With nearly 1,000 years of brewing tradition in Bavaria, the brewers in and around Munich have fine-tuned their craft and growing a global reputation. In fact, 6 million people come from 40 countries around the world just to attend Oktoberfest. Alongside Munich’s major breweries and despite Germany’s strict purity laws, craft breweries are starting to emerge in Munich, bringing fresh flavors to the beer scene here in Munich. We’ll begin by exploring some of the history, culture, and traditions of Bavaria’s relationship with beer, including some facts and prices. Then I’ll profile the six biggest breweries in Munich – known as the “The Big 6”, help you plan the best brewery tours, day trips, and beer-related activities, and finally uncover emerging craft beers.
- 1 A Brief History of Beer in Munich
- 2 Beer Etiquette & Traditions
- 3 Popular Types of Beer in Munich
- 4 “The Big 6” Munich’s Main Breweries & Beers
- 5 Paulaner
- 6 Augustiner
- 7 Hofbräu
- 8 Spaten
- 9 Hacker-Pschorr
- 10 Löwenbräu
- 11 Munich Beer Festivals and Events
- 12 Munich Day Trips for Beer Drinkers
- 13 Brewery and Beer Tours in Munich
- 14 Microbreweries and Craft Beer in Munich
- 15 Best Beer Halls & Beer Gardens in Munich
- 16 Pubs & Bars for Beer in Munich
- 17 Beer for Those with Dietary Needs
- 18 Share Munich’s Best Beers and Breweries!
A Brief History of Beer in Munich
The Munich area is home to the world’s oldest brewery still in action, dating back to 700 AD. So, it is safe to say that Munich’s beer history is long and embedded in their culture. But, to make a long story short-ish, most breweries in Munich have religious roots. Monks living in monasteries were the first brew masters. Churches would use beer as incentives to encourage people to attend church, with many German receiving free beer on Sunday and other religious events. Religious roots still exist today, and Starbierfest is an event during lent to drink strong Doppel beer during the fasting period.
It wasn’t long before the royalty got involved in the profitable beer industry, and beer was soon taxed to provide income for the royal families and government. Production quickly spread to prominent families that owned restaurants, and the brewing industry boomed.
The Purity Law
Along with it, many laws and regulations began to govern brewing. In 1516 a law was passed that beer must be made with only barley, hops, water (yeast was later added), or it could not be called beer. This law still exists today here in Germany. If any additional ingredients are used in the brewing process, such as orange, sugar, or chocolate, it can not legally be called beer. If you’re thinking about some of those German craft beers you’ve tried and are confused, brewers can use the official name for the brew, such as IPA, Stout, etc., but it can’t be called beer.This ensures the highest quality of beer is being produced in Munich.
In the 1500s, a law was passed that beer could not be brewed in the summer months as lack of refrigeration reduced the quality of beer made in the summer. Legally beer was only brewed from the end of September to the end of April using a bottom-fermenting technique with yeast capable of fermenting in cold temperatures. This practice was called lagern, which is why bottom-fermented beers are called lagers.
Brewers needed a place to store their beer in a cool area during the summer months, so they dug out cellars and planted chestnut trees above the area to keep the beer below cool. They used this outdoor space to sell beer, and thus the beer garden was born! Many restaurants complained the breweries were putting them out of business, so a law was passed that people were able to bring their own food to beer gardens, which is still encouraged today.
World War II
Munich’s beer history even plays a prominent role in WWII history. Hitler’s famous Beer Hall Putsch happened in Munich, as he attempted to take over the Bavarian government and occupied a local beer hall the Bürgerbräukeller. Hilter also often met with his closest Nazi allies in the historic Hofbräuhaus, which still stands today. However, after the war, Munich’s booming beer industry crashed, with many breweries closing their doors causing international exports to decline as the economy struggled.
Munich’s beer scene was able to recover and now generates billions of Euros to the Munich and German economy. Oktoberfest alone generates around 1.2 billion in two weeks. Many of Munich’s elite families developed their status thanks for their involvement in the beer industry from owning Oktoberfest tents, operating breweries, or owning a Keller serving beer from one of Munich’s six most famous breweries.
