Although some of us had visited Munich in the 1980s, the aim then had been to drink in the atmosphere of the Oktoberfest. Indeed during these trips our focus was so squarely on the festival we failed to see very much else the city had to offer the beer traveller. This time would be different as our trip was scheduled for the weekend after the festival finished.
Steve and Pete delivered us to Gatwick in plenty of time to enjoy breakfast and lose TM at the airport before catching the 6.40 am (yes, we did leave Aldershot in the middle of the night) Aer Lingus flight to the capital of Bavaria.
On arrival, there was the immediate benefit of Munich’s excellent transport system and the S-Bahn soon took us to the city centre. The tickets for all of us cost €164 for the five days of our stay; under £4 a day each, to travel over the whole of the extensive rail, underground, tram and bus system of the Munich area.
Our hotel, Daheim (Schillerstrasse 20), was a short walk from the Haupbahnhof and by mid-morning we had deposited our cases and set out for a quick tour of the city before heading off to our selected lunchtime venue.
After indulging PV with a visit to a model railway shop, the route into the centre took us past one of the recommended Kellers and it would have been rude not to go in.
The Hackerhaus (Sendlinger Strasse 14) is just south of the main pedestrianised shopping street, Marienplatz. A traditional Munich beer hall, it is full of dark oak panelling and pine tables. The walls are covered with beer memorabilia and paintings, photographs and enamel signs fill almost every available space. The waitress was also traditionally dressed and dispensed the various Hacker-Pschorr beers with a smile. With Helles, Dunkel and Weisse available it was a good introduction to the types of beer the Munich brewers have to offer.
Heading off past the Rathaus we just missed the midday spectacle provided by the clock, managing to get past the crowds and into the nearby Victuallers Market. ROC recommended we try this place as you could quite often find a stall selling some out of town beer. At the Munchener Schmankerl we found a way to avoid the queue but not the Landshuter Zwick’l Biobier; a rather pleasant unfiltered Helles.
Coming out of the Ostbahnhof, a short walk brought us to our lunch venue, Zum Brunnstein (Elsasser Strasse 36). This pine emporium is very popular with the locals and we soon settled in, downing a few Maierbrau beers from Altomunster. The food was characteristically Bavarian and very good. Number 87 was typical and consisted of a large piece of pork with roast potatoes and a little veg. The waitress, Bianca, was a cheeky girl in every sense and made the lunch all the more enjoyable. At one point Bianca suggested we should have a man’s drink, but we said we could only cope with the 33 cl woman’s drink. Bianca appealed to the female diners who in unison lifted up half litre steins and chorused that they had a women’s drink. This left us being the boys.
Unfortunately it was soon time to leave as we had a brewery tour to get to. Swiftly negotiating the S- and U-Bahn system we managed to get to the Paulaner/Hacker Pschorr (Hochstrasse 75) just in time for the 2.45 pm tour. The brewery is of an industrial size and as such lacks the intimacy of the micros we normally visit. Indeed it is all so contained within enclosed vessels you don’t even get the usual brewing smells. With the site on the side of a hill, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the tour was travelling into the hillside where the lagering tanks were lined up in vast cellars. Our tour guide, Silvia, did her best to be friendly (even after ROC’s comment about female map reading ability) and interesting but we were really here for the beer and eventually arrived at the top of the hill and the staff canteen. Here a very substandard snack was washed down with some rather good Paulaner Munchener Hell.
Next door to the brewery was the new tap, Paulaner am Nockherberg (Hochstrasse 77). A modern warehouse of a building, what it lacked in old world charm, it made up for with a complete list of draught Paulaner beers, including the Oktoberfestbier. This was our opener and allowed time to study the beer menu where we were delighted to find a bargain sampling offer of five beers in 200 ml measures. Once selected, George made sure they kept coming at regular intervals. It was during this session that JA finally arrived and completed the Mengo party.
Eventually we made it back to Hotel Daheim, booked in and located our rooms. Not wishing to rest in case sleep beckoned, there was only time for a quick wash and brush up before we again headed out onto the streets.
