Founded on the site of an Augustinian Monastery in 1328, Augustiner Bräu is the eldest of six brewing dynasties in Munich. The Bavarian Prince let the monks off paying taxes for brewing such brilliant beer. They were on to a good thing until Napoleon came along and ruined all their fun, forcing all church holdings over to the state of Bavaria in 1803.
It’s now the only independent brewery left in the city and is owned by a charitable foundation set up by the last Wagner heir, a great-granddaughter of Anton and Therese Wagner who purchased the dormant beer licence in 1829.
Augustiner don’t do anything quickly. When most German breweries updated their bottles to a slimmer, modern design decades ago, Augustiner stuck with its original bottle, known locally as the "Bauarbeiterhalbe" (builder's half litre). The labels haven’t changed for over 20 years.
Playing the long game is the way to do it apparently. Augustiner are producing more than 95 million litres of beer a year and exporting all over the world. All with a policy to never advertise.
This week’s beer is brewed slowly too. It’s put through a second maturation for several months, which many believe adds an extra bit of magic.
Helles means “light” in German and these beers epitomise Bavarian lager. Augustiner’s version, brewed in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot, is the original and still one of the best examples of the style. Unlike Pilsner, Helles lagers focus more on malt character and are slightly lighter in colour than their Czech counterparts. Subtle floral hops, soft body, a bready depth, biscuity sweetness, a slightly bitter, grassy finish. Uncomplicated. Amazing.
We’re hoping to get over to Oktoberfest this year and drink a stein or two. Until then, a glass in the back garden with some fish and chips will do just fine thank you very much.