Munich is known all over the world for its beer. Many proclaim Munich the beer capital of the world, for good reason. Certainly for lager beer, it is very difficult for anyone to question Munich’s standing as beer capital. Germany has nearly 1,300 breweries. Bavaria has over 900 of those breweries and Munich is its capital. From 1487 until 1988, Munich’s Reinheitsgebot remained in effect, forcing brewers to stick to the main ingredients of beer: water, barley malt, yeast, and hops. This law was later extended to Bavaria in 1516 and finally throughout Germany as well as Greece in the 1800’s. This has kept Munich beer “pure,” though limiting the varieties. All of the breweries in the Munich area brew the same general four types of beer for local consumption, though seasonally they do produce others, here are the main four types:
- Helles: Helles literally means bright, referring to the color. It is your standard Bavarian lager beer, the kind they will serve you if you simply ask for a beer.
- Dunkles: A dark lager beer, no where near as thick as one would expect, it has the same thickness as a helles, so it shouldn’t weigh you down at all.
- Weiss bier: Literally means white beer, but is referring to wheat beer.
- Dunkles Weiss: Dark wheat beer.
Over the last hundred years Munich’s brewery numbers have continuously fallen. As of 2011, Munich has what is commonly referred to “The Big Six”, and then a couple small brew pubs. The big six all have the history; the brew pubs are new.
So what are the big six? Well, you probably already know them if you’re a fan of international beer:
- Paulaner Bräu (pronounced Paul-on-er broy)
- Hacker-Pschorr (pronounced Hacker shore)
- Hofbräu (pronounced Hof-broy)
- Löwenbräu (pronounced loo-ven-broy)
- Spaten Bräu (pronounced shhpah-ten)
- Augustiner Bräu (pronounced Augustiner broy)
These are the only six breweries allowed to serve beer at the Oktoberfest. Each of them has beer halls and beer gardens all over the city. Unfortunately none of them allow regular tours of any kind, although if you arrange far enough in advance (at least two weeks), they will give tours to groups.
In order to enjoy the big six properly, I recommend going to each of their beer halls for a liter of each.
For Paulaner I recommend going to the beer hall & beer garden attached to the brewery itself: Paulaner am Nockherberg.
For Hacker-Pschorr I recommend going to the former Hacker brewery which is now a large beer hall downtown: The Altes Hacker Haus.
For Löwenbräu I recommend going to the Löwenbräu Keller.
For Spaten you want to go to the Spatenhaus.
One last thing: if you’re looking for any of these beer halls or beer gardens, remember this: when asking for directions, the important bit is not the brand of the beer, it’s the other part. There are several dozen places with Augustiner in the name, as an example…and some of them I wouldn’t send ANYONE to.