Sunday, 1 July 2012

Munich 2012

As I said in my previous post, our recent trip to Munich was not about tracking down rare or unusual beers, but more about having a good time, chilling out and putting the last 15 months well and truely behind us. Many people will know that Munich isn't the place to go to sample world-classic beers, and the products of the city's six large scale, industrial brewers are pretty indistinguishable from one another anyway, (certainly to my taste buds). However, they are still perfectly drinkable, and what's more Munich has some great places in which to enjoy them; none more so than the city's numerous beer gardens.

In order to make the most of  these establishments, we made full use of Larry Hawthorne's excellent Beer Drinkers Guide to Munich, just as we did on our last visit to the Bavarian capital, back in 2009.  Using this guide we were able to visit some smashing beer gardens; places one would hardly know existed, were it not for this well-researched publication. Beer gardens that really stood out were as follows:

Insel Muehle. S-Bahn to Allach followed by a short bus ride brought us to this delightful, secluded beer garden situated on the banks of the fast flowing River Wuerm. Augustiner beers, a light snack of Obatza cheese with a Brezn, combined with the sound of the rushing water  of the river in the background, made the perfect start to our time in Munich.

Alter Wirt. S-Bahn to Planneg, followed again by a short bus ride, took us to the Alter Wirt. This is an up-market pub-cum-restaurant, with a small, but pleasant beer garden, again overlooking the River Wuerm, to the rear. Augustiner beers were again the order of the day, but as the self-service stand was not open at the time of our visit (early lunchtime), we decided not to eat there but instead caught the bus two additional stops to:

Kraillinger Brauerei, which isn't a brewery anymore, but a large beer garden attached to a restaurant ,which now serves beers from Herrnbraeu in Ingolstadt, to the north of Munich. It was worth the short trip there to sample Herrnbraeu beers, in particular the full-bodied and malty Dunkles.

 Hirschgarten. Munich's largest beer garden needs little introduction and, as on our previous visit, didn't disappoint. For the un-initiated the garden is situated in a former royal hunting preserve, close to the opulent Schloss Nymphenburg, and can accommodate up to 8,000 drinkers. Part of the experience of a visit here is choosing one's Mass litre glass from a rack at the side of one of the self-service food stands, rinsing it in cold water in the basin provided, and then walking round the corner to fill it up at the Ausschank with fresh, cool Augustiner Edelstoff drawn straight from a large wooden cask.
It seemed like half of Munich was there during our early evening visit, but we still managed to find a table and enjoy a couple of litres of beer to accompany our halfroast chicken and chips. Beers from Hofbraeu Tegernsee and Kaltenberg are also available, but as we were planning to visit Tegernsee the following day, we stuck with the Augustiner.

Kugler Alm. We've wanted to visit this beer garden for a long time, and finally managed it last Sunday evening. After getting the orientation of Larry's map right, the 20 minute walk from Furth S-Bahn station, through open countryside, proved well worth while. Given it was the end of a hot weekend, the place was quiet, but this large, rural beer garden, situated on the edge of a forest really ticked all the right boxes; it even had a widescreen TV showing the ill-fated England v Italy Euro 2012 quarter final match for those masochistic enough to want to watch it!  Named after its original proprietor, Franz Xaver Kugler, the man who is also credited with the "discovery" of "Radler", (lemonade shandy to you and I), Kugler Alm afforded us the only opportunity of our trip of enjoying a Mass or two of Spaten Bier.

Forschungsbrauerei. S- Bahn to Perlach. Not really a beer garden, but a brewery with a pub and small beer garden attached. We visited Forschungsbrauerei on our previous visit to Munich, on a cool and rainy Saturday afternoon, when we discovered that after 4pm the establishment only sold its beers by the litre mug. This was fine for the normal (5.2%) Pilsissimus Export, but not so good for the 7.5% St Jakobus Blonder Bock!

Both beers were excellent, and without doubt the best we sampled on the entire trip. The same was true of our recent visit, despite the fact that the Jakob family, who founded the brewery in 1930, no longer control the business. This time the sun was shining, and the temperatures were in the upper 20's. We sat outside, under a sun-shade, in the small, but neat beer garden at the front of the brewery. Forschungs have a new, lower strength Sommer Helles available, and my son gave this beer a try. I went for the Pilsissimus Export, and am pleased to report is was as good as I remember, full-bodied and well-hopped, as was, in even greater measures, its stronger stablemate St Jakobus Blonder Bock. Fortunately the latter was available this time, in half litre measures, as were the other two beers, but all were served in traditional ceramic mugs. I have mixed feelings about these vessels as whilst undoubtedly they help the beer to stay cool for longer, they don't allow the drinker to appreciate the appearance or colour of the beer. We had some homemade potato soup, complete with chunks of Wiener sausages, for lunch, and this went down very well with the beer. All in all this was an excellent way to spend a hot Sunday afternoon, as the many other visitors to Forschungs demonstrated.

We also visited several of Munich's better known watering holes, including the famous Chinesischer Turm in the Englischer Garten where, along with much of Munich, we spent a welcome few hours as a break from Saturday afternoon shopping. Augustiner Grossgaststaette in the city centre, provided us with a good meal on our last evening in the city, and no article about Munich would be complete without a reference to the world famous Hofbraehaus. Love it or loath it, (and we love it!) the Hofbraehaus with its hordes of visitors from all over the world has a terrific and infectious atmosphere. I will even venture to say that despite its location and reputation it is not too pricey; all things considered.

Also worthy of a mention is Unionsbraeu, situated in the Haidhausen district on the other side of the Isar River/ This establishment is housed in the premises of  a former brewery that was acquired by Loewenbraeu back in 1922. In 1991 the place re-opened as a brew-pub, and today brews an interesting range of beers, first of which is the unfiltered Helles. We enjoyed several glasses of this exellent beer, along with our meal in one of the pub's many rooms.

We had a cople of disappointments. First Augustiner Braeustuben; not a disappointment itself, but disappointing that we chose to visit.on an evening that followed an hour or so of torrential rain.  It seemed that with many beer gardens closed, due to the inclement weather, half of the city had the same idea. The place was absolutely heaving, and the few tables that appeared free had "reserved" notices on them, A great pity really as this place looked really good. We have nade a note to re-visit at a quieter time, (if there is one!).

Secondly, Donisl, just off Marienplatz. I ate here on my first visit to Munich, back in 2005, and we have always used the place on subsequent trips. It offered good value for money, in characterful surroundings, with the added bonus of being able to sit outside during fine weather and watch the world go by. Sadly Donisl seems to have slipped a little. It's beer, Hacker-Pschorr was the dearest we encountered during our stay, at 4.3 Euros per half litre. In contrast the Hofbraehaus was charging a mere 7.30 Euros for a full litre! The food prices have also crept up. Nevertheless, we ate at Donisl on a couple of occasions, but the second time just had the one beer there before adjourning to the Hofbraehaus for the rest of the evening.

So there we have it, a short summary of our experiences amongst the beer gardens and beer halls of Munich. In addition to this, we had a couple of  trips out; one to Tegernsee and the other to Kloster Andechs. Both are venues worthy of a separate write-up, and I'll be doing that shortly.

ps. Please excuse any spelling mistakes. For the third day in a row, Blogger's spell checker does not appear to be working.

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