Greetings Beer & Travel Lovers!
Last month we suggested trying “real” wheat beer as a way to mix things up in your beer life. This month, we shed light on another type of beer that would be a great addition to your mix - Starkbier.
What is Lent?
For the uninitiated, Lent is the Christian world’s 40-day season of prayer, fasting and preparation leading up to Easter Sunday. It begins on Ash Wednesday (March 1st, this year) and continues until Good Friday (the last Friday before Easter).
Years ago, devout Christians – in particular monks and other people of faith – would fast for the entire 40-day period of Lent, drinking only liquids. Since beer was considered a “normal” liquid at the time, the faithful were allowed to drink it year round, including during their fast. But back then, beer wasn’t particularly strong and didn’t contain a lot of the nutrients one would need when fasting.
At least as far back as the 1300s, monks in Bavaria were brewing beer for their own consumption and to raise money for their monastic orders. The Paulaner monks, whose monastery was just outside of Munich’s old city walls, began brewing beer in the early 1600’s. By the middle of the century they came up with the idea of brewing an extra hearty beer for Lent to sustain them during their fast. They named this beer Salvator from the Latin word, Savior.
Salvator, and other similar beers are doppelbock style beers (“double bock”), also referred to in Germany as Starkbier, which literally translates to “strong, dark beer”. Doppelbocks are made with larger quantities of malted barley than regular beer which provides additional nutrition – about 700 calories per liter versus about 400 calories in a “regular” beer. But a larger amount of grain also produces larger amounts of fermentable sugars, which results in a higher alcohol content, generally in the 7.00%-8.00% range. So not only did the monks get the extra sustenance they needed from their Starkbier, it no doubt helped keep their spirits up during Lent!
Today, most Munich breweries have a doppelbock in their line-up and all market it under a name that ends with “ator”. The short version of the story is that years ago, Paulaner Salvator became very popular with the public, so commercial Munich breweries started brewing their own doppelbocks, which they also named Salvator (before trademark laws existed). But Paulaner got a law passed to prevent the other breweries from using that name, so they came up with their own “ator” names.
Here’s a list of doppelbocks from today's “Big 6” Munich breweries, along with several others that are brewed outside of Munich. My favorites are noted with hyperlink.
BREWERIES OUTSIDE OF MUNICH
If you ever find yourself in Bavaria during Lent, be sure to ask your hotel about which breweries are hosting Starkbierfest events. Most breweries have something going on at some point, and they’re kind of like mini-Oktoberfests – a bunch of happy people standing on benches in a big room drinking strong beer and singing along with an oompah band!
Go “Doppelbocking” with Original Gravity Tours
If you’re able join one of our Munich & Bamberg Tours, you won’t attend a Starkbierfest, but you will be able to sample several of the doppelbocks listed above. Our tours include stops at Schlenkerla, Schneider Weisse, Weihenstephan and Weltenburger which all offer their award-winning doppelbocks year-round!
We hope you enjoyed this month's post and we hope you’ll consider joining one of our Munich & Bamberg Tours. Even if that’s not possible, please consider sharing this post with your beer-lover friends and following us on Facebook.
As always, thank you and Prost!
Greetings! I'm a passionate beer and international travel lover. Other than craft beer, I mostly go for German & Belgian beers and if you share the same interests, you may enjoy my blog. Prost!