Munich is the beer capital of the world, as if you didn't know. If Lonely Planet's numbers are correct, Germans drink an average of 250 liters of beer per year, while Munich residents average 350 liters! That's almost 1 liter of beer every day of the year. And keep in mind this is only average, which takes into account kids and those few who don't drink at all. All I can say is, "Wow." As Darth Vader would say, "Impressive, most impressive!" Certainly there is much more to Munich than beer, but let's talk about it later, when I sober. For now, I'm here for the beer.
I spent four days and most importantly, for the sake of this review, four nights in Munich during my backpacking trip this summer. One quickly realizes that in Munich there is no reason to wait for the sunset to go out and drink. It's Oktoberfest every day, light or dark, just like beer.
I stayed at the 4U München hostel, which had several beer vending machines. Now, stay with me for a minute. I'm talking about not just a vending machine, but the one that has beer in it, and certainly the one that would never ask anyone for ID, no matter if you are 10-years old, 15, 20 or any other age under U.S. legal drinking limit. Surely the cost wouldn't scare any minors away-about $1.25 for a bottle. The funniest thing was that the same vending machine sold apple juice, which was more expensive than beer. Go figure.
For the ultimate party for tourists there is only one place to be--Hofbräuhaus, Munich's largest, most famous, and most tourist-packed beer hall. It's unthinkable why would anyone who has any say over the city design allow building a Planet Hollywood right across the street from Hofbräuhaus. Yet, it's there. Disgusting. My eyes hurt.
Despite facing the ugly fast-food chain with super-inflated prices and horrible service (well, maybe in Germany it's better, I wouldn't know), and being 80% filled with tourists, Hofbräuhaus is worth a visit. It's quite a memorable sight--watching organized groups of Japanese tourists (anyone who has traveled knows what I mean) getting drunk, dancing around the table and singing German songs, oh yeah, and taking tons of pictures. If you want a genuine German experience look elsewhere.
Hofbräuhaus is enormous in size--it can serve up to 5,000 people at a time, but the demand for beer and good times makes it often hard to find an empty table. You gotta get there as early as possible. One trick to meet girls is to get a few people spread around the table making a false impression that there is no more space. Once a group of girls walk in looking for seats, all of a sudden there are 5 seats available out of nowhere. Despite the river of beer flowing from the barrels like after the April thaw, most of the time (perhaps with one exception of Oktoberfest) partying in Hofbräuhaus is not the same as partying in New Orleans during the Mardi Gras. There is a certain limit to one's happiness, which doesn't have to include partial nudity in public places.
The waitresses, dressed in traditional Bavarian clothing, carry ten 1-liter beer steins in their hands. It's astounding how they can handle the weight. (Don't try this at home!) Yet, somehow they do. By the way, Hofbräuhaus beer steins are quite popular with tourists. It's a nice souvenir. I wouldn't advise stealing it, though. Anyone coming out of the beer hall with a backpack is randomly searched by the security.
In the middle of the hall, a band of men also dressed in traditional Bavarian clothing plays lively German drinking songs, including the most popular, In München steht ein Hofbräuhaus...
In München steht ein Hofbräuhaus: Eins, zwei, ... g'suffa!
Da läuft so manches Fäßchen aus: Eins, zwei, ... g'suffa!
Da hat so manche braver Mann: Eins, zwei, ... g'suffa!
Gezeigt was er so vertragen kann
Schon früh am Morgen fing er an
Und spät am Abend kam er heraus
So schön ist's im Hofbräuhaus.
In English this would sound something like this...
In Munich stands a Hofbräuhaus: one, two ... cheers!
There run out so many steins: one, two ... cheers!
There are so many brave men: one, two ... cheers!
Show what he can endure
Already early in the morning he begins
And late at night he comes out
So beautiful it is in the Hofbräuhaus!
The scene in Hofbräuhaus when this song plays is super exciting. Here is how this works. When the band strikes "Eins" hundreds of people raise their thick glass 1-liter beer steins and simultaneously with cheerfully saying "Eins" clink them with everyone's at the table. The same electrifying process is repeated for "Zwei." Then, when the band strikes "g'suffa!" everyone takes a big satisfying gulp of the heavenly liquid. This chorus is repeated 4 times in this 4-minute song! Most people are drunk by the time it's over.