Discover Germany, Issue 90, February 2022

Page 15

Germany’s Strong Beer Tradition


Wine & Dine


Discover Germany

A smiling woman wears a traditional Dirndl dress and holds a Masskrug (Stein) the Starkbierfest (Strong Beer Festival) at the Nockherberg in Munich, Germany.

GERMANY’S STRONG BEER TRADITION You may be forgiven for suspecting that anyone explaining the monastic origins of the strong beer today served at springtime festivals in Bavaria and beyond is jesting. Rest assured, beer is taken seriously in Germany and, save details that have inevitably become fuzzy over time, the seemingly improbable legend stands up to scrutiny. TEXT & PHOTOS: STUART FORSTER

beer significantly more calorific than their normal batches. Brewed in bottomfermented tanks using more malted barley than regular beer, it provided sustenance that drew comparisons to liquid bread. In the circumstances, monks regarded the drink as a form of salvation.

Termed Starkbier in the German language, Doppelbock – the beverage known generically in English as ‘strong beer’ – was first brewed by monks in Munich to provide energy during Lent. Fasting from Ash Wednesday until Maundy Thursday was widespread in Europe among devout Christians during the Late Middle Ages and Early Modern periods.

the 40 days that Jesus Christ spent in the desert resisting temptation. Monks observing the fast were expected to eat just one simple meal a day. Some would undoubtedly be taunted by devilish pangs of hunger. How could they be expected to resist tempting morsels of food or, more importantly, stay focused on God’s work?

But why consume beer, you may wonder? At a time when tea and coffee were barely known in Europe, slurping beer for breakfast was by no means uncommon – even among children. In our age of careful regulations relating to hygiene, it’s easy to overlook that consuming water was riddled with risks back in 1634.

Biblical scholars will turn to the New Testament, quote the fourth book of Matthew and tell you that the Lenten fast was inspired by

At the Neudeck ob der Au monastery in Munich, friars of the Order of Minim – founded by Saint Francis of Paola – created a seasonal

Documentation from that year mentions monks brewing in the Au district of Munich. Over time their establishment evolved into February 2022


Issue 90