Let’s think about this country called Germany. For some, it means the production centre for some of the world’s finest automobiles; or the thrill of a heart-pounding football match. For others, Germany represents cutting-edge science and technology; or a complex modern history including wars and a divided nation. Still others see Germany as a unified and advanced nation, with a lot to teach the rest of the world.
One thing you can’t forget about is Germany’s trademark: its cool, refreshing, golden-hued beer. Not everyone who visits Germany will enjoy football matches or driving German cars. However, everyone will try German beer. Beer is not merely a drink, but is a cultural cornerstone reflecting the traditions of a people and a nation. Beer is the best thing you can find in Germany.
“Which is the best German beer?”, you might ask. It’s a valid question, but unfortunately there is no single answer. Wherever you go in Germany, and whichever German beer you drink, you’ll be amazed by the quality and the flavour. Even so, for those who want to find the answer, let’s go to a city where there are clues everywhere – Munich.
* The purest beer
“Bayern Munchen”, while widely known for their soccer team, is also the capital city of Bavaria. Bayern was a principality (a country ruled by a prince) during the Holy Roman Empire, and later becoming the Kingdom of Bavaria with the fall of the Empire. Today, it’s the name of a German State that forms a part of the Federal Republic of Germany. Munich was the capital of the Kingdom of Bayern and today is the main city of Bavaria.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Bavaria is the leader when it comes to German beer. This is because in 1516, the Beer Purity Law, “Reinheitsgebot”, was set forth in Bavaria, which then became the absolute standard for German beer. The “Reinheitsgebot” stated that only water, barley, hops and yeast should be used to brew beer, allowing for no additives or impurities. With the fall of the Holy Roman Empire and the formation of the German Reich, the Beer Purity Law of Bavaria became the law for the whole of Germany and the absolute standard which all German breweries must adhere to.
As they were no longer able to use additives, they intensified their research into improving the taste of the beer, and because they couldn’t use poor-quality ingredients, they developed excellent-quality beer. These recipes became a tradition. Today, there are more than 1,300 breweries in Germany. These breweries have a history dating back many hundreds of years, and continue to follow brewing methods established long ago. Although the “Reinheitsgebot” is no longer the law of the land, German breweries still strictly follow the beer purity methods just as before. Thanks to this, even today, German beer still has the purest taste – which it has maintained for a staggering 500 years.
And one more thing: the “Reinheitsgebot” controlled the beer prices as well as the quality of the ingredients. Beer merchants were forbidden to mark prices as indiscriminately high. Because of this, beer became a drink that everyone could enjoy – from the nobility to the commoners, and even until now, it has remained possible for people to freely drink it at a reasonable price.
* “Prost” everyone!
Beer Hall (Bierhalle): the place to drink beer. It is a place where people drink beer here and have a chat. A beer hall isn’t just a bar. It is a community gathering spot where people share stories and opinions after work. It is the same anywhere in Germany, but in Munich, the famous breweries established beer halls and sold their beer. Glasses were filled with freshly brewed beer, and the story of each beer hall begins with the filling of a beer glass – and the emptying of it.
On days with football matches, you can see excited fans watching the games live at the beer halls. Prost means “cheers” in German. At some time or another, let’s cheerfully raise our glasses with the locals and toast together – “Prost!”
Munich’s Classic Beer Hall PATH
Hofbräuhaus → Augustiner Beer Hall → Ayingers Wirtshaus → Lowenbrau Keller
There is a famous saying in Germany: “You should drink beer under the shade of a brewery”. It means that beer is best when fresh from the barrel. For this reason, Germans drink locally-brewed beer. Later in life, perhaps after moving to another city, Germans miss the beer they had when they were young (drinking beer is permitted from the age of 14). That’s how special the beer hall is in German culture. It is even more so in Munich, a city that is famous for beer, so it is no surprise that the beer halls here are also extraordinarily unique.
Here we introduce four carefully selected beer halls. In Munich, each beer hall has its own meaning and history, so they all claim to be the leaders in totally different areas.
“The most famous bar in the world”
It is no exaggeration to say the Hofbräuhaus is the most famous bar in the world. Meaning “royal brewery”, Hofbräuhaus was established for the royal family of the Bayern Duchy in 1589, and was then opened to the general public in 1830. The spacious indoor hall is always packed, and you have to grab a seat at the long tables as soon as one appears. The beer served at Hofbräuhaus has a strong, rather bitter taste, which is popular among beer enthusiasts that like a strong flavoured beer. Live bands perform each night in an uplifting atmosphere, and the sight of enthusiastic customers dancing in the hallways is part of the normal upbeat daily goings-on at Hofbräuhaus.