Beer Etiquette & Traditions
When cheersing in Munich, you must tap beer glasses with everyone individually at your table – and while making eye contact, say, “Prost!” (Pro sst). Germans rarely make eye contact, but this is a crucial part of drinking beer. No one really knows why you make eye contact, but everyone will tell you that if you don’t, you will have 7 years of bad sex. Typically you should wait for everyone to have a beer before clinking glasses and saying prost.
A lot of cultures associate drinking with violence, however here in Munich, drinking and beer culture are associated with comradery. So, make sure you stay in control, make friends, and keep those firsts down.
If you’re attending any of Munich’s beer festivals or events such as Frülingsfest, Oktoberfest, Starkbierfest, or traditional Volksfests dress up! It is common for people in Munich to wear their Tract, also known as Dirndls for women, and Lederhosen for men. You can even get away with wearing Tract to beer gardens, or beer halls any time of the year. You will be the odd one out if you don’t dress up at a larger event, so budget some time for shopping after you arrive in Munich for an event.
Pfand & Cost of Beer
Most beer gardens charge a high price or pfand. At any of the beer gardens in Munich where you take the glass away from the ordering counter the pfand can be between 2-5 Euro. Don’t panic, you get it money back as long as you hang onto the coin and return it along with the beer stein at a kiosk. At a kiosk, beer costs about 1.50-2.50. At restaurants, beer costs about 4-5 Euro. At beer gardens with the pfand, it can be between 8 – 10 Euro. Oktoberfest beers cost a whopping 13 Euro and there is no pfand, on top of that it is customary to tip your server at the event.
The Right Pour
Pouring beer is an art that was perfected in Germany. Beers should have the perfect amount of head on top and be served in the proper glassware. In a traditional German glass liter, the top line and above should be beer head, and the rest should be beer. The breweries in Munich can get fined for abusing their beer portions, especially at Oktoberfest, so if your beer is mostly head and not enough beer, or too much beer and not enough head, it is not worthy.
Popular Types of Beer in Munich
Helles translates to light. So, Helles beer is a light in color bottom-fermenting lager beer. The beer is low in bitterness, lightly sweet, low in carbonation, and full-bodied – compared to most light lagers. It is a smooth beer, perfect for hot summer days, and adds a refreshing finish to lighter dishes. This is one of the most popular beers to drink in Munich. If you order a beer without specifying, it will probably be Helles.
This translates to white beer and is traditionally a white top-fermenting beer made with at least 50% malted wheat. It is typically unfiltered beer with low hop bitterness and highly carbonated. Weißbier is usually consumed from a glass with a thin bottom and wider top with an ample portion of head. You should swirl the beer between pours because it is not fermented.
Doppelbock was first created by the Paulaner monks in Munich. It is a double fermented dark copper beer and is described as liquid bread because it is a meal replacement during lent. It is a rich malty beer with toasted notes and little detectable hops. The alcohol content ranges from 7-14% with traditional Bavarian doppelbocks on the higher side.
Festbier & Märzen
Traditionally brewed for Oktoberfest, each brewery brews a fest beer to tap around Oktoberfest, but it is no longer served at the event. Gasp – isn’t Märzen served at Oktoberfest? Contrary to popular belief in the U.S., Märzen is NOT currently served at Oktoberfest. Märzen was the drink of choice at Oktoberfest until the event grew in popularity and many people complained it was too thick. I mean it is hard to drink several liters of Märzen. So, brewers created the Festbier, also known as Oktoberfestbier or Wiesenbier, which is now what you’ll find at Oktoberfest. This is probably a good thing because Festbier is easy drinking and to reduce hangovers! It is a light beer in both color and flavor, with a light hoppy finish. It won’t fill you up too much, but it will get you drunk.
Märzen, on the other hand, is a dark lager, with a full-bodied smoky flavor. Most brewers serve this around Oktoberfest, but you’ll need to go to the Keller to get it.
