This Pretty City Has The Best Beer Scene You'll Find In Europe, According To Rick Steves

Travel expert Rick Steves has a strong opinion on where to find the best beer scene in Europe. He stated in a blog article, titled European Beer Basics, that "there's no better place to drink up than in Bavaria," Germany's largest state, which is located in the southeastern corner of the country. In particular, Steves singled out the Bavarian city of Munich as the place offering beer connoisseurs the best beer experience: from the amazing traditional beer and loud oompah music to the boisterous anthems and traditional toasts and the beer maid serving cheap dinners "with mustard packets pulled from her cleavage." Prost! It's always a good thing to be prepared with a few German words and phrases before you hit the beer scene. 

The core feature of guzzling great beer in a Munich beer venue, notes Steves, is "gemütlich," which is like "carpe diem" with touches of Bavarian chaos and coziness. "Spend an evening clinking mugs with new friends, immersed in this boisterous and belching Bavarian atmosphere. The warm and frothy memories are yours for the taking," he explains. Because of "gemütlich," beer experiences in Munich are far more than just hops-based beverages; they combine high-quality drinks, festive venues, and age-old traditions into memorable experiences for locals and visitors alike. 

Munich beer and venues

The heart of the Munich beer experience is the beer itself, of course. And there's no denying that when it comes to their favorite beverage, Germans have high standards. Steves notes that the "Reinheitsgebot" of 1516 (the oldest law in the world regulating food and drinks) stipulates that the only ingredients allowed in German beer are malt, yeast, hops, and water. This means that Munich visitors craving a nice, cold boysenberry-cinnamon-vanilla ale are probably going to be outta luck. Instead, the options in traditional establishments would normally include a light, clear lager (helles) or a dark heavier beer (dunkel).

As far as the setting is concerned, a classic beer garden or hall would be the ideal place for a gemütlich-style beer immersion, following Steves' example. Beer gardens, which evolved from the open areas where monks once sold beers they brewed to the public, can be the more "soul-stirring" establishments, especially when they're in a beautiful environment. For example, Steves' favorite beer garden (and beer) can be found at the Andechs monastery, a short drive from Munich in the Bavarian Alps. Classic beer halls, on the other hand, are noisier than Andechs but can still deliver heaps of gemütlich. "Beer halls give you what you need," observes Steves in his blog article on Munich. The proof is the "legions of happy drinkers" in the halls, nursing their steins and nibbling on enormous pretzels. 

More Munich and European beer experiences

For the wildest Munich beer-drinking experience, says Steves in his blog, head to the not-to-miss fall adventure known as Oktoberfest. This is Earth's largest celebration of all things Bavarian, including the region's beloved beer culture, and it lasts for a full two weeks. The only beers served at the enormous party are those brewed within Munich city limits, which include Hacker Pschorr, Spaten, Hofbräu, Augustiner, Paulaner, and Löwenbräu (otherwise known as the Munich Big Six). Each of these breweries runs its own beer tent during the Oktoberfest festival and serves only one traditional Marzen-style lager. These lagers are made strictly for Oktoberfest in accordance with the "Reinheitsgebot" purity law. 

If beer is your thing, go beyond Bavarian beer experiences and embark on a European beer tour for your next vacation. Steves notes that Belgians, Czechs, and Brits all pride themselves on the quality of their beers, though they probably don't dish out gemütlich. Sounds like some taste tests are in order.