So, most people know about Oktoberfest, but have you heard of Starkbierfest? If you want to learn more about Oktoberfest, check out my post:
Starkbierfest may be less well-known outside of Germany, but it’s a big deal in Munich! Keep reading to learn more about Starkbierfest, and find out about a Philadelphia restaurant’s celebration of the Strong Beer Festival!
WHAT IS STARKBIERFEST?
Starkbierfest is translated as the Strong Beer Festival. The festival celebrates the most potent brews from Germany’s top breweries. While the alcohol content of the bier is typically higher, it’s really called strong bier due to the high concentration of solids in the bier. On average, a liter of Starkbier contains 180 grams of solids, which is equivalent to 1/3 of a loaf of bread!
The tradition of the biers served during Starkbierfest started with the Paulaner monks during the 17th century. During the 40 days of Lent, the monks were required to fast. In order to help with the fasting, they brewed a special bier called Holy Father Beer, that had more calories than the bier they traditionally drank. In fact, they called the bier Flussiges Brot (liquid bread).
Due to the laws in place in Munich at the time, the monks were not permitted to share the bier they had been making outside of the monastery. However, word of the bier started spreading, and the law was eventually changed. This allowed the monks to share the bier with the public. The first public Starkbierfest was held in 1751.
Starkbierfest is a huge festival in Munich – second only to Oktoberfest. Because it is less well-known outside of Munich, it tends to have more of a “locals” feel. The festival runs during the couple of weeks of Lent. The dates for 2018 are March 2nd through the 25th.
The most popular Starkbierfest location is at Paulaner, which is where the festival originated. Paulaner has the honor of tapping the first keg of the season, which kicks off all the festivities. Their main bier hall holds up to 5,000 people. They also set up outdoor tents, which can hold a couple thousand more.
The second most popular Starkbierfest location is Lowenbrau, however, many breweries and pubs around Munich and the rest of Bavaria also join in on the festivities.
As mentioned above, the biers served during Starkbierfest have a high concentration of solids. They also tend to have a higher alcohol level, ranging anywhere between 7 to 12%. The original Starkbier is Paulaner’s Salvator. Many of the Starkbier’s are named with the “ator” suffix – Optimator, Aviator, and Predator to name a few.
Starkbiers are traditionally darker in color, with a malty flavor to them. Because of the high alcohol content, they tend to be sweeter and not as bitter as a lighter bier. In many of the biers, you will get a taste of chocolate, raisins, or banana.
STARKBIERFEST AROUND THE WORLD
Like Oktoberfest, celebrating Starkbierfest has become more and more common outside of Munich. While not as many people know about Starkbierfest, there are plenty of breweries, German clubs and German restaurants that are starting to have their own celebrations.
A quick Google search found Starkbierfest events happening at breweries from Cedar Springs, Michigan to Salem, Massachusetts. Starkbierfest has a way to go before it becomes as popular as Oktoberfest outside of Germany, but it is slowly starting to gain some attention. Most bier lovers I know are willing to come up with any excuse to have a party and drink bier, so why not use Starkbierfest as an excuse!
PHILADELPHIA’S BRAUHAUS SCHMITZ STARKBIERFEST
In Philadelphia, we are very lucky to have one of the best German restaurants in the country located here. Brauhaus Schmitz opened in 2009 on South Street, in the heart of Philadelphia.
Brauhaus Schmitz serves authentic German food created by Chef Valentin Bay, who is originally from Germany. Chef Bay recently took over from Chef Jeremy Nolen, who had been with the restaurant since its opening. In addition to its house made sausages, the food menu contains everything from schweineshax to schnitzel.
Even if you don’t want to try the German food, it’s worth a stop into Brauhaus Schmitz for the German bier. They have the largest selection of German bier outside of Germany. They have 30 different German biers on draft, and over 50 different German biers in bottles. In fact, there are several biers on their list that you can’t get anywhere else in the U.S.
Brauhaus Schmitz also does a great job honoring the many German traditions. They do a huge Oktoberfest party, and the next festival they have coming up is their Maifest in May.
Of course, they had a Starkbierfest as well. They held four sessions – one on Friday night, and three sessions through the afternoon and evening of Saturday. I attended the Saturday night session and had a great time. For a $15 dollar entry fee, you received a ceramic mug and your first bier free. They even had miniature goats there during the day on Saturday.
As part of the fun, there was also entertainment by Hops Und Schnapps. These guys take their accordion, saxophone, and drum set on the road around the U.S. entertaining crowds. We had a ton of fun with them! They did a great job of entertaining the crowd. And, while you will hear some polkas and some traditional German songs, they also do some covers that you wouldn’t expect. Here’s one to check out:
Be sure to subscribe to Hops Und Schnapps’ You Tube channel. You can also find them on Facebook and Instagram.
As always, we had a great time at Brauhaus Schmitz enjoying the food, fun, and entertainment, but especially the bier! If you are ever in the Philadelphia area, be sure to check them out. It’s one of my favorite spots in the city.
So, now that you know about Starkbierfest, are you ready to visit Munich and experience the real thing? Be sure to plan well in advance. While it’s not as popular with tourists as Oktoberfest, hotels in the area still fill up quickly, and tickets and reservations to the two large Starkbierfest celebrations sell out months in advance. Starkbierfest is a great excuse to visit Munich!
Have questions about visiting Brauhaus Schmitz? Want to know more about Starkbierfest? Comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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