Sunday, March 23, 2014


    Can you say Starkbierzeit? It's German for "strong beer festival", an event held every March in Munich. For two weeks, breweries bring out their most potent beverages, and beer halls throw noisy parties with a host of Bavarian entertainment and food. It's Oktoberfest without the tourists.
    The festival's roots go back to the Paulaner monks who, according to legend, began making an extra strength beer to sustain themselves during their Lenten fast. The beer, first brewed in the 17th century, gained a "word of mouth" following. The townspeople called it Salvator.

    Strong beer's popularity took off after Napoleon rode into town and sold the monasteries to local businessmen. Paulaner ended up in the hands of a entrepreneur named Franz Xavier Zacheri, who turned the monastery into a beer hall and mass produced the monks' beer. In an inspired bit of marketing, he promoted Salvator as a cure for the wintertime blues. Munchner's answered the call, descending on Zacheri's beer hall in droves.
    Salvator is classified as a doppelbock, which means an "extra strength" version of the Bock style."Bock", in Bavaria, is a generic term meaning strong beer--pale as well as dark. Just how strong are doppelbocks? They start at 7.5 percent alcohol by volume. Anbd because their strength is masked by a strong malty flavor, they can sneak up on the most experienced of beer drinkers.

    The site of Zackeri's beer hall is still the gathering place for Starkbierzeit--especially on March 19th, St. Joseph's Day. Today, it's called the Paulaner Keller. This sprawling complex can hold 5,000 revelers, and there's room for thousands more outside. It has everything you'd expect in a traditional beer hall: sturdy beermaids; brass bands blaring out drinking songs; and plenty of malty, amber colored Salvator Doppelbock.
It didn't take long for Munich's other breweries to follow Paulaner's lead and come out with their own doppelbocks. But as a tribute to the original Salvator, they've all given their beers names ending in "-ator".
     Paulaner's biggest competitor is Lowenbrau, which brings out its sweetish--and lethal--Triumphator in March. You can find it all over town, but if you want to join the party, the place to go is the brewery's enormous Lowenbraukeller. Show up on the right evening, and the entertainment will include boulder-lifting competitions and other feats of strength.

    Doppelbock isn't the only style of beer served during Starbierzeit. For an interesting change of pace, head for Weisses Brauhaus, a popular destination for those who like to start their evening with a good meal. As the name suggests, it specializes in wheat beers, which Germans often call weiss, or white beers. This time of year, the brewery pours Starkweizenbier, a dark colored beer whose pronounced wheat flavor hides a big alcoholic punch.

    Munich's most intriguing strong beer venue is Forschungbrauerei, which means "research brewery", in English. By tradition, it's allowed to start serving its doppelbock, called St. Jakobus, a week before Starkbierzeit, it is a small, family run establishment whose entire production is consumed on the premises. It's also one of the few remaining places where beer is served in ceramic mugs which do a better job of keeping beer cold.

    Starkbierzeit isn't widely publicized,which is just fine with Munchners. It's their time of year to show pride in Bavarian culture and tradition. But don't let the local color scare you away, that's why millions of people visit every year! Bring a good guidebook, a hearty appetite, and a taste for strong Bavarian beer. That'll be enough to earn you a "Wilkommen" at any beer hall in town.


Boston, Mass.- They've been partying since 1901 in "Bean Town". About 850,000 people attend this spirited party. The city's population is about 16 percent Irish and they celebrate St. Patrick's Day with enthusiasm.

New York City- New York's parade has been celebrated since 1762. They expect about 2 million people to line the streets of New York for the largest and oldest St. Patrick's parade in the United States. The huge parade has about 150,000 marchers. No floats or automobiles allowed. Plenty of bagpipes and green beer in the city on this Irish event. As the original St. Patrick's Day Parade in U.S. history, the first event was held in 1762.

Chicago- South Side- The South side parade draws about 325,000 people. This Irish neighborhood's parade has a lively party atmosphere.

Chicago-Downtown- The event in Chicago has taken place since 1843. About 300,000 people attend the parade. Before the parade the famous Chicago River is turned green with the help of some green dye, and a leprechaun or two. The fantastic dying of the famous Chicago River takes place in the early morning and the parade follows.

Savannah, Georgia- The St. Patrick's Day event has taken place since 1825 and draws a crowd of 400,000. Local traditions include dying the city's fountains green and eating green grits for breakfast. The annual parade, one of the oldest in the country, is designated as one of the top 20 special events in the Southeast.


Kansas City, Missouri- This parade attracts about 200,000 spectators. The parade was first held in 1873 but did not take place for several years. In 1973, the parade was brought back to life by a group of businessmen trying to help out a pal by drawing a group of marchers to an Irish pub. The procession turned into a street party, and the parade has grown into one of the largest int he United States. There is a trip to Ireland to the grand prize winners of the procession, so participants give it their best effort.

San Francisco, California- The oldest and biggest celebration west of the Mississippi. The parade marches along the trolley tracks. There is a post parade party for the entire family. This event draws more than a million people. It is billed as one of the most fashionable parades in the country.

New London, Wisconsin- Magical leprechauns change the name of this northern town to New Dublin. A Parade, corned beef and cabbage and Irish music and dancing. A rowdy reenactment of Finnegan's Wake precedes the parade and festival, the parade is followed by an afternoon of celebrations at Irish Fest.

Dublin, Ohio- One of nine U.S. Cities named Dublin, it has one of the better St. Patrick's Day parties. 130 unites of clowns, floats, bands and lively pre and post parade parties. The Blarney Bash Tent features Irish music, dancing, drums and pipes.

Hot Springs, Arkansas- Described as what may be the "World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade", by Ripleys, this parade has unique touches including: Elvis look a likes, green fireworks and Irish Belly dancers.