(Address: Platzl 9, Munich, Germany)
“Like Finding Hidden Treasures”
Ayinger might not be the most famous beer hall in Munich, but it features some of the best beer. Ayinger is a beer that began in a rural village called Aying, in the suburbs of Munich, and like Augustinerbräuhaus, Ayinger is a form of Weissbier (wheat beer), with a particularly excellent quality and taste. Ayinger’s Wirtshaus happens to be situated across from the Hofbräuhaus, which enables you to easily compare the taste of the beer and the atmospheres of the two beer halls. After trying the famous Hofbräu, we urge you to try the hidden flavour of Ayinger. You will be able to personally experience just how diverse the flavours of the beers in Germany are.
(Address: Platzl 1A, Munich, Germany)
+Talk! The origin of the word “hoff house”.
In Korea, bars that sell beer are called “hoff houses”. Where on earth did this word “hoff” come from? It’s not from Korea. This word came directly from the word Hofbräuhaus. Since Hofbräuhaus is one of the most famous beer bars in the world, at some point, the word “Hofbrau” was taken to mean “beer”, and then the word naturally became colloquially shortened, with “hoff house” being used to mean “beer house”. We don’t know who first coined this term or when it became commonly used.
The Oldest Beer in Munich
Augustiner Beer Hall (Augustiner Bierhalle)
The Augustiner Beer Hall is the oldest brewery in Munich. They have been brewing beer since 1328. Augustiner beer, with nearly 800 years of history, also quickly became part of the history of Munich beer. The most famous beers at Augustinerbräuhaus are Hefe-Weizen, Weizenbier from which the yeast has not been filtered; and Weizenbier, made from wheat instead of barley. These beers are specialities of the Bayern region of Germany and of Munich in particular. Weizenbier is very mild, while Hefe-Weizen has an even nuttier and sweet complimenting flavour, so these are best for those who love mild beer.
(Address: Neuhauser Straße 27, Munich, Germany)
Here is the open piazza in front of the massive, new City Hall, Neues Rathaus. Understandably, many tourists flock to the piazza in the heart of Munich. By night, the neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus has an overpowering charm – even to the point of feeling spooky, and if you climb the central spire, you’ll have a spectacular view of the surrounding city area, including Mary’s Square. The chimes under the spire clock operate once a day to celebrate the wedding of the Bayern Duchy Archduke, Wilhelm V. The piazza was named after St. Mary’s Column (Mariensäule) and stands tall in front of Neues Rathaus, and other buildings near the piazza, such as the District Town Hall (Altes Rathaus) and St. Peter’s Church (St. Peterskirche), each have a personality of their own and add an elegance to this beautiful area of Munich.
Cathedral of Our Dear Lady (Frauenkirche)
Most of the past rulers of Bayern were from the Wittelsbach family. The Wittelsbach family built a chapel for their personal use in 1240, when they first came into power. This chapel then became the Cathedral of Our Dear Lady. In 1400, the church was expanded to the current Gothic-style structure with twin onion-shaped domes, measuring 109 metres tall. These spires are major landmarks in Munich, where a city ordinance specifies that buildings in the downtown area cannot be constructed any taller than the spires.
St. Michael’s Church (St.Michaelskirche)
The church was completed in 1597 by order of Wilhelm V. It is interesting to note that the original ceiling collapsed during its construction. Wilhelm V regarded this as an omen and ordered a larger church to be built. Because of this, the church with arch-type ceilings is the second largest in the world after St Peter’s in the Vatican. This church’s pure white inner pillars are decorated with the finest patterns and in contrast with the golden alters and fine artwork they really catch the eye. The church’s catacombs entomb famous members of the Wittelsbach family, including Wilhelm V and the mad King Ludwig II.
