In the heart of München's (Munich) pedestrian precinct of Neuhauserstraße, opposite the popular department store Oberpollinger, is one of the city's most famous beer and dining institutions. So much so that if you haven't stepped into Augustiner Großgaststätten, you haven't experienced München. Here are 3 reasons to make a beeline for this popular bier halle (beer hall) and restaurant.
Augustiner-Großgaststätten has a rich beer history associated with its founding monks dating back to 1294. Beer brewing on the premises began in 1328, making it the oldest brewery resident in the city. It even survived the World Wars.
In the course of its history, the Augustiner beer was privatised as Augustiner Bräu. This private company was taken over the Wagner family in 1829 and the actual brewing plant was moved to Landsberger Straße in 1855.
Despite the many changes, Augustiner Bräu did not change the way they brewed their beers, making the institution, its bier halles and beers an important reflection of München's culture and traditional social life.
The bier halle and restaurant of Augustiner-Großgaststätten are classic Bavarian. Push aside the heavy wooden doors and you're in a voluminous space with decorated arched ceilings, dark wooden panelling, exposed beams, mounted deer heads and long wooden sharing tables with chairs and bench seating. The waitresses are in dirndls, a traditional Bavarian dress, adding to the old-world atmosphere.
Other interesting aspects of the interiors include decorated cast iron chandeliers, an Art Nouveau glass dome and a Muschelsaal (Mussel Hall) where the walls of the hall are actually decorated with thousands of genuine mussel shells.
The facade of Augustiner-Großgaststätten does little justice to the space within. "Groß" meaning "Big" is an understatement. Two large doors provide access to this sizeable establishment. One entrance leads to the restaurant with various sections, and another leads to the bier halle with a long corridor that ends at a bar counter in the back of the building. You can walk around Augustiner-Großgaststätten for hours. Just when I think I've seen the last large space, I turn a corner and there's another one.
All the sections are abuzz with customers even on a weekday. It feels like all of München is here, the young and old, adults and kids, tourist, all chatting, eating, laughing and drinking away. Even four legged friends attend so careful where you place your feet. The atmosphere is fun and electrifying (in a good way). Service can be a tad slow with each waiting staff managing a sizeable section of tables and constantly moving between the kitchen and customers laden with beer and food.
In true Bavarian tradition, the cuisine is local and all food and beers are served at shared tables topped with a basket of pretzels. Augustiner-Großgaststätten prides itself on quality meat from select farms and its own butchers for its Bavarian cuisine. It only uses Gut Granerhof beef and venison from the lush pastures in the Alpine uplands of Upper Bavaria where freshness and quality are guaranteed.
We ordered several popular items, on the recommendation of our waitress, to share including the liver dumpling soup (EUR3.90), roast venison in juniper sauce (EUR16.80), special selection of suckling pig with knuckle of pork and poultry (EUR17.80), and apple strudel for desert (EUR4.70). While waiting, I couldn't take my hands and mouth off the lye pretzels with their salty crust and soft insides.
The reasonably priced food arrived in sizeable portions, making us glad that we'd ordered to share. We found the roast venison slightly dry but the generous serving of juniper sauce and creamed mushroom balanced the textures nicely.
There were no short cuts to the creaminess of the mushrooms' sauce as well as the individual pieces of sweet-sour cranberries. An interesting and tasty accompaniment was the spätzle (swabian noodles), a typical dish from Southern Germany which looked like short stubby dough and tasted like Italian egg pasta and gnocchi.
The München style liver dumpling soup appeared as a consommé made from richly flavoured beef stock with a large meat ball look-alike made of livers. I enjoyed the dish but found the liver flavours muted and much prefer Merchant's Venetian calves liver in Melbourne.
Augustiner Großgaststätte is one of the more traditional drinking and dining establishments in München and I've kept the best part of it the last, which is the beer.
The beers from Augustiner Bräu is voted one of the best beers in Germany. It is so popular that no form of advertisement is needed. Try that with Heineken, Tiger or XXXX and their market share will tumble. I was hoping to get some of its quaffable beers from European Bier Cafe back in Melbourne. Alas, all of it is consumed locally leaving none for export.
Another exciting fact for beer enthusiasts is Augustiner Großgaststätte continues to serve its historic brew from traditional wood barrels. As one of the Augustiner's showcases, it's offers the full range of Augustiner beer, including the Lagerbier Hell, Edelstoff, Weißbier, Pils, Maximator, Dunkel, Heller Bock and Oktoberfestbier.
All are brewed according to the strict stipulations of the Bavarian "Reinheitsgebot" (Purity Law) of 1516. The stringent requirements ensures exquisite quality at the oldest brewery of München. My favourite was the Weißbier, an amber wheat beer with a mildly spicy taste, matured in the brewery's vaulted cellars.
While readers digest the wonders of the history, food and brews of this famous living monument, "Kellner, noch ein Augustiner Bier, bitte!"