A Radler is a half lager beer and half lemonade drink. It was created just outside of Munich in Deisenhofen. During the cycling boom in the 20s, an innkeeper Franz Kugler created a bicycle trail from Munich to his pub. On a sunny day in June in 1922, more than 10,000 cyclists showed up at the pub, and as he ran out of beer, he mixed it with lemon soda. The Radler was born and named after Rad – or bike in German. The drink is a bit sugary, but the balance of lemon and beer is a refreshing drink for summer.
“The Big 6” Munich’s Main Breweries & Beers
Munich Beer Festivals and Events
The world’s largest beer event, Oktoberfest attracts millions of people from around the world for two weeks starting at the end of September. Dozens of tents full of traditional music and lively people serve Munich’s best beer. Outside the tents are beer gardens, carnival rides, restaurants, and fair games. This is a bucket list must for any beer lover visiting Germany. If you’re an introvert looking to avoid the crowds in Munich, then don’t miss my introverts guide to Oktoberfest.
Is an early spring festival that takes place in the same location as Oktoberfest, but it’s half the size. A popular event among a younger local crowd, the three tents and handful of rides, is a great way to enjoy the warming weather in Munich. This event typically takes place at the end of April of Begining of May.
This festival takes place during lent and celebrates the dark Doppelbock lager known as Starkbier. Located at the original Paulaner Brewery be prepared to black out as this beer is strong. Located indoors it has a similar vibe to an Oktoberfest tent with a live band, dancing, and plenty of drinking. The event usually starts in the middle of March.
During the autumn close to Oktoberfest many of the small towns near Munich, such as Dachau, Regensburg, and Augsburg have small folk festivals with local beer, carnival rides and games, and reason to dress up in traditional Tracht. Keep an eye peeled for local folks fest events and find more details on the Bavarian website.
Munich Day Trips for Beer Drinkers
Andechs Monastery Brewery
My favorite beer-focused day trip from Munich involves a light hike through the woods, ending in a fantastic hillside monastery that brews delicious beer. This beer trip from Munich is just an S-Bahn ride away to the charming town of Herrsching. You can walk down to Lake Ammersee before taking a 45-minute walk through the quiet forest, emerging at the monastery. If it is summer, eat outside on their beautiful deck. Read the full scoop on getting to Andechs Monastery from Munich so you can drink their fantastic beer.
Weihenstephen: Tour The World’s Oldest Brewery
The brewery at Weihenstephen is the oldest in the world! How freakin’ cool is that? Dating back to 750 AD, Weihenstephen started as a monastery brewery. Today, the state of Bavaria now owns it and runs a program with the TUM university for food science and a master’s program in brewing. For 11 Euro, you get a 2-hour experience, including a tour, tasting, pretzel, and a gift voucher. The tours are run by local university students, and you get to sample all their core beers. The brewery located in Freising, so you will need to hop on the FRONT end of the S1 headed to Freising. Get off at Freising and walk up to the brewery to start your tour. You should book your beer tour at Weihenstephen ahead of time, and you can do so online.
Tegernsee Brewery Near Lake Tegernsee
Tegernsee beer is what the cool kids in Munich drink. There’s just something about the Tegernsee Special brew that offers something just different enough from Munich’s 6 leading breweries. For this trip, you’ll need to hop on a BOB train headed to Tegernsee from the Munich Central Station. Make sure you grab a group ticket if you’re traveling with 2-5 people after 9 am. You can spend the day hiking, swimming in the lake, sledding or skiing, just make sure you stop by the Tegernsee Brewery on the lake for a fresh local beer.
Nuremberg Beer Cellars
Nuremberg is just north of Munich in the Franconia region of Bavaria. They have great beer, and you can spend the day exploring their red beer cellars and tasting Nuremberg brewery. Hop on a Deutsche Bahn train headed to Nuremberg and book your Nurember beer cellar tour ahead of time to make sure you save your spot.
Hop on the S7 headed to Aying to tour their brewery, eat at their restaurant, and explore the charming town of Aying. There is even a little farm where you can take a walk with llamas. Book your brewery tour with Ayinger brewery ahead of time.
