Water, barley and hops. The ‘Reinheitsgebot’ was clear. This legislation established that beer could only contain these three ingredients and defined the taste of the famous German drink. Despite some changes, such as the acceptance of the use of starch and wheat malt, the law continues in force throughout the land. Upon the occasion of the fifth centenary, Bavaria in general, and Munich in particular are facing 2016 as a beer-soaked year.
The Starkbierfest is the festival for strong beer. Largely unknown by the general public, it’s held annually during Lent. It’s not a festival for everyone, but it is for the most authentic: they only serve double-malt beer, with an alcohol level of close to 8% and served in litre jugs. It is held at various breweries and the most famous is Nockherberg, the enormous cellar that the brewer Paulaner owns in the centre of Munich. It’s almost an obligatory pilgrimage during what is called the ‘fifth season’. This year it will be held from 26 February to 13 March.
Bavaria in general, and Munich in particular are facing 2016 as a beer-soaked year
While half of Europe honours Saint George and celebrates World Book Day, on 23 April the Bavarians will take the chance to toast their ‘liquid bread’. It was on this date that the Reinheitsgebot was proclaimed in 1516. As a commemoration, since 1994 it has also been German Beer Day and there are organised tastings and guided tours. In Munich, the Bavarian Brewers Federation stages an event that offers free beer to those who attend.
Frühlingsfest is held between 15 April and 1 May. The spring beer festival, known as the little sister of the Oktoberfest, is 52 years old. The latter festival needs no introduction, as it attracts around six million visitors and is where 1,600 waiters are responsible for distributing seven million litres of beer. Oktoberfest 2016 will take place from 17 September to 3 October. Those who prefer to avoid the crowds can make a note of this final date: the brewers federation has organised a summer mini-festival in Munich. It will be held between 22 and 24 July in Odeonsplatz square. Over one hundred breweries have already confirmed their participation.
Apart from mass celebrations, any time is a good time to enjoy a fine beer in Munich. In a city full of pubs and beer gardens, where only local varieties are sold, craft and signature beers seem to have found their niche. The Giesinger and the Forschungsbrauerei, with a small bar next to the central market, are examples of these beers that have a personal touch. Both offer tasting programmes so that people can discover their eclectic range. Whatever the time of year, there’s no excuse not to drink a toast to the ‘Reinheitsgebot’. Prost!