Grüss Gott from Bayern, dear readers, and I have had the pleasure of spending the last five days in München. Unfortunately, I have also been sick for the last few days and haven’t been able to try as many beers as I might like to, but I had the opportunity to check out some of Munich’s brew houses before becoming ill.
The Hofbräuhaus and the Augustiner Keller are two of the most popular brewhouses in Munich. Each has a large main location and many subsidiary locations that also serve their beer.
The history of Munich brewing and of these two brewhouses all start with the Reinheitsgebot. The Reinheitsgebot translates to the “purity law” and was passed in 1516 to standardize the brewing in Bavaria.
Before the law was passed, brewers experimented with different adjuncts and variations in beer ingredients. This led to some beers that didn’t keep well and even beers that were dangerous to drink. The Reinheitsgebot standardized acceptable ingredients by mandating that beer could only be brewed from water, barley, and hops.
The Reinheitsgebot ensured consistency and is one of the reasons why Bavarian brewing is so revered. When King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden invaded Bavaria during the Thirty Years’ War, he wanted to burn Munich to the ground. However, Ole’ King Gustavus found the beer in Munich so good that he was persuaded to leave peacefully by 600,000 barrels of it.
At the center of the Bavarian brewing tradition is the Hofbräuhaus. Duke Wilhelm V of Bavaria started the Hofbräuhaus in 1589. Hof actually means “court” and for a long part of its history, the Hofbräuhaus was only for members of the aristocracy. This all changed in 1828 when King Ludwig I opened the brewhouse to all people. Because of its royal pedigree, the Hofbräuhaus became a very popular brew spot, even today.
On the other hand, the Augustiner Keller’s history isn’t too interesting. The Augustiner Keller was founded in 1812 and literally means “Augustiner cellar.” The main brewhouse has a massive beer garden and distributes its beer throughout Munich.
As Bavaria’s biggest and best advertised brewhouse, the Hofbräuhaus is a bit of a tourist trap. There are more foreigners than Germans and the beer is overpriced. I was, however, pleasantly surprised at the quality and service. I had a Mass, “liter mug,” of the dunkel; the beer was actually pretty good.
We decided not to eat at the Hofbräuhaus since the food was especially pricy. Instead, we went across the street to a branch of the Augustiner Keller. Though this place was right across the street, it was cheaper and there weren’t nearly as many tourists. The food was delicious and their hefeweizen was one of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure to indulge in. I recommend looking for Augustiner if you get a chance.
The unfortunate reality of beer nowadays is that a few big companies have bought a lot of different beer brands all over the world. Even in a beer-loving country like Germany, this consolidation of the market hits hard. Bars seem to have the same brands everywhere I go.
In Munich, the popular, ubiquitous beers turned out to be really good, but they were really not that unique. Multiple Germans have told me that there are some really great brewpubs in Munich – you just have to know where to find them. I, unfortunately, didn’t have the inside info on where these under-the-radar pubs were.
All this just reminds me that we are really lucky to live in Colorado. Every town has its own microbrewery and there is a huge variety of local brews to pick from. So, dear reader, next time you crack open a bottle of local brew, count your blessings.