Munich's beer gardens are beautiful. The leafy chestnut trees provide a lovely cool respite from the humid summer heat. Back in the day, chestnut trees were planted to provide cooling for the beer cellars, so it is safe to say that only the oldest, most traditional breweries are graced with these chestnut canopies.
The Paulaner am Nockherberg is one of these old characterful breweries that used to be a monastery. There is a lush garden at the bottom of the small hill, with a staircase leading up to the beer hall. Its all old and quaint and not the way I would have pictured a beer garden at all before moving to Munich.
Monks started brewing beer here in 1634 - all only for themselves (about two hours out of town, at the Weltenberg Kloster cellar, they referred to beer as some kind of elixer of enlightenment). At some point the Nockherberg stopped being a monastery and a few years ago the Paulaner took over this cellar known at the Salvator-Keller. They brew a strong, dark beer here known as the Salvator, which is very propular.
Of course, as with most true beer gardens in Munich, it is not possible to order any smaller quantities of beer than a Maß (pronounced 'Maz') - which is a one litre mug. I'm getting better at holding the Maß, which is good, because Oktoberfest will be coming up soon and I need to be ready. Though I still prefer to go for the Radler, which is a type of shandy premixed with local lemonade in the barrel. I do like the taste of Bavarian beers, expecially the dark ones, but it's the quantities that get me. Bavarians don't really see beer as alcohol though, it's merely an important part of a good, healthy diet.
Many beer gardens in Munich don't serve food, a long standing tradition that is meant to protect the restaurants in the area. At the Nockherberg, though, they serve large portions of Bavarian delicacies. German sausages, brezen, deer and, at the moment, the delicious seasonal white asparagus. It is also here where I discovered the large, over-sized brezen. They are bigger than an average dining plate and make a good, salty snack to have with beer.
In fact, a beer and a brezel is more than enough of a dinner for the average lady - although, sometimes I still miss my mussels and bubbles dearly. Perhaps its time to explore a little bit beyond the city of beer.