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Beer Gardening in Munich

Sarah N Walker

Munich has several very old and well-known breweries, and their products are still made right in the city and according to the 'law of purity'. In fact, you might smell some of the yeasty by-product when exploring the town around Hackerbrucke or in Haidhausen. No matter which pint you get your hands on, though, you will get a quality product from all of the following official Munich breweries:

  • Hofbrau Paulaner Lowenbrau
  • Augustiner Hacker Pschorr Spaten
  • Franziskaner (Weissbier only, connected with Spaten)

Don't panic if at the restaurant you visit you don't encounter one of the official Munich beers. Other beers are good, too. They are often just a different town's local brew and might have some shelf space in the supermarket or be served at a couple of small pubs that they supply.

One of the best ways to experience Munich's beer is to visit the Oktoberfest. Unfortunately, the festival only occurs once a year between the last week of September and the first Sunday in October.

My preferred way to experience the beer like a local (and certainly a more relaxing way) is to have a "Mass" at a beer garden. A beer garden can be defined in this way: an outdoor area, sometimes connected to a restaurant, or served by a stand, where people can bring their own food, but where beer is sold. Beer gardens share certain characteristics. The seating consists of wooden benches (no seat backs!) and tables that have metal joints or support systems, so that they can be easily set up and stored away again. These tables are arranged over an area well shaded by trees (preferably chestnut), some of which may be very old. These trees played an important role long ago, helping to keep the beer cellar below the ground as cold as possible.

There are over 180 beer gardens in the greater Munich area. In no way have I visited even a significant percentage of them, but I can tell you about some of the more famous and well-regarded ones.

A Head's Up: Many restaurants advertise a beer garden, which simply means an outdoor seating area. You are not allowed to bring your own food to these! You should be able to tell which is which. And those areas that have chairs are probably areas served by the brewery, which means no self-service or self-catering. You must order off the menu.

How the Beer Gardens Work

Unlike a normal restaurant or cafe, you are allowed to bring your own food to beer gardens. The breweries make this generous allowance in exchange for your generous consumption of their beer and other beverages. Most city beer gardens aren't populated with folk pulling out the tablecloth and an overflowing basket, however, and the beer gardens offer local specialties. So I recommend you buy there. Just be aware that the selection dwindles as the evening goes on, and that some beer gardens have limited hot choices.

This is how you do it at a traditional beer garden (not just a small outdoor space connected to a restaurant). You walk in and find a table or part of a table that is unoccupied. To be served you must go to the huts and stand in line. You will usually pick up your goods and pay at the Kasse (register). Expect to pay upwards of 6 euro for a Mass (liter) of beer and about 3 euro for a half liter drink (such as a Spezi).

Food and Beverages Available

These are the various drinks you will find at a beer garden:

Helles: The most commonly drunk beer-lager.

Dunkles: A dark lager.

Weissbier Hefeweizen: Also called wheat beer, has a rich foamy head.

Radler: A mix of Helles and Sprite (or a German version thereof).

Rus'n: A mix of Weissbier and Sprite.

Neger: A mix of Weissbier and Coke.

Spezi: A non-alcoholic beverage made of cola and orange soda. (Mezzo Mix is the brand)

Apfelsaftschorle: A mix of apple juice and mineral water.

These are typical beer garden fare, all of which I can recommend:

Brez'n (Pretzels): In the beer garden they usually the are of the large variety.

Steckerlfisch (Smoked Trout): Impaled and smoked over a charcoal fire these trout (Forelle) or Mackerl are tasty! One fish (sold by weight) will cost between 6-15 €.

Obatzda: This is a Bavarian mix of Camembert and cream cheese that has been seasoned. No recipe is the same. It looks like an (ugly) orange-colored pate' but is really delicious. Eat it with bread or pretzel.

Kartoffelsalat (Potato salad): Bavarian potato salad is delicious and doesn't contain mayo, so no worries about Salmonella.

Radi(Rettich)/Radieschen(Radieserl) (Radish): The large white radish is cut like an accordion, salted, and sold a large plate, whereas red radishes (if available) are eaten whole. Both make great finger food and are an integral part of the beer garden experience.

