After a distinguished drinking career spanning a quarter of a century, I’ve finally settled on my favourite two beers – and as luck would have it, they’re both from Germany’s third biggest city, Munich. Sampling Hofbräu and Augustiner at a Bavarian beer hall is an experience you can’t miss.
The home of my second favourite beer in the world is one of Munich’s most popular tourist attractions. So while I supped on delicious steins of Hofbräu sitting at a long communal bench, throngs of tour groups would come in, with no intention of buying a beer, filming the Hofbräuhaus’ mosaiced ceiling and brass band with their iPad cameras. There’s even a kiosk in the middle of this huge beer hall selling souvenirs.
We sat down next to a group of local gents in traditional Bavarian dress, and sang along to the oompah band with them before getting a lesson in how to play wooden spoons. They told us they come here every Friday, and always sit at the same table and wear the same outfits. I asked one of them why he was drinking from a ceramic stein, rather than a glass one like everyone else. He told me there was a waiting list to become a Hofbräuhaus member, and once you become a member you can apply for a locker – he is now the proud owner of a locker in which he stores his own stein. 1 litre steins (almost 2 pints) of original, dark or wheat Hofbräu are on offer. They stop selling half-litre steins at 6pm, presumably to both help the busy waiters out a little and to maximise revenue.
A historic building, a brewery was founded here in 1589 by the state government of Bavaria, Hitler held the first meeting of the Nazi Party in a function room upstairs in 1920 but more importantly I spent my birthday night-out there back in 2014. There are Hofbräuhaus franchises all over Germany, Europe and the USA but head to Munich for the original and the best.
The most central place to try my favourite beer is at Zum Augustiner, a beer hall and restaurant in Munich’s Aldstadt on the pedestrianised street between Marienplatz and Karlsplatz U-bahn stations at 27 Neuhauser Straße. Augustiner was established in 1328, and is Munich’s oldest independent brewery – it’s a little quieter, cheaper and less touristy here than at Hofbräuhaus. The décor and the building may not be as impressive, but in my opinion the beer is superior.
Like at Hofbräuhaus, you can only buy beer here made by one brewery. Although it also makes dark beer and wheat beer, the Augustiner brewery’s pièce de résistance is its light-coloured Edelstoff lager beer, which at a deceptively strong 5.6% costs €3.90 for a half litre glass. Bottles of Edelstoff are available from lots of craft beer shops in the UK, but I’ve yet to see it anywhere on tap – if you do, please let me know.
Plates of hearty German food are sold in the restaurant room if you need something to soak up all the beer. My sausage platter served with sauerkraut was just what the doctor ordered, and the applestrudel with vanilla sauce was lovely but a mistake in hindsight as it killed off my appetite for one final beer.
There are many more beer halls and beer gardens in central Munich but unfortunately I didn’t get chance to get to those specialising in Paulaner and Lowenbrau. This city really is a beer drinker’s paradise whether you come in time for Oktoberfest or not.