Starkbierfest, also known as the Strong Beer Festival, is Munich’s springtime, heavy-lifting beer festival. The perfect remedy for that “halfway to Oktoberfest” sadness we all come down with.
Starkbierfest focuses on bocks and dopplebocks (see a beer with a name ending in “-ator,” that’s the one) and has a strict 7% ABV and up policy. Starkbierfest isn’t for just any ol’ casual beer drinker; attending this beer festival takes a little something extra.
Think you’ve got what it takes to play? Get all the info below!
Looking for something in particular? Skip ahead to these sections:
- Starkbierfest : The Essentials
- Starkbierfest Beer
- Starkbierfest Food
- Starkbierfest: What to wear
- Starkbierfest: How to get there
- Starkbierfest Music
- Starkbierfest history
Where is Starkbierfest?
Starkbierfest takes place in Europe’s beer festival capital–Munich, Germany of course! Can you think of a better locale for a festival than a city hell-bent on building beer tents?
To be more specific, Munich’s Starkbierfest doesn’t take place at just one location the way Oktoberfest does. Instead, it takes place at a bunch of locations around the city. Starkbierfest: Coming to a beer hall near you!
The main location for Starkbierfest–ergo, the biggest partay–can be found at the Paulaner Nockherberg, a massive beer hall and beer garden over on the east side of the Isar River. They’ve been celebrating Starkbierfest here since 1870 and have somehow lived to tell the tale. But more importantly, these are the people who invented the starkbier! All hail the Salvator!
As one of the largest and most famous beer halls in the city, naturally the Augustiner Keller is happy to join in the Starkbierfest party.
And Augustiner being the oldest of Munich’s Big 6 breweries, they know a thing or two about starkbiers. They call theirs “Maximator” and it sounds like Maximator means business.
Pretty centrally-located within Munich, the Löwenbräukeller is a great place to celebrate Starkbierfest. Drink up the delicious Triumphator, enjoy the great live music, and take part in the *interesting* contests you’re sure to find there.
Tickets and Reservations
Each location at which to celebrate Starkbierfest has their own ticketing and reservation policy. However, all encourage you to pre-purchase your tickets. To summarize:
Paulaner Nockerherberg: Tickets to Paulaner Starkbierfest are 13,50€ per person but that price includes your 1st drink (which is otherwise 11,50€). No reservations are possible here but you will need to buy your ticket ahead of time.
Augustiner Keller: Tickets for the Starkbierfest celebrations at the Augustiner Keller range from 8.50€ to 9.50€ depending on when and where you wish to party. They also have separate celebrations in their ballroom vs their cellar.
When is Starkbierfest?
In a tradition dating back many, many beers ago, starkbier was invented to provide sustenance to the Paulaner monks during Lent, a time of fasting. If they couldn’t eat, then they were going to drink their calories. And what a glorious solution that was.
Because of this, Starkbiers are celebrated at Starkbierfest during Lent with the dates changing each year.
Because Starkbierfest is based on this ever-changing period, when Starkbierfest takes place is different each year. As far as specific, upcoming Starkbierfest dates are concerned:
As already mentioned, starkbiers are essentially just strong beers–those with an ABV of 7% and up. ABV standing for: Absolutely Bonkers Volume of alcohol. These beers almost always fall under the category of bocks and dopplebocks.
To find a strong beer, look for beer names that in -ator. Some examples would be:
- Paulaner Salvator
- Löwenbräu Triumphator
- Spaten Optimator
- Augustiner Maximator
Setting aside the fact that strong beers were indeed invented to replace food, you won’t have to worry about filling your belly with more than liquid while attending Starkbierfest.
At Starkbierfest, you can expect to see the typical delicious Bavarian fare: pork knuckles and brats and pretzels, spaetzle and salads and chickens, sides of dumplings, sauerkraut, and red cabbage, and the list is deliciously endless.
For more on what to expect as far as food at Starkbierfest, check out this page detailing Oktoberfest food.