Selected Beer Gardens (listed in terms of proximity to Marienplatz)

Viktualienmarkt

Open 9-22 daily, Saturdays until 19:00, Closed on Sundays
This beer garden is one of very few open nearly year-round. It is located on the east side of the market place but is impossible to miss. The best thing about it is the location, the activity level, and the proximity to great 'picnic' style foods. Try the large red tent to pick up delicious spreads and Turkish bread, or wander around and browse the options. The breweries take turns serving up the beer. Last time I was there it was Hacker-Pschorr's turn.

Hofbräu Keller

Innere Wiener Strasse 19
Travel: (U 4/5, Tram 19 Max-Weber-Platz, Tram 18 Wiener Platz)
Open 10-23 daily
Do not confuse this with the Hofbräuhaus, which is just a few blocks away from Viktualienmarket in the Altstadt on Platzl. This Keller is located just northeast of the city center, across the river, in a lovely neighbourhood called Haidhausen. This large beer garden is a city one, but very traditional in style. You have walls enclosing the 'garden,' gravel under your feet, and chestnuts providing a cover of shade. There is also an indoor section for the winter months and for truly rainy days. This place can get very lively in the evening and it can be hard to find a place to sit.

Augustiner Keller

Arnulf Strasse 52 (Corner with Circus Krone Straße)
Travel: (S 1-8, Tram 17 to Hackerbrücke)
Open 11:30-1 A.M. (last call at 23:30)
This is an oasis in the city. Located west of the city center, it is in one of the less interesting parts of town (industrial), but not too long a walk from the train station. Similar to the description of the Hofbräu Keller, this place can get packed after work and is very traditional in its style. It can get cool there, the chestnut trees do a great job, so bring a cardigan. One of the best things about this beer garden is the brew: Augustiner is only sold in the Munich area and is regarded as the best by many locals. Its brewery is also just a few blocks away on Bayerstr. The highlight here for me is the Steckerlfisch. You can't get it everywhere.

Chinesischer Turm

www.chinaturm.de
Englischer Garten 3
Open daily from 10-23
Travel : (Bus 54/154 Chinesischer Turm, Tram 17 Tivolistrasse, U 3/6, Giselastrasse)
Walk from Schwabing or from the museum areas. It is a nice walk, and not too far.
One of four beer gardens in the Englischer Garten, and the largest beer garden in the world, this is a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike because of its location and size. It is also open fairly early in the year, sometimes even in February, according to weather. Here you can drink the 'courtly' Hofbräu and watch locals and tourists in action. In the tower is a small band. One day of the year in July (in 2004 on July 18) is the annual Kocherlball. People dressed in early 20th century costume arrive before 5 in the morning to snag a spot for this candlelight breakfast. Dancing ensues into the day. For more information and photos.

Erdinger Weissbiergarten

Heiglhofstr. 13
Tel. 089 71 94 300
Open daily from 17 (weekdays; 16 weekends) until 23.
Travel: (U6 Grosshadern/Klinikum Grosshadern)
This is a small but beautiful little beer garden in the neighbourhood of Grosshadern. There is even a playground for children, should you travel with any. Across the street is an old Bavarian hotel and a block up is the picturesque Alter Peter Church. This beer garden is not far from the Waldheim (below).

Waldheim

089/71 60 65, Open daily 10:30-22:30
Take the U6 to end station Klinikum Grosshadern and catch the 34/269 bus. Go one stop to (Zollerstr) and get off. The beer garden is on the left, around the bend, at which point the road turns into Tischlerstr. Further down the road is the entrance to the war casualties section of the Waldfriedhof cemetery (right side at the next bus stop) and the south end of the cemetery (left side).

Located in my neck of the woods, and just down the road from the south end of the Waldfriedhof (forest cemetery) is this nice beer garden where residents and business people from the area and Martinsried (the silicone valley of Germany's bio-tech industry) come to enjoy a Mass in the afternoon sun. Here one drinks Hacker-Pschorr. If you feel like it, you could make it your reward for walking through the Waldfriedhof on a nice sunny day.

