In Drinking In the Culture (DIC), we describe Munich as a city of paradox and contrasts. That’s certainly true when it comes to considering the “progress” it’s made in the nearly 50 years we’ve known it. We miss some of the rough-edged fun of the Munich of our first visit, but overall it’s done a pretty good job of edging into the 21st century. And a good deal of that fun still remains.
Munich is less Nashville and more New York than it used to be, for the broad-humored (we use the term advisedly) Bavarian vaudeville acts are gone while the Opera has gone classy. The biggest and arguably the best of the old beer halls has vanished almost without a trace, replaced by an entire block of upscale shopping arcades. Ubiquitous wooden barrels have been replaced by obvious fakes with hoses running out the back to the kegs, and occasional tank trucks that hold the steel-aged beer. Several of the tram lines are gone, and it’s harder and harder to find the oompah music that is so much more thrilling as a once- or twice-a-year pleasure than as a weekly routine.
Still, Munich remains one of our favorite places in the world to party—just the two of us, or with three or eight of our new best friends. Some things don’t change much. The beer gardens function almost exactly as they did a half century ago, and the beer halls, although diminished in number, are also nicely predictable. The behemoth “Beer City” is gone, but a more compact and sustainably sized Der Pschorr (featured in DIC and pictured) has found a niche near the market area. It serves food that is far more sophisticated than the usual beer hall fare, and the place rings almost every 20 minutes with the tapping of a new fresh wooden barrel of beer. Many of the Augustiner outlets sell beer from the wood during at least part of the day, and the Augustiner Biergartens are all wood all the time—sometimes in 200-liter barrels that require two veterans of the “Iron Man” challenge to wrestle into place.
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