What to Wear to Starkbierfest
While wearing traditional Bavarian garb isn’t mandatory for celebrating Starkbierfest, it sure as hell is fun–regardless of how German you are. At least you can look the part.
For the ladies: What you’ll want to wear is known as a dirndl. It’s a dress over a white blouse and an apron and they come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and cleavage levels. Add some socks, some simple shoes, and a braid in your hair and you’re ready to starkbier party.
For the men: Lederhosen are what you’re looking for. A set of leather shorts (that can be short or knee-length) connected to suspenders that connect at the chest. It sounds weird, but it works. Wear these over a checkered or white button-up shirt, some knee socks and loafers and you’re good to go.
Obviously there’s a lot more that goes into dressing appropriately for this and other German beer festivals. How to accessorize, where to buy your outfits, where to tie your dirndl bow (yes, it matters!), and so much more. For everything else you need to know, check out this guide for How to Dress for Oktoberfest.
Starkbierfest: How to Get There and Get Around
Being that Starkbierfest takes place in Munich, you’re in luck! Munich is a major hub in Europe and is easy to get to by any means of transportation.
How to Get to Munich
If traveling by air: There are two major airports that serve the city of Munich:
➤ Munich International Airport (Flughafen München) — Munich’s main airport
➤ Allgäu-Airport Memmingen — smaller and a bit farther outside the city
From Munich’s main airport, you can catch a direct train into downtown Munich every 20 minutes. The trip takes about 45 minutes on the S1 and S8 S-Bahn trains and costs less than 15€.
From Allgäu-Airport Memmingen, you can take a shuttle several times a day to the Munich Haupftbahnhof, the city’s main train station. This trip takes about an hour and 20 minutes each way, non-stop.
If arriving on land: know that Munich is easily accessible by train, bus, and your very own automobile by white-knuckling it on the Autobahn.
When booking train travel, look for final stops at Munich’s Hauptbahnhof–that will put you in the center of the city. For buses, look for final stops at Munich’s main bus station referred to as the ZOB.
Traveling Within Munich
Luckily for a city where beer festivals are its #1 source of tourism income, Munich has some of the best and easiest to use public transportation. You won’t need to rent a car (seriously, don’t) and you should be able to get where you need to go, even after a few liquid lunches.
Munich’s public transportation network is comprised of:
- the U-Bahn (the underground, subway-like trains),
- the S-Bahn (which goes out into the suburbs),
- and the trams (simply, the above ground trams–call it the T-Bahn if you wish).
Additionally, where there are beer festivals there are hungry cab drivers waiting to pick you up. If figuring out which Bahn to get on becomes an impossible task, maybe just opt for a taxi? Also, good job. You’re doing starkbierfest right.
Because this is a Bavarian beer festival, you’ll hear exactly the kind of music you’d expect: traditional music of the oom-pah-pah and polka sort.
Munich’s Starkbierfest is a wee bit more traditional than Oktoberfest. Because of this, don’t hold your breath waiting to hear some AC/DC. Besides, you can’t hold your breath and drink beer at the same time anyway. Priorities, people!
History of Starkbierfest
At one point in time, all of Munich’s beer was brewed by monks in monasteries around the city. However, the fasting period of Lent became a dilemma for the monks. So hungry.
Because Lent was a time when eating wasn’t allowed but drinking was, the ingenious Paulaner monks came up with a solution.
Since brewing was already a hobby of theirs, they came up with the idea to brew a beer heavier in nutrients and calories. This way, they could get all the sustenance they needed without a chew in sight.
“Liquid bread” as it came to be known, was the original Paulaner Salvator, brewed back in the 1629. The same Paulaner Salvator you’ll drink at Starkbierfest.
Soon after their incredible invention, the public got word of this religious workaround and wanted a piece for themselves. After much delibeeration, the powers that be allowed the Salvator kegs to be tapped for public each spring! And so began the tradition of Munich’s Starkbierfest.