The Lowenbraukeller (Nymphenburger Strasse 2) is some way north of the main station and, as it was now raining, it was a rather soggy group who arrived at the impressive mock gothic building. Despite it’s out of centre location the Keller was busy but, as always, they managed to find us a table. Unfortunately there was no Oktoberfestbier left so it was just the Original or Dunkel to choose from. Were the beers uninspiring or had consumption reached the level where it was no longer possible to discern quality accurately? Anyway, KOC had definitely had enough and several volunteers decided to accompany him home.
A small splinter group decided to try one final port of call. After all, Braustuberl zum Spaten (Marsstrasse 16) was on the way back to the station. This brewery tap is quite small by Munich’s standards but comes complete with the usual wood panelling, pine tables, old photographs adorning the walls and old lederhosen adorning the waiter. Although the delicious Oktoberfestbier and nice Munchener Hell were available, TM wisely opted for a gin and tonic on his second drink.
The splinter group then headed back to the hotel in the firm belief they were the last Mengo to leave the streets. Not so. MG and FN just had to try out Tiffany (Schillerstrasse 24) and ascertain Monica’s working hours.
After breakfast (which could have included hard boiled eggs if you found where they were hidden) the group headed off to the station and the S-Bahn to Herrsching, located on the shore of the Ammersee. From here it was but a short four-kilometre walk through the woods to our first destination of the day, Andechs. It may have been a short walk but unfortunately it was all up hill with a particularly steep bit at the end.
Still it was worth it. The monastery church stood at the top and a wander around its spectacular Baroque interior provided time to recover from our exertions.
The Andechser Klostergaststatten (Bergstrasse 2) was a little way down the hill. The main hall was a traditional Bavarian Keller with oak wall panelling and scrubbed pine tables but we headed outside to the terrace with its fine views over the countryside. Sheltered from the wind by plastic sidewalls and from the rain by large sail parasols, the setting was pleasant enough even though it was early October. The two beers tried, Special Hell and Doppelbock Dunkel, were dispensed straight from the barrel and tasted even better than remembered. Self-service allowed PC to display his talent as a German waitress by carrying nine steins at a time. The food, also self-service and consisting of roast pork in various sizes from a full-blown Haxe to just an inch thick slice, was excellent and filling.
After a very pleasant lunch time session (although RN did have a run in with an immoveable priest) and a dry run at the vomiting bowls we headed down the hill to catch the scheduled bus back to Herrsching. While we were waiting the private shuttle bus arrived and with his faultless German and dexterous use of the map, PV managed to arrange for a drop off at the road junction for Muhlfeld.
A short walk from the main road and, in the middle of a field, you come across a donkey pointing the way to the Muhlfelder Brauhaus (Muhlfeld 13). Located in a chalet like building this small brewery and Gasthof provided some good beers, the Schwarzbier going down particularly well with FN, even if the rest of us described it as ‘burnt’. As ROC found out, the quality was due to the enthusiasm of the young brewer. When KOC went outside for a fag, PV joined him to re-enact the Archers episode about the tractor.
As Muhlfeld is only a couple of kilometres outside Herrsching it was an easy stroll along the shore of the Ammersee back to town. FN found a new use for the sea wall and it was good to see the true dedication of the artist etched into his face as he completed the piece, ‘Transient water art’. Naturally with TM in the lead we missed the turn to the station and the diversion meant we just missed the train back to Munich. There was nothing for it but to try the station bar, which turned out to be a snug little place with a fine display of million Reichmark notes. The bottled Lowenbrau Urtyp was a pleasant enough time filler.
For the evening’s investigations PV had decided that the only beer good enough to follow Andechs was Augustiner and we set off for their large beer garden outlet near the station. It being October, the beer garden was closed but the interior of the Augustiner Keller (Arnulfstrasse 52) was buzzing. With no room in the entrance bar or main hall we headed down the circular staircase into the bowels of the building. Here the beer storage cellars had been converted into large vaulted Kellers. The waiter managed to shift a few people and a table was cleared with just enough room to seat Mengo. O joy, the main beer available was the Edelstoff straight from the wood. Although this was gorgeous (and possibly the best beer in the World) some drinkers still opted for the gassed Dunkel as their second beer. FN, ROC, MG and PC will remain nameless.
