The scene is a familiar one: women and men decked out in traditional dirndls and lederhosen while they swig steins of beer to the toe-tapping tune of oompah bands.
Must be Oktoberfest, right?
Wrong. Starkbierzeit, loosely translated as Bavaria’s “strong beer festival” and literally translated as “strong beer time,” is the lesser known but notably stronger of the sud-soaked events for Münchners. This year, Starkbierzeit began March 9 and runs until March 25.
Paulaner am Nockherberg is Munich’s most famous watering hole for the two-week Lenten celebration, which has monastic origins.
The Bavarian brewery takes its name from the Paulaner monks who produced the original doppelbock called Salvator, Latin for savior.
“Doppelbocks are usually reddish-brown bottom-fermented lagers, and generally show a toffee-like, bready aroma and a rich malty palate with notable residual sweetness,” according to “The Oxford Companion to Beer.”
“While Salvator is the most well-known doppelbock, almost 200 other breweries indicate the style by adding ‘-ator’ to the beer’s name,” continues the comprehensive book.
The monks brewed the high-gravity beers to provide liquid nourishment while they fasted for the 40 days of Lent.
The meal-in-a-bottle, or “liquid bread,” contains an alcohol by volume (ABV) of at least 7.5% but often clocks in closer to the 9% range. To put that in perspective, the typical märzen-style beer served at Oktoberfest falls between 5% and 6% ABV.
During the festival, participating beer halls keep shorter hours than in Oktoberfest to account for the potency of the beer served in the one-liter ceramic steins.
Popular travel guide publisher Lonely Planet urges revelers in its book “A Year of Festivals” to “Come with good beer legs — doppelbocks are going to really test them.”