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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:
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)
Open 9-22 daily, Saturdays until 19:00, Closed on Sundays
Innere Wiener Strasse 19
Arnulf Strasse 52 (Corner with Circus Krone Straße)
089/71 60 65, Open daily 10:30-22:30
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.
Georg-Kalb-Strasse3, Pullach-Grosshesselohe, 089/79 50 88
089/ 793 01 67
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.
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)
Sarah Walker Photo Essays: Photo essays on Munich, Berlin, rural Germany, Bavaria, Austria, Vancouver, New York City.
© Sarah N Walker, 2004
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