Back across the railway lines, via Hackerbrucke and its futuristic shopping centre, was our next Augustiner outlet. Situated next to the brewery, the Augustiner Braustuben (Landsberger Strasse 19) gives every impression of having been a fixture forever – the smoke stained ceiling, black wood panelled walls and well washed pine tables – all the accoutrements of age were there. But it only opened in 1995 occupying the former stables of the brewery. If the Keller was busy then the brewery tap was heaving. Prepared to stand, we ordered and were served at the bar. However, a kindly waiter soon turned up and squeezed us around a corner table in a side room. As well as the Edelstoff from the wood, the tap still had the Oktoberfestbier available and we opened with this smooth 6% brain killer. Excellent as it was, the Edelstoff still remained the beer to beat.
The route back to the hotel was straight down Bayerstrasse but a short detour to the Theresienwiessen (the site of the Oktoberfest) takes you to the Hacker-Pschorr Brauhaus (Theresienhohe 7), a modern brew house. This is a massive steel and glass building with a microbrewery at its heart. The place was virtually deserted and given the quality of the beer compared to our day’s other sampling this was not surprising. Our lederhosen clad barman, Hans, tried to kid us that they still had some festival beer available but it turned out to be the unfiltered Braumeister Pils, a rather undistinguished Naturtrub. It was time for bed.
As befitted our age, we headed for the station at the same time as yesterday and got on an S-Bahn to the end of the line. However, this time we headed in a northerly direction to Freising.
On the top of the hill, just west of the town centre, sits the world’s oldest brewery (allegedly), Weihenstephan. Granted its first brewing licence in 1040, it is now home to the renowned brewing school, a department of the Technical University of Munich.
In amongst the University buildings can be found the Weihenstephan Braustuberl (Weihenstephan Berg 10). A large multi-roomed building equipped with all the usual panelling, the brewery tap is, depending upon who you believe; either much changed from the shed with Formica topped tables (PV) or exactly the same (ROC) as our last visit in 1986. Although our waiter, Bruno, informed us the tap had been on this location for years and was unchanged since the last extension built some twenty years ago, PV was still unconvinced it was the same place he visited all those years ago.
The tap carried six of the brewery’s large range of beers on draught plus several more in bottles and Mengo set about sampling just a few. The Original and Pils were pleasant if unremarkable and the Hefeweissebier Dunkel nowhere near as cream soda as expected. However, the truly remarkable beers were the draught Korbinian, a stonking 7.4% mouthful of bitterness and the bottled Vitus Weizenbock a 7.7% beer which was exactly as described on the tin.
It so happened we were joined on our large central table by one of the brewers who could happily talk about his vocation to anyone, even if they did not understand much of what he was saying. What did come across clearly was our next intended port of call had closed down and his advice was to stay for lunch and some more of his excellent beer. Although the food did look very good, we naturally made the mistake of ignoring the advice and headed off across town in the hope the brewer was wrong.
Naturally he was right; Hofbrauhaus Keller (Lankesbergstrasse 5) was firmly shut. Now feeling rather hungry we headed back to the centre of town and came across the terraced bar overlooking the main square and ventured into back in 1984. Café Tratsch (Marienplatz 3) lived up to its name, TC being absent. The Hofbrauhaus Freising Urhell was bloody awful and some of the meals were not much better. The moral is – always follow the brewer’s advice.
Taking our cue from the previous two evenings we arranged to meet outside the hotel at 7.45 pm, apart from TM that is, who always believes being a quarter of an hour late is fashionable; well, he did have the hat.
