Mar 5, 2014

Posted by in Bavaria, Dirndl and Lederhosen, Oktoberfest | Comments Off on The Starkbierfest: Munich’s other Oktoberfest

The Starkbierfest: Munich’s other Oktoberfest

The Starkbierfest: Munich’s other Oktoberfest

Complaining about how full of tourists the city is during the Oktoberfest is one way of marking yourself out as a true Munich resident – or at least a Wiesn regular from way back (“way back when not every last beer-swilling slob was donning the Lederhosen and muscling in on my act…” – yeah, we’ve heard it all before). Another way of showing true dedication to the cause of beer consumption in Munich, however, is to visit for the Starkbierfest: that translates as Strong Beer Festival and if you were wondering what that means, well… Get out!

Now onto a more valid enquiry: Why is the Starkbierfest such a Munich institution and why hasn’t it become as popular all over the world as the Oktoberfest? And there are several answers to that question.

Firstly, the Starkbiersaison – or Strong Beer Season – is a moveable feast. While everyone knows that, come what may, the Oktoberfest opens on the first Saturday following 15th September, the Strong Beer Season is set from year to year according to a complex mixture of calendar factors: it has to follow the Carnival celebrations around Shrove Tuesday – known in Munich as Fasching – but can be too close to Easter. And so just as Lent and Easter move, so does Starkbierfest, but with no fixed date, meaning that it essentially oscillates around mid-to-late March. This timing mobility means that most people who don’t live in Munich have absolutely no idea when it’s happening and can’t plan for it years in advance.

Secondly, the Strong Beer Fest is not all on the Theresienwiese like the Oktoberfest: you actually have to know the city and the geography of its breweries to take part, rather than just blindly charging at the Wiesn and hoping to nab a good seat in a beer tent.

Thirdly – and this follows on from that point – real Munich residents tend to book out the breweries concerned months in advance. And breweries have far lower capacities than tents, especially due to the often poor weather in March, which kind of cancels out the beer garden overflow strategy.

In a similarity to the Oktoberfest, however, the most important date in the Strong Beer Season calendar is the first tapping. This takes place on a Wednesday at Paulaner’s Nockherberg location in Giesing and, just like the “Anstich” for the Wiesn, is attended by the political great and good of Bavaria. Unlike the Oktoberfest tapping, though, the politicians are not fawned over by the tent owners, but treated to a comedy roasting by cabaret artists. Nice.

The other major similarity to the Oktoberfest – and the one that most interests us – is the traditional Bavarian costume. If you own a pair of Bavarian leather breeches or indeed a Bavarian dirndl, this is a further opportunity to get some wear out of them, as everyone from Munich will be wearing their traditional gear.

This year, by the way, the Starkbierfest starts in mid-March: and we’ve been lucky enough to grab tickets for April. We’ll be keeping you up to date about goings-on at Munich’s “other Oktoberfest” throughout the coming weeks.

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