You’ll often find Erdinger beers in Munich, so taking the S2 to Erding to visit their brewery for a behind the scenes tour. The town Erding is a charming city break as well, so you can explore historic architecture. Book your tour of the Erdinger brewery or just enjoy a local beer at their restaurant. Afterward, you can even visit their fan shop after to pick up your favorite beers and swag.
Bamberg for Rauchbier
If you are in for a more extended day trip, then hop on a train to Bamberg to their smoked märzen dark lager. This beer is unlike anything you’ve tasted and originated in Bamberg. It smells like smoked meats and had dark wood flavor notes. The town of Bamberg is well worth walking around the charming alleyways and old timber houses. Budget a full 8 hours to drink all the beer and explore the town.
Brewery and Beer Tours in Munich
Paulaner Brewery Tour in Munich
The Paulaner Brewery is one of my favorite beer halls and gardens in Munich. It has all the rich Bavarian history you’re looking for without the tourist hype of the Hofbräuhaus. If you book a brewery tour with Munich Walk Tours you’ll visit the Paulaner brewery with an expert beer guide, plus you’ll even visit a few more of Munich’s main breweries such as Hofbräu. You may also try contacting Paulaner at Kapuzinerstrasse to see if they have brewery tours available for your group.
Hofbräuhaus Brewery Tour in Munich
Hofbräu is one of the world’s most famous breweries and brands, so visiting where all the magic happens is a dream come true for beer lovers. The tour takes you through the brewing, and fermenting process starts to finish, a beer tasting, and an optional meal (meat) included. Tours run Monday-Thursday every day of the year, EXCEPT holidays, and the week before, the weeks during, and the week after Oktoberfest. Tours start at 10 am with an optional additional meal or 1 pm with no additional meal. The cost of the trip is 10 Euro with no meal, 15 with meal. You must be 16 or older and register for the Hofbräu brewery tour in advance.
Spaten Brewery Tour in Munich
The Spaten Brewery tour includes Spaten, Löwenbräu, and Franziskaner brewing production lines. However, these tours only TAKE PLACE IN GERMAN, despite their website being in English. This tour is not ideal for my English reader, as you can see by reading my friend Ashley’s post about her mishap with the Spaten tour. You can book your Spaten Brewery Tour through Munich walking tours – if you speak German.
Microbreweries and Craft Beer in Munich
I used to give Munich a hard time for having lacking diversity in their beer. Cool, there are 6 major breweries in Munich that all make a similar tasting Helles. Where is the creativity and fun in the brewing industry? My prayers have been heard and slowly but surely new creative craft brews have been popping up in nooks and corners around the city.
I’m not the only one that thinks the beer scene in Munich is boring. Mario and Timm behind, Crew Republic agree with me. Which is why they quit their corporate jobs and began homebrewing in their back yard. Crew Republic has grown to be a favorite among the young hip crowd in Munich, brewing edge stouts, several types of pale ales from German, Indian, and West Coast USA, and barley wine all following Germany’s purity law. Look for their beers at supermarkets and beer kiosks across Munich, of if you’re in town on a Friday, stop by their taproom from 4 pm – 10 pm for light snacks and fresh craft beer on tap.
Giesinger Brew is like one of the big six breweries that had a baby with a hip craft brew. They take their beer very seriously, but always strive to push the brewing limits in the craft beer scene here in Munich. Instead of a typical Helles, try their Lemondrop Triple, for a strong beer with light, refreshing citrus notes or their Doppel-Alt for a dark lager, that won’t put you on your ass like many of the Starkbiers. Stop by their brewery and restaurant at the Giesinger braüstüberl for a cozy, but traditional German restaurant serving up great beers.
I came across these beers at a recent festival in Munich, and after I carried boxes of beer home with me to try, I fell in love. They are now one of my favorite craft breweries because they are Munich’s first certified organic brewery. This small family-owned brewery still bottles and brews everything by hand. You can buy a traditional Helles or Weißbier – made with all-natural ingredients. Or check and see what seasonal brew they have on tap like the Fest Märzen for winter. You can visit their taproom on Friday afternoon if you want to try the beer on tap. They also offer home brewing classes (in German) and a brewery tour.
