Mar 17, 2014

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What exactly is the Starkbierfest?

What exactly is the Starkbierfest?

The Starkbierfest is the yin to the Oktoberfest’s yang. While the Wiesn starts every autumn on a set date, involves lots of outdoor activity, and is known across the world, the Starkbierfest starts every spring on a moveable date, takes place almost entirely indoors, and is known more or less to locals only. What holds this Bavarian yin and yang together? Stronger-than-usual beer and Bavarian “Tracht” costume.

What is it called? Starkbierfest or Starkbieranstich?

The Starkbierfest – or “strong beer festival” – is far more complex than the Oktoberfest, starting with the fact that it carries more than just a couple of names. Some Munich residents call it Starkbieranstich, or tapping of the strong beer, while others refer to it as the strong beer time or season: Starkbierzeit, Starkbiersaison. The former refers to the fact that, just like the Oktoberfest, the Starkbierfest starts with a festive tapping ceremony; the latter names describe the fact that celebrations go on for weeks. It’s all a bit looser than the Oktoberfest, so really, you’re not going “to the Starkbierfest”, but to events during the strong beer season.

When is the strong beer season?


Just like this street, the Starkbierfest is typical Munich!

The fact that the strong beer season is not a fixed time is one of the reasons why the Starkbierfest has remained a more local event. Originally, the festivities were held because the monks were brewing their last draught before the summer, when brewing was too great a fire risk; to make sure the beer held through the hot months, they brewed it stronger, and were anxious to get stuck in straight away. This last draught was generally brewed in March (strong beer is often called Märzenbier in German), and so the strong beer fest had to be fitted in between carnival festivities before Lent and Easter. To this day, the strong beer is tapped on a Wednesday after Ash Wednesday and the Starkbierfest goes through to Easter: but due to the facts that Easter, and consequently Ash Wednesday, move in the calendar, and that the owner of Paulaner am Nockherberg brewery – who put on the tapping – has the final say about which Wednesday to take, it is hard to predict the Strong Beer Festival with much accuracy.

This year, by the way, it starts on 19th March and goes through until mid-April.

Where and how to celebrate Starkbierfest?

For the Munich breweries, the Oktoberfest is something of an away match, but the Starkbierfest is a home fixture. Drinkers go to the brewery halls and drink the house strong beer (always above 7% alcohol and always with a name ending in “ator”). Just like the Wiesn, though, it’s advisable – or perhaps  simply necessary – to reserve a table if you’re planning to go of an evening towards the end of the week; things get particularly tight on Fridays and Saturdays.

Apart from that, though, the procedure is similar to the Oktoberfest: put on dirndl or lederhosen, eat heavy dishes and drink tasty beer, and dance to traditional and modern classics – on the benches, if you fancy, so bring suitable footwear.

We’ll definitely be there – early April this year – and will be sure to keep you up to date on the trends we see there for Bavarian fashion in 2014.

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