator, Löwenbrauerei's Triumphator, Spatenbrauerei's Optimator, Hacker-Pschorr's Animator. But the most famous is the original – the Salvator from Paulaner Brewery. You can find an overview of all typical Bavarian beer types in our beer typology.
Since 1651, the Paulaner monks in the Munich monastery of Neudeck in der Au have served a beer variety in the style of ”Ainpöck” beer every spring in honour of the founder of their order. It initially bore the name ”Sankt-Vater-Bier”, which later developed into Salvator in local vernacular. Since the 18th century, the Bavarian Elector has been the guest of honour at the annual Salvator tapping and was presented with the first mug.
This tradition continues to this day at the Nockherberg in the Au. Today, instead of the Elector, the Bavarian Prime Minister has the honour of the first mug. But unlike the situation almost 300 years ago, he has to put up with a lot of personal ridicule in return. He shares this fate with the rest of the invited political VIPs. Actually, all those present seem eager to be ”derbleckt” (made fun of). Because if you don't play a leading role in ”derblecken” (traditional deriding of politicians), you don't play a leading role in politics either.
Today, instead of the Elector, the Bavarian Prime Minister has the honour of the first mug. But unlike the situation almost 300 years ago, he has to put up with a lot of personal ridicule in return.
The merry ”Salvator-Polit-Show” on the Nockherberg is the annual prelude of Starkbier tapping. A cabaret artist in a monk's robe slips into the role of ”Brother Barnabas” and pours mockery and biting remarks over the heads of the powerful. The long list of Lent preachers at the Nockherberg includes famous names, such as Walter Sedlmayr, Bruno Jonas and Django Asül. From 2011 to 2018, cabaret artist Luise Kinseher was the first woman to deliver the Lent sermon at the Nockherberg. She temporarily turned the character of Brother Barnabas into ”Mama Bavaria”. Allgäu satirist Maximilian ”Maxi” Schafroth has been setting the tone at ”Derblecken” (traditional mockery of politicians) since 2023.
Dates: 28 February 2024, Salvator tapping with Derblecken at Nockherberg with Maximilian Schafroth as Lenten preacher, invited guests only, live broadcast on Bavarian television.
Friday, March 1 to Sunday, 24 March, 2024: Starkbier festival for all
Tickets: Online tickets for the Starkbier festival at Nockherberg are available here
Address: Hochstrasse 77, 81541 Munich
The strong beer season is celebrated in the Löwenbräukeller with original Oktoberfest bands. ”Die Wadlbeisser” play daily from 6 pm to 11 pm. From 10 pm, DJs play at the daily after-parties in the Bar Ludwig.
Termine: Friday, March 1 to Saturday, March 23, 2024, Fridays and Saturdays, from 14 March Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays
Tickets: Online tickets for the Starkbier festival at Löwenbräukeller are available here
Address: Nymphenburger Strasse 2, 80335 München
The Starkbier festival in the Augustiner-Keller is celebrated in the Festsaal and the Alter Lagerkeller. The band ”Harthauser Musi” plays in the Lagerkeller on all days. Bands will perform in the Festsaal (festive hall) on Saturdays, many of them old acquaintances from the Oktoberfest such as the ”089 Band”, the ”Cagey Strings” or the ”Wuidara Pistols”.
Dates: Thursday, February 22 to Saturday, March 23, 2024
Tickets: Online tickets for the Starkbier festival at the Augustiner-Keller are available here.
Address: Arnulfstrasse 52, 80335 Munich
The Starkbier tapping at the Donisl is celebrated on Friday, 1 March. The beer served is called Animator from Hacker-Pschorr brewery. Bavarian bands perform typical ”pub music” on all dates.
Dates: Friday, March 1 to Saturday, March 23, 2024
In the Ayinger Bräustüberl, the multi-award-winning strong beer from the brewery, the Ayinger Celebrator, will be on tap. As always, the tapping will be celebrated with an as yet unnamed Bavarian band and a speech by the brewery director.
Dates: Friday, March 1 to Saturday, March 23, 2024
Tickets: Tickets and table reservations for the Starkbier festival at the Ayinger Bräustüberl at email@example.com
Address: Münchener Strasse 2, 85653 Munich