When people think about beer festivals in Germany, it’s obviously Oktoberfest that springs to mind. What many people don’t know, perhaps, is that Oktoberfest is only one of the many many beer festivals hosted across southern Germany from Spring through Fall. Granted, it is by far the largest beer fest, but it's debatable whether it’s the best…
Personally, I think Starkbierfest is one of the most compelling of the many beer festivals. First, it’s the early season stand-out, usually happening in late March/early April (during Lent), just when the snow is melting, and it therefore draws in the crowds of locals who have been hibernating throughout the winter and are ready to come out and party and celebrate the coming Spring. People tend to be in a great mood (at least before they’ve gotten too many of the extra-strong beers into their system, after which those high spirits somehow lead to an inevitably large number of fist fights… not typical for Germany, and not meant to dissuade you from participating). The beer is also something special – the usual Helles and Weissbier options are of course on offer, but Starkbierfest celebrates its namesake, Starkbier. Starkbier, literally translated to “strong beer”, is a dark beer that has a higher percentage of solids (sugar, starch, protein, etc… for example, Doppelbock is a Starkbier) than other beers, and also has a higher alcohol content (usually 7 -8%). Basically, Starkbier is liquid food that gets you drunk really, really fast. All of the Munich breweries brew a special Starkbier every Spring just for this festival. Munich’s Paulaner Brewery has been making its famous Starkbier, the Salvatore, since the 1700s.
The Paulaner at Nockherberg is the place to celebrate Starkbierfest. Several of the other Munich breweries also host the Starkbierfest, for example the Löwenbräukeller and the Augustiner-Keller, but the place to get that real, festive vibe is Nockherberg. The large beer hall is decked out with the usual festive wreaths and banners, on any day of the week it will be packed to the gills with Dirndl and Lederhosen-clad revelers, and a good, reliable band blasts out the usual, beloved mix of Schlager music and popular hits from the dais in the center of the hall. In short, it’s as good a party as any of the tents at Oktoberfest, and instead of drinking liters of Helles, you get to drink liters of Starkbier.
Paulaner am Nockherberg
U1/2 to Kolumbusplatz, or
Tram 17 to Mariahilfplatz
Walk up Nockherstraße to the top of the hill