Hopfen Häcker is a blen o cultures and countries as the duo behind this craft beer are from the United States and Germany. So, they bring together the innovation of U.S. craft beer and Germany tradition and expertise in the craft, as they hack hops to make new beers. Try their “Kill Bill” with fermented yeast from Belgium and hints of bitter orange and coriander. Or try their Wuiderer, a red ale – I know, I can’t believe I found a red ale in Munich either!! Each and every label is a work of art, so make sure you try them all. You can visit their brewery on Friday or Saturday early afternoon to drink beer on tap.
This is an underrated and unsung hero in the Munich craft beer scene. Started by Tilman Ludwig, who did a master’s in brewing from the world’s oldest brewery, Weihenstephen, just outside of Munich. After graduation, he decided to branch off and try something different. Tilmans brews 9 beers, including everything from Helles, Pils, and even stouts and traditional English style ale. One of my favorite things about this brewery is the social impact aspect. They partner with locals such as Munich’s best coffee roastery for a caffeinated stout, and Munich’s “Kulturator” philanthropy. All profits from the Kulturator brew go right back to charity – so you can drink for world peace.
The world’s first and only airport brewery AirBrü is worth flying into Munich just to try their craft beer. While most of their beers are quite traditional, the small-batch beers are created at the airport brewery and have fun travel-themed names. Dine-in their outdoor beer garden in the summer, hole away inside at their cozy modern dining area, or sit in a hot air balloon basket (on the ground) as you pretend to drink around the world in 80 days.
Best Beer Halls & Beer Gardens in Munich
My favorite beer hall and brewery, the Paulaner on Kapuzinerstrasse is a local favorite that is chic and cozy. With large spacious indoor area that is warm and inviting in the winter and a beautiful outdoor beer garden for the hot summer days. This is the one local beer hall and garden I take all my friends and family to eat at.
The Chinese Tower is located in the heart of the Englischer Garten. The walk through the gardens is enjoyable and the natural setting is refreshing. In the winter they have a wonderful Christmas Market, and in the summer they often have live bands. This is a touristy spot, but it’s worth the visit for the experience.
Also located in the Englischer Garten, Hirshau is a lively hoot and a half frequented by locals. With a stage for folk dancing and a live band playing music, this is one of the best outdoor beer gardens in Munich.
Maybe one of the most gorgeous outdoor beer gardens resting along a lakeside also in the Englischer Garten. You can sit on the water’s edge and watch boats and swans sail by during the hot summer days.
Biergarten am Wiener Platz
This outdoor beer garden is located in vienna platz in a charming neighborhood south of the Isar. Enjoy sitting outdoors in a bustling square with plenty of unique shops and restaurants around. There’s even a large May Pole at the center of the square so you are immersed in Bavarian culture.
I’m including this place as it is a global cultural icon known around the world. While it is touristy, there is a lot of historical and cultural significance, so it is a really interesting place to visit. Bavarians dressed in their traditional Sunday best drink from ancient beer steins while a live German plays oompa music.
Pubs & Bars for Beer in Munich
Tap Room is large American style tap room, featuring dozens of beerson tap and plenty of bottled beer cold and ready in the fridge. Frisches Beer is a small watering hole with plenty of craft beer on tap and in the bottle. True Brew is a new hip pub in town with a 60s retro vibe with live music and plenty of craft and local beer. The Crow Bar is a simple bar with not a lot happening other than great beer and chill people. Scholars is a classy Irish pub with U.K. beer, and hidden nooks to cozy up in front of the fire place with a cool one.
Beer for Those with Dietary Needs
If you are gluten intolderant or don’t consume alcohol for any reason, don’t dispair! You are in luck Gasthaus Obermeier, which is outside Munich city center serves a full gluten free menu including gluten free beer! Alcohol Free beer can be found literally anywhere at all supermarkets, and just about every restarurant. The big breweries in Munich do a great job ensuring they always have a alcohol free beer because there are a lot of pregnant women in Munich and people who choose not to drink for cultural or religious reasions.