Biergarten Putsch (or: Bodies taken over by beer)

Trip Start Aug 11, 2009
Trip End Oct 08, 2009

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Flag of Germany  , Bavaria,
Thursday, August 27, 2009

We arrived in Munich in the early afternoon and had a few hours to kill before our new found friend Katja was home from work to greet us (if you don’t recall, we met her in Amsterdam at the beginning of the trip). She lives in the Maxvorstadt neighborhood which is adjacent to the train station and within walking distance of several of the "big eight" Munich breweries. A very convenient neighborhood for proximity and a very livable one, too. Also convenient – a sprawling tree covered Munich beer garden smack between the train station and Katja’s apartment. We lugged our bags through the gravel grounds and quickly found out the beer garden rules. There is a section that has serviced tables and a larger section that is self service. Within the serviced area were round tables that were reserved for use only by the locals, which is fantastic. We first sat in the serviced area and had a quick snack and our first gigantic beers under a shade that helped cut a hot, humid day.

The beer gardens are serviced and run by the various big breweries in town and carry the brewery’s name on them. We were at an Augustiner beer garden, Augustiner-Keller (80335 Maxvorstadt, Munchen), but had made the mistake of going to a different Augustiner beer establishment after getting off the train (in the complete opposite direction, of course). Considering the sheer number of Augustiner establishments it is an easy mistake to make. This one, though, is the one to visit. It’s a beautiful outdoor park environment and even has a separate kids’ park area. When we arrived it was early and there were plenty of seats to be had. We hopped over to the self service area because the food and drink options were more varied and it’s cheaper overall. It’s also easier to be near the locals, too, and not separated by round and square table designations. Within an hour and a half the entire place was already getting close to full – on a Monday afternoon at 4 pm. Nice. The beer selection is limited to only the Augustiner beer line and the choices were the huge pils steins, a Weissbeer or Weissbeer dunkel.  We also unpleasantly found out that shandy is also alive and well here. For those of who may not know, a shandy is mix of beer and lemonade or, in this case, also beer and Coke. Gross. Why in the world would anyone do that to perfectly drinkable beer? It’s an abomination and we mistakenly grabbed one. Marisa actually had the great misfortune of first tasting it. I thought her face was going to fall off by the look it elicited. In fact, we left it at the end of the table hoping one of the staff would pick it up, but after a couple of hours of it sitting there we weren’t sure if they were being polite because it was a nearly full glass or they were afraid of it.

We hadn’t planned on it, but we ended up hanging out at the beer garden for four hours. Four hours of drinking big glassed beers. Clearly, damage was going to be done. To hell with it, we’re in Munich and drinking unreasonable amounts of beer was a goal. There was some food involved – Marisa got a spit roasted half chicken that had been basted in butter and parsley and was a greasy, great tasting mess. I had a meat called meat loaf, but it isn’t like at home. It’s a mystery meat product pressed into a loaf and eaten with mustards. Properly named, I guess, and straight up bar food. We also had a sugary pastry that is a local favorite and is basically a dough pulled apart into a roundish shape, fried and doused with powdered sugar. It’s another of those items that deposits directly into the blood stream. I didn’t get the chance, but wanted to try the Stickelfisch that was cooking over the coals of a large barbecue. It’s a local fish stuck whole on a skewer, cut open along its side and cooked over the coals until the outside is crispy and the inside is ready to eat (see picture, it looked really good, but, of course, we had some serious beer goggles on at that point.)

We highly recommend this particular beer garden as the environment was fantastic and had real local feel to it. Beer drinking age is 16 in Germany, so the range of drinkers is vast. Baby faced younglings were drinking at a table next to octogenarians, all with big glass steins and smiles. Early on nobody would sit at our table – wary, we think, of the American tourists with the big bags. By the end, though, it didn’t matter and we were surrounded by locals who were engaging. It really was an extremely happy place. It was difficult to leave the tree canopy as the cooling evening was cranking up the energy level of the beer garden.

Katja’s place was less than a five minute walk from the beer garden, but considering how inebriated we were, it is still a surprise we got there at all. First off, it should be known that Katja is a gracious and fun host and had wine, aperitifs and tasty snacks at the ready when we arrived (obviously later than we had planned.) Not having any sense at all at this point (nor much food to this point) we gladly started downing the Italian spritz/wine/snacks and hung out on her terrace talking and drinking until late. To be honest, neither Marisa nor I recall all the events of getting to bed and there were odd items pulled from our bags in the drunken haste to crash after a long day of travel and booze. The next morning was not pretty. Thankfully, Katja was at work and didn't have to put up with us.The day ended up belonging to our hangovers - brought to you by Augustiner, Munich’s tastiest pils. We sort of lost a day just rehydrating (and I was able to get a couple of posts out), but it was worth it. We came to the Munich beer garden, we saw it and it conquered us. ("Veni, vidi, vici" of another sort.) It was also very hot and muggy, so being inactive indoors wasn’t a horrible thing. We asked Katja the night before to choose a good local restaurant for us all to go to, so we were looking forward to a good meal to heal ourselves. What we got was a great meal – the best we’ve had thus far on the trip.

The name of the place is Zauberberg ( and if you’re ever in Munich – go. It’s an attractive local restaurant in an attractive neighborhood (Munich was heavily bombed in WWII, so much of the city center is made up of more modern buildings - this area still has a lot of old charming ones) and they do food right. And lucky for us we had a German translator or we would have been utterly lost. They have no menu and you can choose from a three, four or six course meal in which the chef first finds out what you don’t like/don’t eat and then gets creative with the ingredients. True food artistry. We chose the four course option and each course is paired with wine to match. The first course was a melon dish with olives and white wine reduction for Marisa and a super thinly sliced veal tongue in a tuna puree (with a caper berry) for Katja and me. Definitely my first veal tongue and (sorry, vegan and non-adventurous food friends) it was absolutely delectable with the tuna sauce. This was followed with a goat cheese and olive crispy spring roll, wasabi/soy drizzle and a fennel based salad. This was further followed by halibut on kale with chanterelle mushrooms (which were to be found everywhere at the nearby outdoor markets) and a reduction of some sort sided with a fried lentil cake and baby water crest. Then a mid course palette cleanser addition of basil sorbet. It was absolutely fantastic. Many days later and I'm still thinking about it. I know it sounds odd, but it still haunts me how good it was and that I may never come across it again. They froze it with a basil leaf on top so the shape and color so mimicked it that I thought it really was a basil leaf when it arrived. The flavor was a revelation. Surprise of the night for me. Next course: a game hen with baby carrots, snap peas, sprouts and other items I have forgotten. I'm pretty sure Katja has better notes than we do. The desert course was a buttermilk mousse on a chocolate/nutmeg spiced cake. A raspberry/mango puree drizzled the plate along with some stewed plums with a cinnamon/white chocolate stick. A matching muscato desert wine topped it off. If you haven't had muscato, try it. I don't normally go for desert wines (too sweet), but this Italian lovely has a strong floral/citrus smell and flavor and is a perfect meal finisher. Simply awesome. We were forced indoors at one point because there was a pretty good thunderstorm over head that dumped a lot of rain and, thankfully, cooled down the city. It was quite the Wagnerian dramatic end to an illuminating feast.

Katja chose an absolute top notch place and she is as much a food nerd as ourselves. We thoroughly enjoyed the evening and hope someday to return the favor in Portland for her.

The next day we decided to leave late for Salzburg because we hadn't seen much of Munich yet thanks to the power of Augustiner brewery. We headed down to Marienplatz, the big local square where there is the new rathaus (town hall) featuring a monsterous animated clock (Glockenspiel) replete with whirling dancers and jousting knights (one even loses when knocked off his horse) when it struck 11 am, noon and 5 pm. I learned the dancers are performing the Schlaffertanz - originally performed to commemorate the end of the plague in 1517. (I think dances should be created as such for all big crappy events, so I've vowed to work on one to commemorate the end of the current financial crisis. Whenever that happens. Feel free to send suggestions.)  It's quite a spectacle and we had unknowingly grabbed prime seats at a restaurant in the middle of the square so that I could get my morning weiswurst- the local veal and pork sausage standard that you are only allowed to order before noon. No, I do not know why, but they are firm about it. We added the necessary local additions of pretzel, kraut, leberkase (meat) rostbratwurstel (more meat), kartoffelsalat (potato salad)and downed it with some weissbeer to complete the Munich meal. There is a video I took of the clock event, but it really isn't easy to see what's going on. (Tiny zoom, big distance.)

Funny thing is, the new rathaus looks much older than the old rathaus nearby.  That's because the new rathaus was mostly built in the late 19th century while the 15th century old town hall was completely destroyed in WWII, but rebuilt to the same specifications in the 1950s. Yet it is still considered the old town hall.  That's history just messing with you.  Happens around here.

Nearby there is a great market area with fresh produce, fruit, meat, cheese and bread stores. If I lived nearby I'd be here nearly every day before cooking. We grabbed a bunch of goodies before heading out on the train and ate them during a hotel bed picnic in Salzburg later that night with some Belgian beer we had been saving. That's good living.

As has often been the case we wish we'd had more time to get a better look at the city, but we enjoyed our short stay, even if I didn't get a chance to see Bayern Munich (the soccer team that the city is mad about) play (although I did snag a Bayern shirt).That's a must next time. (Oh, and another shot at that beer garden. I think next time maybe we can take it one on one with the aid of the stickelfisch. Maybe.)
Slideshow Report as Spam
Where I stayed
Katja's Most Excellent Apartment
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