Munich at 850- page 4 | Travel | Smithsonian
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Medieval wall gate. (Toni Anzenberger / Anzenberger Agency)

Munich at 850

The livable, culture-crazy, beer-loving capital of Bavaria is coming to terms with its history

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(Continued from page 3)

On my last morning in Munich, I joined Wolfgang Stempfl, the dean of Doemens Academy, the city's renowned institute for aspiring beer makers, to sample this classic combination. At his suggestion we met at 10 a.m. in the Weisses Bräuhaus, a 450-year-old establishment in Old Town. The plain wooden tables in the cavernous, heavy-beamed main dining room were filled with connoisseurs of the house specialty.

I couldn't remember the last time I had had beer for breakfast, but that morning's half-liter went down as easily as orange juice. When I lifted the lid off a small pan of two white sausages immersed in a bath of steaming water, the aroma made me swoon. The veal filling was soft as a down pillow, its flavor delicate yet satisfying. A healthy dab of brown mustard jolted me into wanting more. I reached for another bite.

"You like it?" Stempfl asked.

"I could start my day like this every day," I replied.

We talked about his role in educating aspiring brewers about traditional craftsmanship, and about the upcoming Oktoberfest, the annual beer orgy, which fills every hotel room in Munich. Stempfl said he continues to enjoy the event despite its rampant commercialism, but is dismayed that younger Germans are beginning to opt for lighter American-style beer or even fruit-flavored varieties. I asked what he thought was the best Munich beer.

"Augustiner," he said, naming a brew that was first made by Augustine monks in 1328. "It's the oldest Munich beer, and the most distinctive."

"Why?" I asked.

"Nobody knows," said Stempfl. "Maybe it's the water they use from their 750-foot well. Maybe it's something in the unusually complicated brewing process. It's a mystery."

"Would most people in Munich agree with you?" I asked.

"Yes," Stempfl quickly answered.

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