I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Germans like beer.
Ok, that’s not really a secret, but for all the cultures that claim to love beer, no one else celebrates the beverage and, more importantly, the perfect ambiance to go with it, like a typical German biergarten.
But what makes this setting so special?
A dozen of us set out this past weekend to discover just that. We had heard tales from previous biergarten expeditions (namely, Biergarten Bonanzas I & II) that the answer to our question rested at the bottom of a maß bier – we just had to find the right biergarten.
So with Hawthorne’s “Beer Drinker’s Guide to Munich” and Bayern passes in hand, we made our way to Munich.
The first stop: the Fasanerie. Although renowned in the 17th century as a pheasant hatchery, this biergarten was popular with our group for having the best damn pretzels.
Probably even more impressive was the concessionaire opened a few hours early, just for us, and cranked those pretzels out like they were microwaved.
Next, we made our way to what has been called the largest biergarten in the world: the Hirschgarten. As the name implies, there’s an enclosure full of live deer in addition to the more than 8,000 seats in the surrounding biergarten.
We probably could have spent the entire day here, but trudged on to the Insel Muhle (island mill), where a few streams converge, splitting the biergarten into several sections.
By this point we were loud enough to be asked to take it down a notch, and one person was even jovially "chastised" for pouring bier into the wrong type of glass.
A few hours later we ended our search at a microbrewery called Forschungsbrauerei, where you can only taste the sweet nectar that is the St. Jakobus Blonder Bock at the brewery (they don’t distribute – not even in Munich), but the service was hit or miss.
After the last biergarten, things got a bit fuzzy: there was ninja frisbee, S-bahn platform dancing, a mad horn player, scary clowns, near-naked stream surfing and breakfast in the underwear garden.
In the end, I’m not sure if we ever found the answer to our quest – or maybe it was there all along. The more we sang (and drank), the more it seemed to make sense:
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit, die Gemütlichkeit. (A toast, a toast (to) the coziness.)