Funnily enough in the many times I've been to Munich, I've never visited the Augustiner Bräustuben. I'd heard it was good of course and knew people who'd been there, but not me. Last week our hotel was just a few minutes walk away and we thought we'd take a look. We went on Tuesday night, though on the same morning we'd had a quick recce. Just a normal street corner local I thought, though probably bigger inside. We returned later, after many miles of walking and two or three half litres of helles in a very small kneipe nearby, where we drank cheap Hofbrau beer and sat nonchalantly as a couple of German lads threw darts at an electronic dartboard, just centimetres from our heads. Fortunately they were good and no darts rebounded, but we weren't as comfortable as we acted. Stiff upper lip and all that.
Man does not though live by beer alone, though I've been known to give it a jolly good try. The sky had greyed up and rain was spitting intermittently, when about eight o'clock we entered the Bräustuben. Bloody Hell. It was not only massive, but filled to the rafters with jolly Germans scooping it down and scoffing enormous plates of pork. There must have been several hundred of them. And us. A friendly waiter wedged us on the edge of a bench, delivered us of Augustiner Edelstoff and left us to it. I looked around at a scene that has become familiar over the years. Germans eating out in droves on a midweek night. We ate and drank well that night in a great atmosphere despite having to have many incorrect items (cheerfully) removed from the bill.
The day before when we arrived, we walked through the streets; me to re familiarise myself and Mike to see for the first time. Our first pint was in Augustiner am Platzl, opposite the Hofbräuhaus. It is a fair size, but boy was it busy. We perched at the end of a table, but just had one. It really wasn't that comfortable, though it didn't seem to bother the locals who ate uncomfortably balanced on high stools, while all sorts brushed past. Mike doesn't eat meat, which makes life tricky in Germany. He looked up the Hofbräuhaus on the internet and there was two or three veggie dishes on the menu and we were hungry. "Could we go there?" Of course. It isn't everyone's cup of tea, but it is mine. Normally. Now this is one huge place and it was rammed, though we did eventually find a seat after ten minutes or so. Our waiter wasn't at all jolly and was mostly absent and smelling strongly of smoke when he did return. We talked to a couple of Swiss folks on our table and we (and they) waited interminably for our beer and interminably for our food, though Mike was doomed to cheese and bread, as all cooked veggie options were off. It was a better visit last year, but I get the feeling that complacency has set in, waiter wise, though to be fair, my roast pork in paprika cream sauce and spaezle was delicious.
There's a lot of money in Munich.. Everywhere was the same. In midweek nights, it was packed and not just with tourists either, though it seemed to me, a keen observer of the German pub scene, that in some areas at least that hospitality and service was sorely lacking, even if customers certainly were not.
And my old favourite Hofbräu Dunkel seemed thin and unappealing, though maybe that was the poor experience. It was a good night though on Tuesday at the Bräustuben even if we did get pissed wet through on leaving.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
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