Oans, Zwoa, Drei, G’suffa
Bavaria, and Munich in particular, is perhaps most famous for beer. The Oktoberfest, the biggest party in the world, has been held here every year since 1833, but the brewing goes back much further than that. Most breweries were founded by monks or royalty as a way to find a replacement for food during Lent, to make money or to kill time. There are over 700 breweries in Bavaria, making up 30 percent of breweries worldwide and they produce around 40 different kinds of beer. Another interesting statistic: Bavaria serves about 2.7 billion litres of beer annually, 500 million of which are consumed in the two-week long Oktoberfest. Find an overview of Munich brew houses in our restaurant section. One... two.. three... down the hatch!
The Reinheitsgebot purity law, decreed by Duke Wilhelm IV in 1516, states that only four ingredients are allowed in the beer brewing process: water, hops, yeast and barley (malt). German beers brewed abroad, like Löwenbräu, have added preservatives, which double the hangover effect.
Ale is the oldest type of beer and involves the top fermentation process where yeast floats in the brew and is used to transform sugars into alcohol. It contains barley, hops, and water. This method was popular in the early days due to the fact that it isn’t temperature sensitive, and therefore can be brewed at any time of year. In Germany it is known as Altbier (old beer), although it is virtually non-existent in Bavaria. Most English beers and American micro brews belong to this type.
Lager beer was invented in the 19th century in Plzen, Czech Republic, hence the name Pilsener. It involves a different method of fermentation where yeast settles at bottom. Unlike ale, lager (which means storage) is brewed in temperature-controlled conditions and then stored.
Popular Munich beers
Helles is the most popular Munich beer although it’s not very old (it was introduced in 1895) and is a lager. This crowd-pleaser is a translucent gold colour and comes in at least a 0.5 litre glass and for special festivals and in beergardens in a Maß litre stein. This beer contains about 5 percent alcohol, has a light taste, and is really ideal in warm weather. It must be served with 1-2cm of foam or it is considered flat. In other parts of Germany, beer is served in a tiny 0.2-0.3l glass, much to the consternation of the Bavarians.
Pilsener is known in Germany as Pils and is considered by most Bavarians to be a yuppie beer. It comes in a 0.3l-fluted glass complete with a lacy doily. This lager is the same colour as Helles, but has a slightly bitter taste due to its having more hops. It’s also smaller, but despite that fact, takes longer to pour.
Dunkles dark beer is a deep rich, brown lager beer, which gets its dark colour from burnt malt. Not as black and heavy as a stout (like Guinness), dunkles has a sweet flavour, and only 4.3 percent alcohol.