Oktoberfest is the world’s largest beer festival, celebrated worldwide throughout dozens of countries. The original festival celebrated the marriage of Ludwig I’s marriage to Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, and the tradition continues annually to this day.
Despite the name, Oktoberfest actually takes place at the end of September, which means that we were not able to attend the festival on our recent trip to Munich. Instead, we decided to do our own little tour through the famous six Oktoberfest breweries.
I’ve compiled brief summaries of each brewery we visited from my most to least favorite. I’m definitely a fan of the more informal and crowded beer halls in Germany, so keep that in mind when it comes to the rankings!
Ostensibly the most famous of the six breweries, Hofbrauhaus is an experience that can’t be missed! Due to its popularity as a tourist attraction, it’s nearly always packed full of visitors from all countries. The joy and terror of this beer hall is that you’ll have to be brave and ask a stranger if you can sit with them, but with the judicious application of alcohol, these people can become your new best friends.
Sometime you stay within your own group, but on our last visit, we were lucky enough to make friends with a pair of Germans and Italians (google translate was used liberally). There was a live band playing, so we learned a lot about German drinking songs and subsequent drinking curses. Make eye contact for your first sip after a cheers or face seven years of bad sex. Stand up and sing to these particular songs or you’ll have twenty years of bad sex. These curses add up alarmingly quickly- you’ve been warned. We were easily one of the rowdier groups in the hall and definitely got more than our fair share of curious looks from the quieter tables.
We’d started our night out with a half liter of Hofbrau Original, but our new friends wouldn’t take any excuses from us and bought us each an enormous full liter for our next round- we needed two hands to lift the mugs!
Expect beers here to cost about 6€ for a half liter and 12€ for a full liter. This is one of the more expensive breweries, but the atmosphere is worth it. Food and non alcoholic drinks are also available for purchase, and beer maids selling pretzels and other snacks do regular rounds of the hall.
Waitstaff here are understandably very busy, but we were always able to flag them down with relative ease. Make sure to have cash handy- no one has time for a card reader here.
I’ve written about Hofbräuhaus in more detail here.
Augustiner-Bräu is Munich’s oldest independent brewery and as a result has fair number of brew halls in the city. We visited Augustiner-Keller on our last trip and I absolutely fell in love. Even considering how iconic Hofbrauhaus was, this beer garden was a close second favorite. Since it was winter, the garden area of the beer hall was pretty quiet, but still decorated with some Christmas lights and a few fire pits for warmth.
It was too cold for us, so we headed on inside, where we were sat at a table in the front area of the hall with a few other visitors. They were less inclined to chat here, but we had a great time watching the wait staff ferry around massive numbers of beers and open new kegs of beer every twenty minutes or so. There was also a huge hall with long table and a wooden ceiling reminiscent of a beer barrel in a separate area towards the back.
I truly enjoyed the atmosphere of Augustiner-Keller and not only was their beer my favorite, but it was also the cheapest of all the breweries we visited coming in at less than 5€ for a half liter.
Lowenbraukeller was the next stop on our beer journey, but while the castle-like appearance of the exterior was cool, I felt that it was lacking just a little of the personality of the other breweries- we got sat at our own table by waitstaff, how weird was that? This hall was a bit more “formal” compared to some of the other breweries we visited, and it seemed common to order a full meal here, rather than a quick drink.
There was a live traditional band playing as we drank and they seemed to be having fun targeting a birthday party celebration at one of the tables in front of us. Their joyful exuberance playing these songs was my favorite part of the visit! One of them even whipped out a Alphorn and planted the far end on the birthday table- we had to limbo under it to leave the bar.
With no one to judge us here, we got a half liter of the Lowenbrau Original for about 6€, with the full liter coming to 12€. We were able to pay with card here without issue.
Located right off of Viktualienmarkt, this offshoot of the Hacker-Pschorr Brewery was super crowded and we were lucky to get a table, again sat by the waitstaff. This restaurant was opened in 2005, and definitely felt noticeably modern. The more traditional Hacker-Pschorr Brau is located across the river, and felt just a bit too far to check out when Der Pschorr was so close. I was a little disappointed in the atmosphere of Der Pschorr, but frankly, I’d made my bed and now I was laying in it.
The beer was good and we had a really lovely pumpkin soup for lunch- plus the location was pretty unbeatable. I doubt that I’d go back to this particular restaurant, since it wasn’t really scratching the itch of a classic Bavarian brewery (though no fault of it’s own), but it was a little expensive for food and pretty touristy. While the beer didn’t stand out to me, I didn’t hate it and I wouldn’t say no to heading across the river to check out the more classic brewery on my next visit, but it would be more of an afterthought.
Beers here were in that same range of 6€ for a half liter and 11€ for a full liter.
Paulaner Bräuhaus was the farthest we ventured for a brew and for some godforsaken reason, we decided to walk there. We definitely got our steps in, that’s for sure! Despite the walk, the brewery is only so low on my list for the simple reason that I didn’t like the beer. Fans of hops, of which I am not, may enjoy this brew, but it was definitely my least favorite beer of our Munich adventure. The brewery had a modern feel with white walls and lighter wood, and some of the brewery equipment was on display towards the entrance.
We had a table to ourselves for our visit, but in times of larger crowds, other guests would have been sat next to us. Beers here run about 5€ for a half liter and about 10€ for a full liter.
I’m wrapping up this list with Spatenbräu. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit this brewery (we were only visiting for so long!), so I’m not truly able to judge it on it’s own merits. I will say that it is one of the oldest of the six breweries and its popularity must be for a reason.
Tours of the original brewery are available and seem to be popular, and include drinks and snacks at the high tower of the brewery with a great view of the city.
It’s not necessary to go to the specific breweries listed above to experience the different brews- most restaurants will partner with a particular brewery and will offer those beers on their drinks menu. There are usually signs or branded umbrella’s indicating the partnered brewery outside of the venue.
It seems that every time I visit Munich, I leave at least one piece of unfinished business that compels me to return to the city. In this case, I’ll meet you in Munich for a nice, cold, glass of Spaten Original. Of course, out of these breweries, I don’t think I could ever let a trip to Munich go by without a visit to Hofbrauhaus, and Augustiner-Keller was a lovely surprise that I’ll definitely be revisiting in the future.