Waldwirtschaft Grosshesselohe

Georg-Kalb-Strasse3, Pullach-Grosshesselohe, 089/79 50 88
Daily 11-23, Open on unusually nice winter weekends, as well
Travel: (S 7 Grosshesselohe) Walk southeast from there. Follow the signs
This place has a nickname known all around Bavaria, because the ''Wawi' (Vah-Vee), as it is called, is no ordinary beer garden. There are two sections: one closest to the restaurant with nice tablecloths and table service. The larger side is an immaculate open area with a central gazebo featuring a band. Located on a cliff above the Isar River, the Wawi offers a picturesque view down onto the river. This place is special, though not entirely traditional. Because of that, several very prominent politicians and local personalities are known to be Stammkunde. My first time there I saw one of the most famous Munich celebrities, the 'Moshammer,' a wealthy and eccentric tailor who is known for riding around in Rolls Royces, spoiling and pampering his beloved yap dog, 'Daisy, and for sporting the worst hairdo ever (imagine Al Sharpton with lot's of volume, or if you lack imagination, look here.

Gasthof Brückenwirt

089/ 793 01 67
Ride your bike along the path down the west bank of the Isar just past the bridge connecting Pullach to Grünwald. Or Take the S-7 to Höllriegelskreuth. Walk down the dirt pathway S/SE towards the river. The beer garden cannot be missed once you get near the water and the bridge.

This is a lovely little beer garden on the grounds of a family-run restaurant. Even in summer they tend to keep it colorful with flower pots lining the garden. If you are lucky, you can rent a bike and ride down the riverside from the city center, and even from your table you may be able to see the giant party rafts as they head north towards Munich. This is not a brewery beer garden, but rather a restaurant with a large seating area (another meaning of beer garden). Here you are served and order off of a real restaurant menu.

Maisinger Seehof

Right along the tiny Maisinger Lake in Maising-Pöcking (just a 10 min. by car up the hill from the west shore of Lake Starnberg)
Daily 10-22, 081/51 33 18
This beer garden is unlike any other. It consists of a small house, where you purchase your food and drink, and a long row of tables along a ridge overlooking the tranquil little Maisinger See. There is plenty of parking in two large lots. Best of all, one can follow the paths leading from the beer garden and lake into the countryside. Eat first and then walk off your dinner, or wait and work up an appetite while taking in the landscape. The reigning brew here is Herrnbräu. I would recommend visiting here after a day at Lake Starnberg or in the Five Lake District. I would also suggest ordering the Forelle (trout). The trick is to find this place. From Starnberg head along the 2 towards Pöcking (parallel to the west shore). Take a right onto the road towards Maising. At the top of the hill, take a left. You should pass a military 'Kaserne', some small bits of town… Take a final left out in the countryside into a parking lot… The lake and garden are behind the trees. When in doubt, ask and or follow the rest of the cars.

Kloster Andechs

www.andechs.de
081/52 930 90, Open daily 10-23
Herrshing am Ammersee (S5 to Herrsching) There are two buses (951/956) from the train station that run on infrequent schedules.
Kloster Andechs ranks along with the Hofbraühaus, Oktoberfest, and the Chinese Tower as the most popular beer gardens for international visitors. The very sanitary, cafeteria-style Andechs is intended as the climax of a short hike up to the monastery. In my opinion the walk is more interesting than the highly commercial beer gardens (plural). But the trip out of town is worth the effort if you visit the Ammersee, perhaps renting a paddle boat, and if you make the hour-long climb up the hill to the Kloster. There is no one path up. As the locals say, try to locate the creek from Herrsching's shore and follow it uphill as best you can. If you are lucky, you will encounter sheep, cows, and possibly some free-range roosters along the way.

Resources

Sarah Walker Photo Essays: Photo essays on Munich, Berlin, rural Germany, Bavaria, Austria, Vancouver, New York City.


Sarah was born and raised in Seattle, Washington but currently lives in Munich, Germany.

© Sarah N Walker, 2004

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