If you’ve ever been to a beer hall in Germany, you must know that beer drinking isn’t for the faint of heart. And in Munich, in particular, beer drinking is a serious past-time. There is etiquette, there is terminology, there are pairings, and ultimately there is ambiance. But briefly, here’s what you’ll need to know.
Beer is served by the liter or ‘Mass’, or by the half-liter or ‘Halb’. Ordering quantities smaller than that is generally frowned upon. For non-drinkers, even though sodas and colas are available in some of the beer gardens, a customary drink is ‘Apfelschaftschorle’, which is soda-water mixed with apple juice. This is of course not only much healthier but also more refreshing than a cola. And then there is the ‘Radler’, which literally means ‘cyclist’, and is half-beer, half-lemonade.
Food with Beer
The staple food in beer gardens is large, soft pretzels and sausages of all sorts, usually served with sauerkraut and potatoes. A favorite in Munich is ‘Weisswurst’ or white sausage, which is traditionally served in the morning, often with sweet Bavarian mustard and beer. Etiquette requires that you eat ‘Weisswurst’ by hand and leave out the skin. In most of the beer gardens, you are also permitted to bring your own food, although never your own drinks.
Seating in a Beer Garden
It is also not uncommon to share tables with strangers in some of the bussier restaurants, and beer gardens that sport long tables and bench seats are no exception. All you have to do is ask if there is free space: “Ist das platz frei, bitte?” However, it is advisable to not sit down at a Stammtisch even if you find it to be completely empty, since this is a table reserved for members of a group or society, available to their membership only or by invitation.
The Best Beer Gardens of Munich
The Hofbrauhaus, located at Platz 6 (tel. 089-290-1360), is perhaps the best-known and most popular beer garden in Munich. It enjoys international notoriety and is generally packed at night, with locals and visitors alike.
The Augustiner Gaststatten, Neuhauser Strasse 27 (tel. 089-2318-3257). The Augustiner is the second most famous beer hall in Munich, after the Hofbrauhaus, and is historic to boot. In fact, until 1885, Augustiner beer was brewed right here, at this very location. The building is in part Art Nouveau and the beer garden is especially delightful.
The Paulaner im Tal, at Tal 12 (tel. 089-219-9400), is a rather nostalgic restaurant that comprises a terrace and beer garden. It serves primarily local cuisine that incorporates a fairly good vegetarian selection as well as some Austrian favorites.
The Lowenbraukeller, located adjacent to the brewery at Nymphenburger Strasse 2, (tel. 089-526-021), is quite close to the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) in a rustic locale. It boasts a delightful beer garden, where the food is undeniably Bavarian. This is also a good place t go to get a whiff of the local flavor, for the beer garden tends to cater more to a local clientele than foreign tourists who seem to be drawn increasingly to the breweries in the Old Town section of the city.
The Bratwurstherz, located at the Viktualienmarkt at Dreifaltigkeitsplatz 1 (tel. 089-295-113), is a pleasant establishment and as traditional a bratwurst restaurant as one is likely to find. The food emphasis here is on homemade sausages grilled over a beechwood fire.
The Nurnberger Bratwurst Glockl am Dom, at Frauenplatz 9 (tel. 089-295-264), is pretty similar to the Bratwurstherzl. It known primarily for its Nurnberger Bratwurst (finger-sized grilled sausages) and traditional Bavarian fare. And this is one establishment where you should stick to beer here and not even think of asking for cola as the latter is genuinely frowned upon here.
The Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Pagoda), located in the Englischer Garten, is the second-largest beer garden in Munich. It has a seating capacity of approximately 6,000 people. Here, you can bring your own food, but, as with other such restaurants, not your own drinks. Several other smaller beer gardens are also scattered through the Englischer Garten.
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