Munich Tales 2018: A six-pack of Munich beer and food.


This post was inevitable, don’t you think?

The 11 best places to drink beer in Munich, by Barbara Woolsey (Time Out)

In Munich? Want a beer? You’ve got a whole world of great options

In Munich, and the state of Bavaria, it’s not just brewing beer that’s an art form: so is consuming it. There’s an unspoken code of how to drink like a proud southern German: Always clutch your beer Maß, or litre mug, with just one hand. When you toast, make strong eye contact. And bring your own snacks – carrying outside treats into the beer garden is not just allowed, it’s polite.

But as much as tradition rules the Bavarian roost, in the capital Munich there are plenty of independent breweries and beer halls shirking the old ways. The Reinheitsgebot, a 500-year-old beer purity law dictating that only water, barley and hops could make beer, is being defied more than ever by a new guard of local craft brewers and funky tap houses without a wood barstool or painted mural in sight.

It makes for a dynamic mix of traditional taverns and beer gardens – mostly gathered in the heart of the city, where they’ve presided over the centuries – but also suave pubs rebelling against their Bavarian birthright. It depends who you’re talking to, but the latter is either a vital revolution or blasphemy. What better way to take up the debate than over a cold one?

A critical consideration at the beer hall is to not take the seat of a regular unless invited to do so — by a regular. Anyone who must ask whether or not they’re a regular plainly isn’t one.

Gather Round the Stammtisch
(Spiegel On Line)

Pubs around the world have their regulars — those customers that prop up the bar every day. Germans, however, have formalized their own way of drinking, talking, laughing, and solving the world’s problems. The “Stammtisch” is a venerable Teutonic tradition — consider it a no-frills version of the French salon.

Travelling in Germany can be a thirsty undertaking and regular detours into one of the country’s many Eckkneipen (corner pubs) can quickly become a necessity. Once your eyes have adjusted to the murky, smoke-filled dimness, be careful where you sit — a wrong choice can be a severe break with German protocol.

In a crowded German restaurant or beer hall, you’ll sometimes find an inviting table placed conveniently near the bar and surrounded by empty chairs. A cryptic sign hanging above will read Stammtisch. While such a table may seem tempting, sitting at a Stammtisch is a privilege reserved for the pub’s regulars. If you stay long enough for a second beer, the table will likely fill up with boisterous and chummy Germans on a first-name basis with the bartender.

A Stammtisch is a table permanently reserved for the family and friends of a bar’s owner — also known as the Stammgäste, or “family guests.” But more than merely being a piece of furniture, the Stammtisch is where a number of German character traits come together in one place: beer drinking, conviviality, and a deeply ingrained penchant for speaking authoritatively on any given subject.

THIS is the breakfast of champion beer travelers.

A Weisswurst Breakfast (beer included), by Michelle Wagenlaender (The Munich Eye)

It is not very often that one is served beer for breakfast. And no, it has nothing to do with Oktoberfest! Weisswurst Frühstück, the traditional Bavarian breakfast, includes boiled sausages served with loads of sweet mustard, freshly baked pretzels and a refreshing Weissbier (wheat beer). In fact, the sausages without the beer, mustard and pretzels might be slightly frowned upon by the locals!

Weisswurst, translated as white sausage, is a mix of finely minced veal and fresh pork bacon and is usually seasoned with parsley, lemon, mace, onions, ginger and cardamom. This mixture is stuffed into fresh pork casings and separated into individual sausages, measuring about 12 centimeters long (4-5 inches) and 2 centimeters wide (an inch). Since it is made early in the morning, it is not consumed after midday. There is a saying that the sausages should not be allowed to hear the church bells’ noon chime.

Weisswurst appears again on this list of must-try food, which thoughtfully incorporates several non-native dishes. My choice for Schweinhaxe in Munich is the Schneider Bräuhaus, as accompanied by a lovely Aventinus.

11 Delicious Dishes You Can’t Leave Munich Without Trying, by Evelyn Smallwood (Culture Trip)

Also known as Haxe or Eisbein, Schweinshaxe is a big old pig knuckle slow-roasted with the skin still on served with a knife sticking out of it. The skin is crackly and the meat just falls off the bone. Bring a big appetite. The potato dumplings that come with are basically gravy sponges.

To conclude, two posts about the Munich milieu we experienced all those years ago — now 31 of them.

30 years ago today on THE BEER BEAT: Meeting the gang at the legendary Imbiss by Gleis 16 at the Hauptbahnhof in Munich.

 … The famous Imbiss (snack counter) at the foot of Gleis (track) 16 is long gone, the victim of extensive remodeling, modernization and gentrification, It wasn’t all that much even in its heyday, but during the 1980’s this simple, functional train station concession stand was a genuine Munich destination for discerning budget travelers the world over.

There were two long windows with outside counter space, plentiful tile and stainless steel, wonderful beer taps, kitchen equipment for preparing basic nibbles, and several customarily greasy, though by necessity diligent, employees in white shirts, sometimes augmented with blue smocks.

In front of the Imbiss were a handful of regular standing-room-only cocktail tables, and also some that resembled smaller, elongated versions of the telephone wire spools that used to litter backyards in the Georgetown of my youth.

Standing at these tables by morning, evening and night were locals, tourists, commuters, vagrants and assorted hangers-on, the majority of them savoring the Imbiss’s only true specialties: Cool Hacker-Pschorr golden lager at a reasonable price and a portion of Leberkäse, a high-quality form of all-meat bologna cut from a warm deli-sized square loaf, weighed and priced, and served with a crusty roll and plenty of mustard.

The Imbiss at Gleis 16 never disappointed. Like Munich’s defunct Mathäser Bierstadt (tomorrow’s topic), the Imbiss represented old-fashioned egalitarian functionality for the city’s everyday commuters, as well as short-term visitors like us, for whom it was a fine and refreshing perch to observe life’s rich pageant.

R.I.P., Mathäser Bierstadt.

30 years ago today on THE BEER BEAT: Munich’s incredible Mathäser Bierstadt, symbol of a lost era.

 … It was cavernous, filled with nooks and byways and various banquet rooms and snugs, and decidedly grittier than the Hofbräuhaus – no less attractive for tourists, but rowdy and with an earthier composition of native German barfly.

These many years later, what I’ve taken away from three Munich nights in July isn’t capable of being detailed. That I experienced it with wide eyes and a sense of wonderment cannot be doubted. For a beer- and history-loving Hoosier just shy of his 27th birthday, roaming Europe for the second time, Munich was the epitome. It was Disneyland with ubiquitous mugs of foamy lager and all the sauerkraut and potatoes one cared to eat.

Unfortunately, the Mathäser perished, and the site is now an ultra-modern cinema and entertainment complex. I walked past it in 2004 and bowed in reverence for what used to be. The last time I was there during its actual existence was in 1995, and even then the beer hall seemed exhausted, even if we did our level best to enliven the proceedings.