The steiners are weighty, the beer gardens numerous and the pub crawls are epic. And we haven’t even covered the beer bikes yet. Yes, Oktoberfest is the big name on the Munich beer festival scene, but year –round, ale, meat and cheese is more or less on every menu. Lederhosen is of course optional, but when everyone at the Hofbrauhaus is wearing it, don’t be too surprised to find yourself considering a wardrobe change. Beer flows through this city’s halls, gardens, tents and quite possibly its veins. So our much Munich beer guide is here to sort the quality hop spots from the touristy tipple traps.
Let’s get this ale-soaked event reviewed early doors. To the untrained eye, this Munich beer festival is just an excuse to spend an entire city break supping beer. But really, who needs an excuse in Munich? Jokes aside, Oktoberfest does actually come fully-loaded with some pretty solid historic credentials. The very first ‘fest dates back to 1810 to celebrate the marriage of Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen and Prince Ludwig. Things got suitably lavish and the party vibe has continued for over 200 years.
Now, the event is played out across the globe, but Munich is the city that started it all. Fly in during the 16 day shindig and expect plenty of beer. There’s also a generous helping of Bavarian music and lederhosen – along with parades, church services, concerts, fairground rides and a gun salute. Quite a mixed bag, but the through theme is of course, ale. All six Munich breweries get involved – with beer tents filling the streets.
If you don’t fancy jetting in for the Munich beer festival, but wouldn’t mind finding out a bit more about the history behind it all, drop in to the Oktoberfest Museum.
For a city so seemingly hop-strewn, it’s fairly low on breweries. Six breweries certainly keep the beer halls well-stocked, and, yes you could tour them all, but time is precious. Pop one of these on your Munich weekend guide and you’ll be all clued up on the local beer industry.
Take a peek behind the scenes of this out-of-town brewery for a chance to get out of the city. 130 years of wheat beer history awaits those that make the 35 minute journey. It’s hardly a spoiler when we say that Erdinger has steadfastly been brewing the same single recipe since 1886. Very much a follower of the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ philosophy, the brewery are proud of their adherence to the German Purity Law and top notch ingredients.
See where it all started, with a tour of Munich’s oldest brewery. You’ll need to hop on a Beer & Brewery tour with Munich Walk Tours for this one, but the added extras really round out the experience. Paulaner’s beer credentials date back as far as 1516 and their key ingredient – water – has apparently been untouched for 10,000 years. This is a brewery that loves its stats and figures almost as much as it adores adherence to quality ingredients and the crucial Bavarian purity law. Don’t worry if that all sounds a little technical. There’s plenty of time to digest the details over a post-tour drink at the Hofbräuhaus.
How do you feel about peddling for your supper. Or, at least, cycling your way from one ale spot to the next? It’s easy to dismiss these as merely a gimmick for a Munich stag do, but the beer bike trend seems to have caught on. Hop aboard the Munich Beer Bike with a few friends and sup ice cold beer, while you peddle around the city. Your guide is also your (Very sober) driver for the hour’s sightseeing. You can learn about the city – or pop on a playlist for a very different kind of party. Fun with a capital F that never pretends it’s anything else.
By now, you won’t be surprised to learn that beer tours in Munich aren’t hard to find. Most of the main tour providers will have some sort of small group tour on offer. But, few have Munich beer guides that can claim to be a beer sommelier. Which, for some, might seem a tad over the top. Until you learn that German beer gets a little complicated – especially in the craft beer world. Thankfully, the snappily titled Craft Beer Tour Munich are on hand to walk you through it. Their sommelier takes you on a tasting tour that spans 5 (or more) local craft beers, whilst guiding you through Munich neighbourhoods and their beer history credentials. Expect tasting notes, tips on food pairing and a four hour romp peppered with Bavarian snacks.
Another top notch tour provider – for beer, or just about anything else Munich-based, is the Thirsty Historian. This is the place to find the most in-depth Munich beer tours. They offer a standard Munich Beer & Brewery experience, but the focus here is on private and personalised tours. Fancy flitting between beer gardens with a local in the know? They can do that? Want to take a deep dive into Munich’s beer history as you take a seat in one of the many beer halls? That’s their speciality. Talk to this team, they really know their stuff.
Brace yourself for an experience far removed from the quintessential British beer garden. Munich very much takes a ‘go big or go home’ approach to their outdoor beer supping set-ups. In some spots there’s room for thousands of ale drinkers. Yes, there are some idyllic gardens stowed away, but for the Munich experience, you’ll want to drop by some of the bigger players in the scene.
Weighing in with the lofty ‘largest in Bavaria’ title – Hirschgarten, may well be the world’s biggest beer garden. 8,000 thirsty visitors can sup here at any one time. Plus, there’s room for 500 more in the restaurant. Yet, somehow they’ve still managed to apply the descriptor of ‘cosy’ to this popular outdoor venue. Perhaps it’s because it has become a favourite for Munich families? All visitors are welcome to bring their own food, though who wouldn’t be tempted by the constant supply of rotisserie chicken? Find a shaded spot under the trees and watch this ale-serving behemoth in action.
There are a few beer gardens to choose from in this huge urban park. The biggest, the Chinese Tower, is far from a secret spot. Just about everyone comes here for the experience of supping a beer with a few thousand close friends. Do drop by for the spectacle, but there are other beer gardens in the park worthy of your time. Our pick is Seehaus to the north of the park. It’s beer prices might be more than the Chinese Tower, but you’re paying for a lake view, decent food menu and a slightly more refined experience. If you’re looking for cheaper prices, try Aumeister. Right at the top of the park, it’s a fair walk from the city centre. Though there’s no harm in arriving thirsty here.
While all the tourists pile into the packed beer halls of the Hofbraehaus, find your way to Taxisgarten. This is the beer garden local residents retreat to when all others are bustling with city breakers looking to experience the ‘real’ Munich. It’s got all the appeal the big gardens bring – shady trees, traditional food (try the Ox rolls) and a playground for little ones. Non-drinkers can sample soft drinks – and the Hofbräu beer is always suitably chilled.
Orbzii tip: In a city that lives on pork knuckle and cheese, it can be hard to find traditional foods made vegan. Taxisgarten has you covered with a plant-based version of their popular Ox roll.