Starkbierzeit is the lesser known of Munich’s beer festivals and for that very reason, perhaps better. Translated literally as Strong Beer Time, it is indeed, the time when Munich’s breweries produce their strongest beers of the year. These are the renowned Dopplebocks that while not truly double the strength of regular bocks, are nonetheless lethal, especially since they are served in liter mugs. Generally clocking in at well above 7% alcohol, you have to make sure to do one thing to ensure a safe evening. You have to eat a hearty meal prior to or at the very least with your first mug. Preferably stick to Bavarian standards like Schweinsbraten as pork fat is a good way to fend off the effects of the dangerous brews. One Mass or liter mug is enough for most and two are safe for those used to drinking beer. If you make it to three, consider yourself a strong drinker and stop right there or you’re not likely to remember much else.
Schweinsbraten at Forschungsbrauerei
Starkbierzeit technically starts on Ash Wednesday as it coincides with Lent. The high high octane nectar is also very high in calories and brewing monks devised it to make it through their fasting period. Forty days is, after all, a long time. Munich breweries probably were thinking the same thing when they came up with the idea of an Oktoberfest type festival with the strong beer theme. So, it generally runs for three weeks more towards the end of Lent. Paulaner, Löwenbräu and Augustiner are the three big players in Starkbierzeit but there are some great small places that are more traditional. One such brewery is the Forschungsbrauerei in Perlach, about 15 minutes south of Munich by S-Bahn.
familiar front of Forschungsbrauerei
They start a week or so earlier than the others so we headed out last night and thankfully made a last minute reservation. A group of six guys got off the train in Perlach with us and it was obvious where they were going. On the homestretch of the ten minute walk to the brewery, an older local woman asked my wife if we were all going to Forschungs and she was happily surprised when my wife said yes.
Forschungsbrauerei’s amazing Blonder Bock
On arrival, we were squeezed on a table mostly used by wait staff, conveniently facing the bar. The waitress was apologetic but it was perfect for us. My wife, having worked in service, loves to watch the kitchen and our vantage point of the small oompah band was perfect. Two ceramic Mass were soon laid before us, the scent of hops a great precursor to the first majestic sip. The brewery’s Blonder Bock is one of the finest in town. For my money, only Paulaner’s Salvator, the granddaddy of Dopplebocks is better, and that only at the festival where it’s still served via gravity from huge wooden barrels. The Forschungs entry is a marvelous mix of hops and malt, with a clean finish that is never cloying. That’s not an easy feat for an 8.2% brew. One sip in and our Schweinsbraten was sitting before us, piping hot. We’d wisely ordered our food with our beer order. It was an ample portion, swimming in a rich pork fat laden sauce. This is the kind of sustenance you need to drink Starkbier!
There was a table of older locals across from us, obviously enjoying the music so the band played quite a bit in our room. Even my wife, generally not a huge fan of such music, thought it was pretty okay. I ordered a second Mass but she helped me finish it. It’s an easy beer to drink but you feel the effects of it quickly and the wise move is to stop after two, even if sharing. That we did and were soon out into the quite cold night, walking briskly back to the S-Bahn station.
locals getting into the swing of things at Forschungsbrauerei
Forschungsbrauerei is a relative newcomer on the Munich brewing scene, having started in 1930 by a brewer named Gottfried Jakob. Run for most of its existence as a seven-month business closed in winter due to the brewer’s other job as researcher for the big Munich breweries, it has changed hands and is now a year round destination. The S-7 in the direction of Aying will have you there in no time. The brewery is about a ten minute walk from the Perlach station.