When everyone had turned up, we headed for Marienplatz and Augustiner’s showcase city centre outlet. Art Nouveau inside and out, the Augustiner Grossgaststatten (Neuhauser Strasse 27) has half a dozen ground floor rooms of various sizes and when we arrived all of them seemed full. However, the waiters in these places are reluctant to turn down custom and one led us through the building to a cubbyhole we had missed at the very back. It was hot and uncomfortable and so deep inside that JA couldn’t get a signal on his mobile. You would not want to argue with our barmaid and we ordered quickly. Disappointingly, both the Edelstoff and Dunkel were gassed and given the black hole nature of the location, we only stayed for one.
Heading out into the drizzle, it was time to introduce the uninitiated to probably the most famous and notorious Keller in the world. The Hofbrauhaus (Am Platz 9) occupies a large three-storied building with a central courtyard. The main hall is on the ground floor where the oompah band keeps the large crowd entertained. Split into many rooms, the Braustuble occupies the middle floor and, as befitting a restaurant, is much quieter although the customers are still entertained by a duo on guitar and accordion. The upper floor hosts the Festival Hall where many organised trips get their taste of German beer for the first (and in the case of the Japanese, last) time. Complete with stage, it often shows Bavarian theatre but on this visit it was just another oompah band.
Despite its size there appeared to be no spare table inside. Yet, due to the rain, the courtyard was fairly deserted and it was easy to find a table under an awning with the luxury of dry seats. Less easy to find was a waiter willing to serve us. Fortunately a small tour led by an Australian turned up and with that race’s normal patience he soon left to find a waiter. When eventually we were served, most opted for Original (Helles) dispensed straight from the wood, while FN was his normal self, choosing the Dunkel. As usual, we opted for the smallest measure of beer available, usually a half litre and sometimes smaller. In Hofbrauhaus there is no such mucking about; it was a litre or nothing. Cradling the large glass and tasting the nectar within, the original four found fond memories of the pigpen in the Hofbrau Oktoberfest tent came flooding back and bored the lederhosen off the rest.
Opposite the Hofbrauhaus was another venue we wished to try and we arranged to meet outside Ayingers Am Platz (Am Platz 1a) after the photographic records of Hofbrauhaus were complete. ROC finished his tour early and spotting a barrel on the bar of Ayingers asked another early arrival, our German-speaking member, to go in and order nine glasses of whatever it contained. Eventually everyone else arrived and we went in to see what PC had managed to get. It was not the beer from the barrel but the gassed Pils. Downing this uninspiring liquid we then longed for the special only to find today’s barrel had been finished. Still the other beers available were pretty reasonable and made all the more enjoyable being served up by the traditionally garbed Petra. It was time to finish and we went for schnapps. As the Wald-Himbeergeist went down, TM commented that we were pushing ourselves to the limit. And the limit of the day it proved to be with everyone heading out into the dark rainy streets and back to the hotel.
Sunday was the day of a split in Mengo. After arranging to meet up later at the Hirschgarten, four left early for Dachau.
Normally the four would have chosen the upper floor of the double-decker train but this morning they sat downstairs below the level of the platform. As the train left the station it was bright blue overhead, but nearing the small town of Dachau, the sky began to cloud over and as they alighted a chill wind caressed their faces. An earnest American tour leader loudly lecturing a group of distracted adolescents indicated the bus stand for the camp. Casually wandering across, the boys loitered, surreptitiously catching the words of wisdom freely released. After some minutes, a bus arrived and the short trip to the camp commenced, passing through the peaceful dormer town. Approaching the camp, the American knowingly pointed to the line of large solid whitewashed houses stretching along the camp’s perimeter. A promise was given to furnish a fuller explanation later. Shortly afterwards the passengers were set down outside a single storey visitor centre set amid thin sparsely planted trees. The building was all glass and transparency, in contrast to former times.
