The argument could be made that Bavaria—especially Munich—is most famous for one thing above all else: Oktoberfest. And there are few festivals in the world that hold as much clout and conjure up as many images of merriment (which usually comes in stein form) as this often-replicated staple of Bavarian culture.
But let’s just say that, although you love beer and a good time as much as anyone, hoards of people sloshing around Munich for a blurry, lederhosen-clad week isn’t for everyone. Well, thankfully (because Bavarians know a thing or two about how to throw a good time), there’s another way to experience the beer, the culture, the beer culture, and festive spirit that Oktoberfest has come to represent: STARKBIERZEIT—STRONG BEER FESTIVAL.
2015 DATES: February 20th – March 28th
With its roots harkening back to a time when Paulaner monks were only allowed liquid to get them through the fasting season of Lent, Starkbierzeit has turned into a three week long festival of special beer that most Bavarian breweries take part in.
WHAT MUST THESE BREWERIES DO TO PARTICIPATE?
Well, it’s simple. And wonderful. And a delicious. They brew their unique starkbier, a heavy-hitting dark beer that weighs in at right around 7.5% ABV (or more, in some cases), and that’s before you take in the stammwüze—essentially a percentage of the beer that could double as solid food. It’s safe to say that there aren’t any light options. This starkbier is a tribute to the original, called Salvator (which is still brewed today), and comes in as many forms as there are breweries. It can also pack as many as 700 calories in its stein.
With scores of breweries around Bavaria participating (like they have since the first official festival in 1751), you won’t be short on options, and with many of the breweries in Munich offering their own starkbier, you’ll want to give yourself time to check out as many of their creations as you can take—and brace for the ensuing wallop of history, culture, and delicious strong beeryness. So whether you’ve find yourself looking for a festival unlike any other (and a good excuse to don the ol’ elastic-waisted pants) or you’re looking for a traditional way to practice Lent, you’ll probably find what you’re looking for during Starkbierzeit. And it’s here where you may find yourself asking, “Why should there be any other time than strong beer time?”
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