Beer in Bavaria is delicious. They take their beer seriously here, and no other place in Germany is more distinctly known for its beer than Munich.
City of Monks
The city itself, before it could even be called a city, was just a land with a lot of monasteries. So a person from this area would simply say, “I’m from that place with the monks.” And that’s where Munich (or München, in German) would derive its name.
The monk is the symbol of the city and these symbols are scattered liberally throughout the city, even turning up on police badges and festooned everywhere in emblems and statues.
Genuine Bavarian Beer
When you think of a monk, you probably think of the classic image of a monk: a jolly bald fat man lifting a stein and praising God for creating beer, which tells you just how good the beer is here.
Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
– Benjamin Franklin
In fact, over time the manufacturing of beer became codified in what became known as the Bavarian beer purity laws. These purity laws enforced both simplicity and purity – only water, barley, and hops were originally allowed to be used. The history of these laws are fairly interesting if you want to nerd out for a while about obscure protectionist laws from the Middle Ages.
Despite their antiquity and being struck down by European Union courts as being unfair to lesser, foreign breweries, Munich breweries still adhere to the old beer law standard.
Local breweries – of which there are six, each hundreds of years old – are very particular about maintaining the tradition of their beer. There are no sugars or sucrose added. The beer is simple and the beer is good.
Consequently, you can drink a liter or two or three and your hangover really won’t be that bad!
Another interesting element of Bavarian beer culture is that the six brew houses of Munich have a kind of territorial dominance throughout the city. Many bars will advertise their affiliation with one particular brewery, such as Augustiner or Paulaner, and sell no other beer. Other times, if for example there is a beer garden owned by the city, that beer garden isn’t allowed to discriminate, so one brewery is kept in stock at a time on a rolling basis.
Augustiner is the most popular brewery and always sells fast, while Spaten (Munich’s least favorite local brew) will sit on rotation for months before being finished. But don’t be unfair to Spaten or any of the other brew-houses: you should sample all of them!
Speaking of Spaten, the locals found a clever way of getting rid of all of that unwanted beer by simply putting it on rotation during Oktoberfest. Tourists won’t notice because they’re just happy to be in Germany during Oktoberfest.
Now everyone has heard of Oktoberfest, but the event actually has a great history. It was originally the celebration of the wedding of King Ludwig I. The people enjoyed the celebration so much that they asked the king to allow a repeat celebration the following year, and then the tradition stuck. Oktoberfest is really just the world’s longest running wedding party.
All About Tradition
What we really liked about beer in Bavaria was the sense of old tradition being kept alive. There are many traditions we didn’t write about in this post, such as women and men dancing around the maypoles located in every beer garden, or the traditional lederhosen and dirndl garments worn for all kinds of occasions.
We appreciated how family friendly beer gardens were, which encouraged everyone to bring their own food and enjoy a day of beer and eating and socializing, while the kids ran around nearby in a playground attached to the beer garden, safely in eyesight. The concept of the beer garden really needs to be more popular in the United States.