A few strides through the trees and the duplicity of former owners could be recalled through the ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ set in the iron trelliswork under the camp’s gatehouse. Inside the gate the visitor is met with a large open space, overwhelmingly grey to the eye but with flickers of green. There is line of tall trees along the centre of the space. The tree tops rustle almost imperceptibly in the mild breeze apparently murmuring on a higher plane about the happenings below. The quiet grabs at the attention; there is a need to stop and stand and gaze around. A row of contiguous light coloured buildings is to the right. Not apparent from the outside, these are the original administrative and punishment buildings. In the centre of the grey field of shingle are two rows of rectangular plots that could be concrete cricket pitches in another country. But this isn’t cricket. These are bases representing the 34 huts that housed the prisoners at night. The first row of huts has been restored but without the desperate, pleading eyes the experience is empty. Around the field is a wide grass verge adjacent to a row of old guards still standing very stiffly to attention before the grey ashes. Occasionally, there is an uncared for brick-bottomed summerhouses. The grass is a little soft and overgrown but the walk is pleasant if a little difficult. Once upon a time it was more difficult as it meant instant death when the summerhouses were cared for. After covering almost one side of the grey field, a narrow exit carries the eye over a rushing stream and toward a small clearing in the trees. The outlook is pleasantly inviting until the single storey block with a chimney edges into view. Passage through the small rooms in the block shows a small stark white chamber with a few holes in the bricks and another room full with two rusty ovens. A plaque on the wall states that the beam directly overhead was used to hang prisoners guilty of that day’s crimes. It is suddenly very close and immediate as the struggling torso touches your face. Back on the field people wander quietly with their thoughts. At the far end of the field stand a number of memorials built by various faiths. They embrace barbed wire and silent screams. Yet it is their incongruity expanding across the open space that speaks volumes. And so it is with the main monument, standing in front of the administrative buildings. It has been fashioned purposely out of anguish to reflect the evil that once existed there. Most of the administrative block is taken up with informative posters and exhibits. Once upon a time the good burghers of Dachau voted for setting up the KZ in the hope of doing business with camp. Perhaps they envisaged selling the simple slatted wooden benches and the bullwhips.
Then out past the huddles of people sat on the rubble alongside the original road to receive instruction; time for a comtemplative snack in the handily placed canteen. As the brave four sit waiting for the bus back to the station, a larger group of more motivated visitors agitate amongst themselves, unhappy but uncertain about the bus timetable. A spokesperson emerges and sets off to try and expedite the situation. Soon all are aboard and seemingly happy to be leaving. For one of the passengers there is a reflection on who would have coped with the demands of the camp. But then the row of large houses comes into view and, in the absence of the American, their significance in history has to be guessed at.
A more thoughtful four alighted at Laim and attempted to find the bridge across the railway line repeatedly pointed out on previous days. Out the back of the station they confidently strode, over rough ground toward the only structure that traversed the rails. They even tried gaining access to the derelict gantry until their progress was well and truly barred. Perhaps the prospect of shinning up drainpipes and scrambling across rotting wood was too much for those following in their steps. Two ladies emerged from a niche at the rear of the station adjusting their skirts. Gallantly the four passed by and took the underpass toward Hirschgarten.
Shunning the Dachau experience, the remaining five headed off to the city suburbs and the small brewery, Forschungsbrauerei (Unterhachinger Strasse 76, Altperlach), a short walk from the S-Bahn station at Perlach. The ‘Experimental Brewery’ was founded in 1930 by Jacob’s father, a brewing scientist with over 50 1patents to his name, and the brewery still closes from October to March to continue the research. We were lucky; this year’s closure was scheduled for the following weekend.
Although Jacob brews many experimental beers for other breweries, only two are brewed for the tap. Bilsissimus, an unfiltered beer more in the style of Bamberg than Munich is served in a Krug. And very nice it is too. The other is St. Jakobus Blonder Bock, and you know you are drinking a 7.5% beer. It was a bit too sweet and strong for our tastes but we heroically still managed to finish it.
The brewery and tap are housed in a plain single story building with the brewing kettles in the tower to the right of the main building. The interior is, of course, in the traditional Bavarian style but at least the murals were humorous; at least we thought they were, but they could have meant anything given our lack of German. The menu contained some very traditional local dishes, including a spiced and chopped liver concoction tried by ROC despite the warning given by Jacob.
