02 March 2009

Starkbierzeit

Monks and beer - it's as traditional as fish and chips, salt and vinegar, bacon and eggs. The names are the giveaway - Paulaner, Franziskaner, Augustiner. While the monastic connections are a matter of history in Munich, elsewhere at Andechs, Ettal and Weltenburg the Benedictines carry on the tradition.

Given this background it's no surprise that Lent and Starkbierzeit run in parallel. Fasting by day the monks brewed an extra strong nourishing beer to make good the lack of sustenance in their reduced Lenten diet.

Traditionally, the creation of starkbier is ascribed to a small order of Italian monks who arrived in Munich in the early 17th century. They were followers of St. Francis of Paola - hence Paulaners. Eventually this beer came to be called Salvator.

The monks are long gone and Paulaner is now in the hands of Brau Holding International AG, a joint venture between the Munich based Schörghuber Corporate Group and Dutch brewer Heineken N.V.

However, the brewery still produces Salvator strong beer and on 13 March at Paulaner am Nockherberg (link broken last time I checked) the first barrel of the new season's Salvator will be tapped before an audience of dignitaries and other worthies. The rest of us can watch it live on local television.

Elsewhere, other local breweries also developed their own versions of starkbier. In honour of the original Salvator most of these have similar sounding names ending in '-ator'.

At Löwenbräu it's Triumphator; Augustiner do Maximator; Unionsbräu produce Unimator. Beyond Munich, Ayinger do a well regarded version called Celebrator. Many other Bavarian breweries also produce the same style of beer - a doppelbock - without labelling it as a starkbier or following the '-ator' convention. Based on personal experience I can recommend the Andechs Doppelbock Dunkel - just be careful walking down the hill from the monstery afterwards.

I had my first starkbier of the season last night - a Triumphator at Zum Franziskaner. Our first serious attempt will come some time this week at the Löwenbräukeller on Stiglmaierplatz.

No comments: