Packed beer cellars, huge glasses of froth, men in Lederhosen and women in Dirndls – sound familiar? While all of these can still easily be found in the Bavarian capital, Munich’s world-famous beer culture has a more diverse (and sophisticated) side too.
Beer in Munich is a great equaliser: head inside a traditional Wirtshaus pub-restaurant, a beer cellar or beer garden and you could find yourself drinking on the same table as just about anyone, from a skint student to a besuited executive – or both. In most you’ll get a choice of Helles (lager) or Weißbier (wheat beer), both with frothing heads and in half a litre or Maß (litre). Toast your neighbours by clinking your glasses, always with eye contact for good luck, and follow it up with a Prost! (cheers!)
In recent years a host of exciting craft beer manufacturers have sprung up on the Munich bar scene, offering welcome competition to Munich’s traditional Big Six: Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräuhaus, Löwenbräu, Paulaner and Spaten-Franziskaner. And reflecting the demands of locals and visitors alike, this now includes organic breweries. The result is that when you sit down for a cold beer in Munich, there’ll be something to sate the taste of every kind of beer lover. So browse our run-down of the absolute best places to drink beer in Munich and take your pick.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best bars in Munich
Best places to drink beer in Munich
The centrepiece of Viktualienmarkt, a legendary gourmet food market in Munich, is this beer garden comprising lines of wooden benches beneath abundant leafy shade. Local breweries, from Augustiner and Löwenbräu to Hacker-Pschorr and Paulaner, take turns on tap here every few weeks, so you never know what’ll be served in your Maß. According to Bavarian beer garden tradition, guests can unpack and enjoy their own snacks, so most simply peruse the market’s artisan vendors. Obscure cheeses, hams, truffles, olives and jams are just a few of the decadent options available.
Between Munich’s two most iconic beer halls, Augustiner Keller and Hofbräuhaus, Augustiner is locals’ go-to for a less touristy vibe. Every year this enormous 5,000-seater beer garden flourishes into a scene out of ’A (Bavarian) Midsummer Night’s Dream’, with sunbursts across bright chestnut foliage by day and fairy light twinkles by night. Indoor seating includes a traditional beer hall and a red-brick subterranean cellar once used for refrigeration. There are several kegged selections, but the most popular is the Augustiner Lagerbier Hell, which has had a mild refreshing spritz courtesy of a painstaking two-step fermentation process.
This charming tavern is home to Schneider Weisse, Germany’s most popular wheat beer brewery. Traditional trappings include wood-panelled walls and sepia photos, plus a maze of intimate parlour rooms. There’s a designated salon for Munich locals (Pope Benedict XVI once knocked back a glass here), another for regulars and even student gatherings. Brews include Schneider Weisse, its most classic wheat beer, and Hefeweizen, a yeast wheat beer with a light, smooth taste. Or you can act like a local and order a Russ’n – a wheat beer topped up with fizzy lemonade.
Though rebuilt in the early 20th century, the Hofbräuhaus dates back to the 16th and today it’s probably the most famous beer cellar in the world. Spread across three floors, it’s packed with robust wooden tables, arched windows and resplendent high-ceilinged frescoes. Of course, there’s an oompah band, and waiters in Dirndls and Lederhosen balancing armfuls of Maß frothing with Hofbräu Original, a Munich Helles lager brewed according to Reinheitsgebot standards. Though it has its regulars, often with reserved tables, it’s invariably densely packed with tourists, especially when the summer beer garden is open, and on weekend nights you’ll need an eagle eye to spot any empty seats. They’re all there for the beer, the traditional Bavarian delicacies, from pork knuckles to plump white sausages, and the ultimate beer cellar experience there is.
This secret beer bar is a time warp to bygone Bavaria: it’s a tiny wooden parlour with no seating, little personal space and only the finest Augustiner tapped fresh from oak barrels. Stehausschank, or ‘standing bars’, like this were once ubiquitous, but alas here is Munich’s final original. Duck in on a weekday night and expect to (literally) rub shoulders with office workers kicking back cold ones. The price is right, at just €3.10 for a frosty half-litre – reasonable considering this place is on downtown touristy turf. Get cosy and dive straight into high-octane chatter (and bring your wallet – it’s cash only).
Wirtshaus in der Au is a stalwart of the traditional Munich beer (and Bavarian food) scene. Replete with wood panelling, large tables and ceiling-spanning arches, Wirtshaus serves Munich Paulaner beer, plus a fine dark craft Weißbier named Karl Valentin (a big name in the city’s early 20th-century comedy scene and a frequent visitor). It’s also home to Munich’s most revered Knödel, the heavy Bavarian dumplings that kids around here used to grow up on (some still do). As per tradition, they’re made using a base of potato or bread, but at Wirtshaus they also contain Paulaner beer and are served alongside gravy and the usual huge lumps of roast pork. Other varieties available contain wild garlic and spinach with cherry tomato sauce.
This sleek, modern beer hall is the tasting headquarters for some of Munich’s most acclaimed craft brews. There’s a traditionally minded assortment, including unfiltered, unpasteurised Märzen and Pils, as well as experimental small batches. Located in the former worker district of Giesing, the brewery has plans to ramp up production with a second outpost in Munich further north in 2020. It recently opened a traditional Bavarian Stehausschank or ‘standing bar’ with €120,000 raised via crowdfunding. In this small annex, guests can tilt back not just Giesinger brews but also regional and international craft beers while enjoying live music.
Der Pschorr is the brewery house of Munich institution Hacker-Pschorr. Though located in Viktualienmarkt, it’s not to be confused with the market’s beer garden – Der Schorr has a great big indoor restaurant and its own outdoor seating. Chill out under a red table parasol or slip downstairs into the wooden keg parlour, where you can drink overlooking handmade barrels stored behind glass in a cooling area. The wooden barrels sit for hours under ice blocks until they get tapped, ensuring every Maß is chilled and has a thick layer of foam. While the Edelhell is Hacker-Pschorr’s speciality, you can also choose from dark beer (Dunkel) and Weißbier variations.
Haderner is a relative newcomer but is already seen as a big plus for the Munich beer scene. As the name suggests, Haderner is brewed in the Munich suburb of Hadern, and because it’s still a small business and family affair, has a much more independent feel than the more old-fashioned Munich beer stops. Everything brewed by Haderner is also bio, the word that tells you that what you’re drinking is organic. The brewery runs tours, courses and tasting sessions on Fridays between 3pm and 6pm. As well as the basics – top-notch Weißbier and Helles – Haderner regularly brings out new brews and now has its own IPA, plus alcohol-free and low-alcohol beers.
Crew Republic’s taproom looks more Berlin than it does Munich – the building sticks out in its quaint residential neighbourhood a half-hour drive from the city centre. Having started with a home-brew kit in 2011, today the tattooed and bearded dudes behind the brewery have bucked Bavarian tradition with an anti-Reinheitsgebot assortment, such as the popular Drunken Sailor IPA or an imperial stout called Roundhouse Kick. Tours and tasting are available with reservations, and increasing numbers of restaurants and supermarkets stock Crew beers.
Draped in polished wood and wicker accents, this craft beer bar might take design cues from its American counterparts, but what’s in stock is purely European. Tap-House offers a colossal selection of 200 craft brews, including around 40 on tap, from brewers in Germany, Belgium, Italy and beyond. A long rustic bar gives off an Oktoberfest ambience, turning stool-side strangers into drinking buddies. You can also critique your sips via the Tap-House app, which features a list of all variations served, as well as helpful hints and a section for note-taking, making a handy companion for beer geeks and craft beer rookies alike.
This hipster beer bar in trendy, central Maxvorstadt breaks the mould with a wall of self-service beer taps, functioning with loadable chips and a ‘pay for what you pour’ system. Simply put a few euros on the ‘i-Button’ and fill up from taps of Bavarian beers including Augustiner, Andechs and Tegernseer, or imports. The ‘indoor beer garden’ concept means guests can bring their own vittles or even order in (chalkboards list the numbers of nearby restaurants offering takeaways). A wall of whiskies, curated by StammBar’s Scottish owner, and another with board games makes this the perfect watering hole for a homey evening out.
Richelbräu is a hobby brewery that doubles up as a cultural community space which puts on film screenings, brewery bicycle tours and other entertainment. It’s technically not even allowed to serve beer from its tiny production room, but gets around this rule by offering donation-based tastings. Tucked between apartments in Munich’s quiet Neuhausen neighbourhood, the building is easy to spot thanks to an egg yolk-yellow exterior. There’s always some new and quirky venture here, including a beekeeping initiative which aims to produce honey for the Richelbräu brews.
And here’s where you should eat...
From world-class museums and concert venues to midnight bazaars and a singular glockenspiel, this city overflows with brilliant attractions and things to do. But top of your list as soon as you’ve landed should be a tip-top hearty meal at one of the best restaurants in Munich – because few cities do comfort food better than this.