After a very pleasant lunch the famous five headed off to the Koniglicher Hirchgarten (Hirschgarten 1) to meet up with the history boys. They were found enjoying their beers al fresco following an exciting meeting with a wild ass reared in park. Whilst in summer this large beer garden is a favourite with the burghers of Munich, in October there were few people willing to brave the chill with us. And soon we too gave up the goosebumps and adjourned to the pub.
In summer the beers from the three featured breweries are served from dedicated huts and come straight from the wood. In winter the breweries remain the same but, one feared, were now dispensed with gas. Whatever, Augustiner, Schlossbrauerei (Kaltenburg) and Tegernsee beers in one place, cannot be bad. The Tegernsee Special must have lived up to its name as even FN preferred it to Konig Ludwig Dunkel.
The evening ramble again took us toward the main pedestrian street but this time we headed further north to find Nurnburger Bratwurst Glockl (Frauenplatz 9). Not surprisingly the speciality of the house was charcoal grilled Nurnburg sausages and we enjoyed a few of these accompanied by roast potatoes, all washed down with Augustiner Hell from the barrel. From our brief trips to the toilets, the interior of the restaurant appeared very quaint but as it was full and we had to sit outside under the gas burners, it remained illusory.
Closer study was possible with Spatenhaus an der Oper (Residenzstrasse 12), a fine neo-classical building near the National Theatre. The interior, while retaining the beer hall trademark of excessive wood, seemed more upmarket than the others visited and was obviously aimed at dining either side of a theatre visit. However, by the time we arrived the food service was winding down and they were quite happy just to serve us with beer, going so far as to put two tables together to accommodate the group. The Spaten Munchener Hell was refreshing and FN was happy as they also had Lowenbrau Dunkel on draught. RN managed to drop his walking stick and our traditionally dressed waitress, Petra (yes, another Petra), helpfully bent down and picked it up. Well-played RN.
Then it was back to Ayingers Am Platzl and our first Petra. This time we did manage to get the Kirta-Halbe from the barrel. It turned out to be quite a spicy brew. Beered out, it was schnapps time and as well as trying the wild raspberry again we also managed the Ayinger Obstbrand, a combination of pear and apple. A fine finish to the day.
With the main group’s return flight late in the evening there was plenty of time to take in one more drinking establishment before going to the airport. We abandoned our bags at the hotel and set off for the station. There we said goodbye to JA whose flight was at a more sensible time.
The original plan of a trip to the Seeside was set aside for a more realistic destination within Munich. Of course, it still incorporated a train journey, this time to the expansively named Grosshesselohe Isartalbahnhof, whose station building now housed Isarbrau (Kreuzeckstrasse 23b) and its associated restaurant.
Due to the building’s previous incarnation, the brewery and restaurant were a curious mixture of old (the restaurant, Braustuben and Isartalstrube were decked out traditionally) and modern (the brewery paraphernalia), but overall provided a very pleasant atmosphere. This micro was established by Hofbrauhaus Traunstein and that brewery's beers featured on the menu alongside those of the house. Both the micro’s beers went down well with Mengo – the Isargold was a refreshing beer with a citrus note and the seasonal special Hopfen-Zupfen, a pleasant Helles. The offerings from Traunstein were less well received; ROC venturing the 1612er Zwicklbier was about as Naturtrub as his arse. The food was local specialties but enjoyable none the less. The only questions were, ‘How did the photo of MG entering the establishment appear on the illustrated menu when he said he had never been there before?’ and, more to the point, ‘Who was the female accompanying him?’
After recovering our cases from the hotel we set off for the airport mid-afternoon. This being Germany, and Munich in particular, the airport itself boasted a microbrewery. Airbrau (Munchen Airport Centre, Terminalstrasse Mitte 18) provides you with a totally modern basement feel, although there is a beer garden available for more clement weather. The Flieger-Quell was an unexceptional Helles and the Kumulus Weissebier took an age to get down. We certainly had had enough and it was time for home and the mix up with the lift from Gatwick for four of us.