Friday, October 17, 2008

Raise Your Glasses!!

It's getting into late October as I write this - months after my wonderful European holiday - but a late-night stein of Hofbrau Oktoberfest beer (thank you, Binny's of Chicago!) has me in the mood to wax nostalgic on a wonderful August visit to Munich, Germany. I've never been there for their Oktoberfest festivities (actually held late-September to early-October), but the beergardens of this lovely city are usually open and ready for customers throughout the year. When the sun is shining, there is usually beer somewhere to be enjoyed!

So....the year 2008 saw me visiting Munich TWICE! I took advantage and visited no less than 8 of the city's famous beergardens. Here's is a rundown of some of my favourites:

Any list of Munich's best spots for delicious beer must include a place run by the fine folks at the Augustiner brewery. The Augustiner Keller, just west of Munich's main railway station or Hauptbanhof, offers a magnificent beergarden as well as an indoor beerhall for when the weather looks less than kindly upon the visitor. The Helles, or lager, is wonderful. The Edelstoff is fantastic. Locals will tell you this is THE best place in Munich for a liter of beer.

So...where do the TOURISTS go?? Well, I've waxed on about the Hofbrauhaus in an earlier post, but for Hofbrau fans there is a special treat in store if you visit Munich's Englischer Garten. It's the Chinescher Turm (or Chinese Tower) beergarden. Both locals and out of towners love to visit this special spot in the middle of the park. A Bavarian brass band often appears at the Tower to offer local drinking songs on weekends. And the beer...well, sublime is a good word! And the food isn't bad either!

Ahhh...Spaten! When it's good, it's REALLY great. I visited one highly-rated beergarden in Munich's southern suburbs in August, and found the local Spaten Helles to be...well, Stale! Very unusual for such a wonderful product. But I remember happier times and better Spatens, such as this May 2008 visit to the Hirschau beergarden, in the northern section of the Englischer Garten. In addition to the beer, you can enjoy ribs, chicken, or (in my case) a delicious pretzel with your choice of mustard. Weekends at the Hirschau feature some fine jazz music if it's sunny outside. It's a bit of a trek from the city centre, but well worth the Metro ride and walk, and a great way of starting a southbound Beer Walk in the Englischer Garten. After hoisting a liter at the Hirschau, perhaps you'll have time to wander south, on a convenient pedestrian bridge across a busy road, to.....

....the SEEHAUS, one of Munich's truly beloved beergardens. It's run by the folks from Paulaner and is located along the shore of a beautiful little lake. You can rent a boat there (not while drinking!), watch the ducks, or just settle into a nice glass of Paulaner's fine Helles and do some serious people-watching. Adjacent to the Seehaus is a fancy indoor restaurant, but if the weather permits then outdoors by the lake is the place to be.

There are many other fine places in Munich to relax over a Maß (that should be "Mass" or a liter of beer). If you're stuck downtown, then I recommend the Viktualienmarkt beergarden, which has the added attraction of "rotating" its beer offerings. If you're lucky (as I was) and arrived on a day when Augustiner was being served....well, RAISE YOUR GLASSES!!