“Beer made by large companies is also OK”
Lowenbrau was founded slightly more recently than the Augustiner Beer Hall, but is a historic place that started brewing in 1383. Over the years, they have preserved the German quality and tradition like other breweries, continuing production and now have rapidly entered the modern market reborn as a global beer company. They have expanded and absorbed other Munich breweries, such as Franziskaner, and by accelerating exports to places like the US early on, became the most well-known German beer overseas. In other words, Lowenbrau has transformed into a large conglomerate, unlike the other breweries in Munich. However in saying that, do not expect a ‘run-of-the-mill’ taste. If you drink a stein of fresh Löwenbräu beer at the Löwenbräu Keller, you’ll know that large German beer companies do not compromise on the taste of their beer.
(Address: Nymphenburger Straße 2, Munich, Germany)
October frenzy, Oktoberfest!
Munich’s unstoppable love for beer builds up momentum and explodes once every year at the world-famous Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest is one of the world’s three big festivals. Oktoberfest originated from an event in 1810 when King Ludwig I of the Bavarian Empire held a horse race and invited the people to the festival to celebrate his wedding. Since then, the festival has been held regularly every October. Sales of the famous Munich beer started from 1880, and the history of the international ‘beer festival’ began. The festival was originally held in October but is now held for three weeks starting in mid-September in order to enjoy the festival in better weather.
In addition to the breweries presented previously: the Hofbrau, Löwenbräu, and Augustiner breweries, there are an additional six breweries in Munich that promote the festival. These include: Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr and Spaten. At the festival, these breweries have large beer halls and also sell food. Fest Bier (festival beer), which is brewed especially for the festival and has a slightly higher alcohol content that normal beer, sells out really quickly. Surprisingly, the standard size of a stein of beer at the festival is one litre! One litre of beer, called a ‘mass’ (Maß), fills a large glass that is even hard to lift with one hand. Of course smaller-sized beers are also sold during the festival , but because these are bottled beers poured into a glass, they somewhat fall short in freshness.
The festival grounds are full of stalls selling things to eat and entertainment/ amusement rides. There is no admission fee to the festival grounds and there are ticket booths for each ride. If you are in need of a break after a busy day, you might want to rest under the famous statue of Bavaria. You can also go up to the top of the statue and appreciate the view of the piazza. Or, you don’t need to go up to the observatory; just sit around the statue and enjoy the excellent views of the piazza. Don’t forget to take pictures of the horse coach parade that travels through downtown Munich at the opening of the festival.
More than six million people visit Oktoberfest each year and around seven million litres of beer are sold.
+Talk! Tips for a fun and safe Oktoberfest
- Since thousands of people flock to Munich during Oktoberfest, accommodation charges increase two-fold and it can be difficult to find a place to stay if you don’t make early reservations. If you can’t find accommodation to your liking in Munich, there are several options in cities 1-2 hours away, such as Nuremberg.
- Unexpected incidents can occur at any time in an environment where lots of alcohol is being consumed. Police are positioned around the festival site and are able to assist should you have difficulties.
- As the area is very complicated, some breweries ban people with large bags entering their premises. This is due to concerns about theft or safety. You’re recommended to pack lightly, do not bring items of great value, and be on guard for pickpockets.
Nymphenburg Palace (Schloss Nymphenburg)
The Wittelsbach family constructed a detached summer palace on the outskirts of Munich in 1675. To celebrate the birth of Maximilian II, a prince of the Bayern Duchy, his mother built him a detached palace. Some years later a second building was constructed on the premises and they were later connected, to form a palace. The spacious garden laid out in front of the palace is a restful place to pass an afternoon, and the inside of the palace is now used as a museum.
This museum was made to house the personal belongings of King Ludwig I of Bayern, who was the creator of Oktoberfest. The Alte Pinakothek, which exhibits European medieval paintings, was opened in 1836, and the Neue Pinakothek, housing post-19th Century paintings, opened in 1853. The Pinakothek der Moderne, which focuses on contemporary art such as architecture and design, was added in 2002 and completed the triad of Pinakothek. The three Pinakothek museum buildings are conveniently located, facing one another. Visitors can enjoy art of a high standard to suit their taste.
+Talk! Pinakothek on Sundays!
If you’re interested in art, visit Munich on a Sunday. Every Sunday, the admission fee for many of the museums, including the Pinakothek museums, are discounted to one euro. How could you resist browsing all three Pinakothek museums when the admission price (three euros) is less than the cost of a sausage?
