Across Germany, beer is a big deal. The brews are complex, the culture is deep and the traditions run long.
It’s hard to imagine a more quintessential German experience than drinking a liter in a biergarten to the beat of oompah music. Join this Bavarian beer-lovers’ tour to discover a few of the country’s top breweries.
1. The Bavarian Railway Station
The Bavarian Railway Station, or Bayerischer Bahnhof in Leipzig, has a rich history. It was built between 1841 and 1844, making it one of the oldest train terminus stations in the world. Unfortunately, much of the covered passenger lobby and station concourse were destroyed during World War II in bombing raids, but the building’s trademark portico was preserved. The station is currently home to a restaurant and microbrewery that brews the local Leipzig beer, known as Gose.
The amber-colored beer is considered the best dark beer in the country and has won the World Beer Award three times. It is so popular in the region that a Bavarian Beer Queen is crowned every year. In 2019, Veronika Ettstaller became the 10th Beer Queen, a position that includes representing Bavaria at various international events.
If you’re interested in beer, it’s well worth a visit to the station. The restaurant is a great place to sample the city’s famous brew, while the onsite microbrewery also produces a few other regional favorites such as the refreshingly tart Leipziger Weisse and the more bitter but equally tasty Dunkelweizen.
In the summer, there’s nothing like relaxing in a traditional Munich beer garden. The city’s taverns and beer gardens are an essential part of the local culture, where ageless fellowship is celebrated with music, dance, and—of course—great brews. The city’s beer traditions date back centuries, and they are a perfect complement to the city’s other cultural highlights, including the Glockenspiel at Marienplatz, the royal splendor of Nymphenburg Palace, and the renowned art of Alte Pinakothek.
A great way to explore the beer culture of Bavaria is to use a Bavarian Ticket. This regional train pass allows you to travel in and around the state and can save you a lot of money on train tickets. The pass is available for purchase online and at select ticket offices.
It costs 29 EUR per person for a day and gives you unlimited access to the regional train network in Bavaria. If you’re traveling for a longer period of time, consider upgrading to an ICE or IC train for better comfort and more frequent service.
2. The Hofbrauhaus
The Hofbrauhaus is the most famous beer hall in Germany and a must-see for any visitor to Munich. In this massive space, guests can choose to sit in one of the many rooms where a live band plays traditional German music and dances. You can also enjoy a meal and drink beer in the open-air Biergarten. The Hofbrauhaus offers a wide variety of food and drinks, including its famous Weissbier, a top-fermented wheat beer that is served with a giant pretzel.
The Beer Hall, or Schwemme, on the ground floor of the building was built in 1840 and is the largest room. It can accommodate up to 1300 people at a time and is surrounded by historical walls, giving you an authentic feel. In this massive space, you can order a stein of beer and eat authentic Bavarian dishes such as bratwurst and dumplings. You can also try the Hoffbrauhaus’ famous dark beer, Dunkel, which is brewed using only malt and hops.
You can also visit the brewery, which is located behind the main beer hall. You can see the actual process of how they make their beer as well as sample some. The brewing rooms are open to visitors from 9am-midnight.
In the past, brewing Weissbier was a privilege exclusive to the ducal court. This gave the brewery a monopoly over this type of beer in the state of Bavaria. Today, the Hofbrauhaus makes the best Weissbier in the world and it pairs well with traditional Bavarian foods such as roasted pork knuckle, sausages and dumplings.
During WW II, much of the Hofbrauhaus was destroyed in a bomb attack, but it was rebuilt and reopened in 1958 in celebration of the company’s 800th anniversary. The same family has been running the beer house since then.
You can visit the Hofbrauhaus on your own, or as part of a tour that includes the Munich Beer Museum and other attractions. The tours are offered by the Munich Visitor Center and include transportation to and from the beer hall. Getting there by public transportation is easy, with the U3 or U6 train to Marienplatz station and an easy four-minute walk from there.
3. The Gose Brewery
As the name suggests, Gose beer takes its origins in the city of Goslar. It’s not as popular as Pilsner or Kosch, but the 1000-year-old style is still going strong and is recently enjoying a revival in the craft beer world. The beer has a light tart flavor and low ABV, which makes it an excellent session drink. It’s brewed with 50 percent malted wheat and 50 percent barley. Coriander is often added for its distinctive citrusy tang and flavor notes. Lactobacillus bacteria, the same types of bacteria used in fermenting cheese and kombucha, are also added during brewing to give Gose its unique lactic acid sourness.
The beer was nearly wiped out during the two World Wars. It was difficult to produce and transport, especially in warm climates where the yeast would not survive. Brewers switched to bottom-fermented lagers, which could be made year round. These lagers soon started taking over from local top-fermented wheat beers like Gose. In the early 1960’s, the last remaining Ritterguts Gose brewery shut down.
But Gose’s been reborn thanks to a few things: the falling Berlin Wall, the craft beer movement and an influx of refugees from the former East Germany. In 1999, a Gosenschenke opened in Leipzig based on a handwritten recipe from Friedrich Wurzler, a former employee of the Dollnitzer Rittergutsbrauerei.
Today, many breweries around the world make their own version of the style. While the flavors and ingredients can vary greatly, modern Gose should always have a light tartness and low ABV. Some are even flavored with fruit, such as guava.
Whether you’re a fan of traditional or innovative, you can try out different Goses at the festival this weekend. There’s also plenty to do besides drinking beer. Food vendors offering everything from Caribbean jerk chicken to doughnuts will be there. In addition, there are several stages of live entertainment and activities for all ages. So, grab a Gose and say “goseanna,” the German word for cheers. It’s perfect for toasting the festival’s opening day. The festival runs through October 15. For more information, visit the official website.
4. The Beer Museum
The Beer Museum is more than just a fun place to visit. It’s an opportunity to learn all about the process of making beer. From the water sources used, to the different types of equipment, and even how the brewing process uses computer science, there’s plenty to discover. Plus, you’ll get to taste some of the brewery’s finest beers as well.
This is a museum that takes the history of beer and Oktoberfest seriously. It showcases Bavaria’s rich brewing heritage, showing that it is far older than the festival itself. Display boards detail historical facts and illustrations, while a small cinema shows a documentary about the history of beer in the region.
As a bonus, the tour includes a tasting session at a classic local beer hall/restaurant. You can enjoy a beer of your choice as you sit down to a platter of traditional German foods. This is the perfect way to round out a day of learning about the world’s most beloved drink.
Pilgrimage is thirsty work. The good news is that the Vierzehnheiligen, a church on a mountain near Bad Staffelstein, provides its pilgrims with refreshment and sustenance in the form of Trunk beer, brewed right on site at the monastery. The beer takes its name from the 14 saints that the church honors: The Fourteen Holy Helpers (Saints Florian, Agatha, Virgil and Maria) who helped people in times of need. The monastery has been a brewery since the middle of the 13th century and continues to brew its own beers today.
The brewery is part of the Tegernsee Abbey complex. The monks here have been brewing beer for centuries, and the abbey’s beautiful setting and rich treasures draw visitors from all over Europe. The brewery is also a popular venue for weddings, as it has a very romantic feel.
This tour is a great option for families looking for a unique experience in Bavaria. Not only does it introduce children to the rich history of beer in the region, but it also encourages them to be creative. The kids can make their own beer hats and costumes, and the whole family can compete in Ludwig’s best-dressed contest or stein-holding competition (the winner gets bragging rights). The train ride is not included in the price of this tour, but it’s worth it for the atmosphere alone.