As I mentioned last week, Munich was all about the beer. We saw plenty of beautiful Bavarian buildings and churches, but our memories will likely be of the biergartens and bierhauses. We headed to one of the latter our first evening right after arriving- the Augustiner bierhaus, where we walked past a big beer hall full of benches and an underground taproom to a small cellar table surrounded by stonework and great smells. Here’s where we had the suckling pig along with roast duck, and two frothy Augustiner lagers, which ended up being my favorite of its type- an incredibly crisp, easy-drinking lager that doesn’t sacrifice body, with just the right hint of sweetness. We had the Weissbier later, which was similar to Paulaner, and a bit bitter for my taste for a wheat beer.
The next morning we headed to the old town center. As is often the case, the highlights are mostly churches, and in Bavaria the whitewashed, gilded baroque interiors are the standout, although the twin onion-domed towers of the Frauenkirche and St. Peter’s viewing platform were of interest as well. In particular, the view from the latter, especially of Marienplatz and its Neues Rathaus (an ornately decorated town hall) was excellent.
Our next beer stop was the world-famous Hofbrauhaus. Hofbrau is a brewery actually owned by the government of Bavaria. In this central beer hall, full of waitresses and even the odd epically mustachioed patron in traditional Bavarian dress, we tried the beer and sausage breakfast I talked about last time, although a little closer to a somewhat socially acceptable lunchtime hour. We tried three varieties- the Octoberfest, Dunkel, and Munchnerweissbier. The Dunkel was a dark and malty brew, but still rather quaffable and refreshing instead of the often overly rich, better in small doses character of most dark beers. Dangerous. The Octoberfest was really a slightly darker, maltier lager, and nothing special really, but the weissbier made up for that, with a full-bodied, slightly citrus flavor without crossing over into overly acidic territory. It was the class of the weissbiers we had in Germany, and one of the finest I’ve had, period.
After that we took a peek at the interesting Ohel Jakob Synagogue, with its concrete and glass cube design and Hebrew-inscribed metal doors, then headed across town, pas a Hofgarten pavilion with a pianist playing gorgeous renditions of Chopin and Liszt right in the middle of the park, to the massive Englishcher Garden, larger than Central Park and boasting several… unique features, including a creek with an unusual perpetual wave that people actually surf and a “nudist meadow”, that day populated by a few wrinkly, elderly gentlemen whose sense of shame gave up the ghost sometime back in the 70s. There’s also another biergarten centered around the pagoda, the Chinesischerbiergarten, also serving Hofbrau products. There we tried its crisp, easy-drinking purity law-approved lager, as well as a Russ’n- a sweet, summertime concoction of weissbier and lemonade which Jeonghee was a fan of, and a more logical mix than the everpresent lager + lemonade Radlers.
The next couple of evenings we sampled the Lowenbrau biergarten as well as returned to get more of that excellent pork and lager at the Augustiner joint. The former is an outside deal with an array of tables and benches and one taproom where you can sample a variety of Munich brews. Lowenbrau’s Octoberfest was the best of the Marzen bunch in my opinion- strong and a bit maltier than the others- a beer with some real bite, and Jeonghee tried the Franziskanerweiss, and quite good if not Munchnerweissbier-level offering you can find in the States. We topped off our Munich experience with a showing of Gone Girl in a rare native language theater we stumbled across, complete with some Hacker-Pschorr bottles we finagled in (we never did find it on tap). Their Octoberfest has a nice, spicy character, even in the bottle, and was a perfect pairing for both a fine evening and a fine, delightfully insane film.