Residence Palace (Residenz)
This is a huge palace that served the Bayern Empire as the office and home of the king. It may appear modest from the outside, but you’ll be surprised by its huge, colorful interior. The Ahnengalerie displays over 100 portraits of ancestors of the Wittelsbach family and the Antiquarium holds the ancient Greek sculpture collection of the former kings. Various spaces such as the Kings’ bedrooms, living room, office, instrument room, and church have been restored and are open to the public.
The tour is fun, but also tiring. You’re bound to use up a lot of energy walking around dripping with sweat all day among large crowds in an unfamiliar place. On the way back to your hotel after a long, tiring day of touring, stop by a corner shop or a supermarket. There are many types of bottled German beers available on the shelves.
Choose some that appeal to you and take them with you back to the hotel. It doesn’t matter if it’s a beer you’re not familiar with, or one that you’ve seen for the first time. Whatever beer you choose, you will not be disappointed. Don’t worry if you’re not able to chill the beer before drinking it. German beer exudes a taste through the flavours of the non-carbonic ingredients, which still taste great at room temperature.
Before going to bed, try a refreshing beer to recharge your energy. Most likely at the same point in time, somewhere in Munich, there is someone else who is having their own beer pick-me-up. There is no separation here between Germans and foreigners; people are people, and everyone wants to finish a day in the same refreshing way. You can turn your hotel guestroom into the best beer hall at that very moment.
This is the exact key to the golden magic of beer.
Address: Platzl 9, Munich, Germany
[Opening Times] 9 am – 11:30 pm
[Price] Food: EUR 10-18, Beer: EUR 4.20
Address: Platzl 1A, Munich, Germany
[Opening Times] 11 am – 1 am
[Price] Food: EUR 16-18, Beer: EUR 4
Augustiner Beer Hall
Address: Neuhauser Straße 27, Munich, Germany
[Opening Times] 10 am – 12 am
[Price] Food: Around EUR 15, Beer: EUR 4
Address: Nymphenburger Straße 2, Munich, Germany
[Opening Times] 10 am – 12 am
[Price] Food: EUR 12-20, Beer: EUR 4.50
Address: Marienplatz 8, 80331 Munich, Germany
[Opening Times] Observatory: May – Oct. Daily: 10 am – 7 pm, Nov. – Apr. Mon. – Fri. 10 am – 5 pm, Closed on Weekends.
[Fee] Observatory: Adult: EUR 2.50, Children: EUR 1
The Cathedral of Our Dear Lady
Address: Frauenplatz 12, 80331 Munich, Germany
[Opening Times] 7 am – 7 pm (Thur. closes at 8:30 pm, Fri. closes at 6 pm)
St. Michael’s Church
Address: Neuhauser Straße 6, 80333 Munich, Germany
Main Hall: Mon. – Sat., 8 am – 7 pm (Open at 10 am on Mon. and Fri.), Sat., 7 am – 10:15 pm
Catacombs: Mon. – Sat., 9:30 am – 4:30 pm (Sat., closes at 2:30 pm), Closed on Sun.
[Fee] Main Hall: Free, Catacombs: Adult: EUR 2, Children: EUR 1
Address: Schloss Nymphenburg 1, 80638 Munich, Germany
[Opening Times] Apr. – Oct. 15 9 am – 6 pm, Oct. 16 – Mar. 10 am – 4 pm
[Fee] Adult: EUR 11.50, Student: EUR 9 (a discount of EUR 2.50 from 16 October to Mar.)
Address: Barer Straße 40, 80333 Munich, Germany
[Opening Times] Tue. – Sun. 10 am – 6 pm (Tue. closes at 8 pm), Closed on Mon.
[Fee] Adult: EUR 4, Student: EUR 2
[Note] Some exhibitions are closed until 2017 due to construction.
[Opening Times] Tue. – Sun. 10 am – 6 pm (Wed. closed at 8 pm), Closed on Mon.
[Fee] Adult: EUR 7, Student: EUR 5
Pinakothek der Moderne
[Opening Times] Tue. – Sun. 10 am – 6 pm (Thur. closed at 8 pm), Closed on Mon.
[Fee] Adult: EUR 10, Children: EUR 7
Residence Palace (Residenz)
Address: Residenzstraße 1, 80333 Munich, Germany
[Opening Times] Apr. – Oct. 18, 9 am – 6 pm, 19 Oct. – Mar., 10 am – 5 pm
[Fee] Adult: EUR 11, Children: EUR 9