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Paulaner Salvator & Starkbierfest

Germany might be the only nation on earth that could hold an event like Starkbier Fest. Nowhere else could you cram thousands of people into the windowless halls of a brewery, serve them a 7.9% dark lager and it not turn into a riot.

Instead, Paulaner’s spring festival (starting 10 March) is like Oktoberfest in miniature. It has a much more local feel, with a higher concentration of Germans taking part, which is probably for the best as Bavarians are hardened lager drinkers. The beer here is called Salvator, and it was the first beer brewed by the monks of Paulaner hundreds of years ago. The beer is responsible for the first recorded mention of the brewery, which is a letter from the other breweries of Munich complaining that the beer has unsettled the market – seemingly because it was too good and was hurting the other breweries' businesses. It's still just about the most drinkable and balanced strong beer in the world, despite being 7.9%.

Thankfully the festival starts with plenty of German food – the kind of stuffed designed to line stomachs and warm your soul. Pretzels, meat platters, sausages, rotisserie chicken, roasted vegetables and frites are piled high on the tables to the point where you couldn’t put down your glass even if you wanted too.

The beer itself is fantastic with all those hearty dishes. Technically it’s a bock – a dark, robust lager that uses almost 100% Munich malt. Where most malts are made by steeping in grain then being left to germinate, Munich malt is stewed to release more sugar, which then caramelises when it’s kilned. This gives it a darker hue that continues through to the beer, as well as a burnt caramel flavour. Invented in Munich, it’s now used from everything from German Bocks to British ESBs. In Salvator that caramel malt flavour balanced by a mountain of noble German hops that give the fresh beer a surprisingly crisp and bitter finish, complementing the roasted flavours.

The beer is a little brewing marvel, and it doesn’t take long to get through the first two. Beyond that though, with a belly full of food, it can take a little longer per stein. That’s OK though, because by then the band has started, and in lieu of a dance floor, the locals are dancing down the aisles, pulling people up and into the fray whether they are mid gulp or not.

It’s impossible not to get swept up in an event as lively, convivial and traditional as this and it’s a vibe not many British beer festivals have managed to recreate. However, this year we have a few accounts running Starkbierfest, including the great Munich Cricket Club in Victoria, where we have sent wooden barrels to be tapped a the start. For tickets click here, or for information on how to run your own just speak to your rep.