If you are a beer aficionado, you can’t probably afford to miss the spring beer fest in Germany. It is termed as ‘Starkbier’ fest. ‘Stark’ in German means ‘strong’. So this is the festival of ‘strong beers’. This fest has a 500 year old history.
The Christian monks are supposed to observe a 40-day fast during lent. This obviously is very exhausting. So Brother Barnabas with his fellow Paulaner monks, found a way to circumvent this highly exhausting fasting rule, which says that they cannot eat. In 1651 they brewed a special beer with added malt and grains. This made the beer stronger by way of its solid content but not much in the alcoholic content. The monks called it ‘Salvatore’ meaning ‘savior’. This strong beer is also called ‘Flüssiges Brot’ or liquid bread.
It is said that one liter of this beer is equal to 16 loaves of bread. Thus the monks kept themselves energetic. This was kept within the monastery for another century. But by the beginning of the 18th century it was known to the Bavarian rulers and the stark beer was brewed outside the monastery. In 1751 the first starkbierfest was conducted. Thereafter, it was taken up enthusiastically by the Germans on a yearly basis.
It began to be conducted during February – March every year. The Starkbierfest is an important beer festival, second only to the Oktoberfest. It begins two weeks after Shrove Tuesday. The festivities start with a meeting of the local VIPs to witness a special function, that is, the driving of a steel tap on a new keg of beer by the Braumeister. This beer is traditionally served in a one-liter stein called Keferloher.
This is an occasion for the Germans to come out of the inactivity of the cold winter and welcome spring.
All the breweries and beer halls conduct their own celebrations, in which the revelers are allowed to enjoy the festive spirit by singing and dancing. There are a number of breweries producing this special strong beer for the occasion. But the traditionalists are of opinion that there is nothing like the strong beer produced in the four main breweries in the Munich metropolis, Paulaner, Löwenbräu, Augustiner and Unions.
The beer will be served from 2 pm to 11 pm everyday and 11am to 11pm on weekends. But the serving will end at 10.30 pm. The festivities are over before midnight every day. In short, it is not a drunken chaos; on the other hand, it is a highly disciplined revelry. You can enjoy the sweeter and highly flavored beer. The added malt gives it a nutty taste. This strong beer is characterized by its dark amber color.
This is a three-week long exciting celebrations, in which special strong beer flows in hundreds of liters. On the previous day of the actual starting of the festivities, a comic procession called Derblecken is conducted at Nockherberg, in which floats with the caricatures of the local Politian’s and other celebrities are exhibited. The citizens, dressed up in colorful costumes, turn out in large numbers to witness this. This procures a carnival air to the fest.
The Starkbierfest of 2016 is scheduled from February 26th to March 13th. If you happen to be in Europe or plan to visit Europe this is one fest you should not miss. The strong beer specially brewed for the fest is worth tasting.
by Marina Chernyak