As the lingering snow begins to melt and faint signs of spring draw near, the people of Munich observe Starkbierzeit or “strong beer season.” The two-week beer fest is wrapped around St. Joseph’s Day, March 19. The Paulaner monks unknowingly started the nearly four-century-long tradition back in 1627. At the time, according to ecclesiastic doctrine, only liquids were to be consumed during Lent. The friars typically followed the medieval Benedictine recipe to brew up a strong, malty beer of which they called Sankt-Vater-Bier or “Holy Father Beer.” Later, the original name evolved into Salvator. They found that the stronger they made the beer, the more nourishing it was and the friars were therefore able to abstain from breaking the Lenten fast. Naturally, they began doubling the recipe, thus giving birth to the Doppelbock.
The citizens of Munich soon began to follow suit and are still to this day, going ‘strong.’ Come Ash Wednesday, true to monastic tradition, the Munich community puts aside the solid bread to make room for liquid bread – the Doppelbock. And so, strong beer season begins.
The Paulaner Brewery, home of the Salvator, is especially appealing to both locals and tourists during the Lenten season. According to Emily, a Munich and Bavarian blogger, the potent scent of the Paulaner Brewery can be smelled from quite a distance, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to locate!
However, while the Salvator is still very present in Strong Beer Season festivities, many Bavarian breweries create their own versions of a Doppelbock for the festival. The beers tend to be rich in flavor and weigh in at 7+% ABV. They often have hints of caramel, molasses, bread and dried fruits. Breweries usually label their variation with a name ending in “ator,” in respect to the original. To read about a foreign student’s first-hand experience celebrating Starkbierzeit last spring, visit her blog.
Once the Salvator keg is tapped, a new Bavarian beer year officially begins. Celebrations of all kinds can then be seen across Munich beer halls, with only one common necessity among them: strong beer. For exact dates and locations of upcoming Starkbierzeit events, visit the Insiders Munich blog here.
To learn more about the Starkbierzeit tradition and its origin, click here.