Starkbierfest. Aventinusfest. (Tongue in cheek) Madnessfest! Madness? Almost suicidally so, I’d say, a fest where the main beverage is a glass of beer with almost 7! units of alcohol. I believe that’s even illegal to serve in the Netherlands according to our Social Responsibility rules. 😉
This post is a bit hard to write. I really appreciate the custom of the starkbierfest and I love the people and the Schneider Weisse brewery, but I’m also very wary of heavy drinking.
First things first: Alcoholic units?
A normal pilsner of normal size (250 cl of 5% vol.alc.), a normal glass of wine, a normal shot of liquor is all the size of 1 unit of alcohol. The Dutch health association recommends a maximum consumption of 1 unit of alcohol per day per person these days (it used to be 2 units for men and 1 unit for women). You can calculate the amounts of units in your beer this way:
Volume * specific gravity of alcohol (which is 0,8) * alcohol percentage = weight of alcohol. 10 grams of alcohol = 1 unit.
So a bottle of Kompaan 39 Bloedbroeder is 330 * 0,8 * 9,1 = 24 grams of alcohol = 2,4 units. A maß of Schneider Weisse Mein Aventinus (TAP6) is 1000 * 0,8 * 8,2 =66 grams of alcohol, so 6,6! units.
What does that do to your health?
- With 7 units of alcohol you think you can handle a lot but in reality your hearing, sight, movement and coordination are seriously impaired, you overestimate yourself, your self-criticism disappears, you behave emotionally. Your face gets red, your senses are numbed. You get confused, don’t know what you hear or see, there can be blackouts.
- With 20 units of alcohol (3 maß of Aventinus) your life will be in danger, your pulse and breathing slow so fast you could slide into a coma or die.
So, considering these effects on your health, I wouldn’t exactly recommend attending a starkbierfest. However, it is an experience that’s worth visiting once in your life though, if you take the necessary precautions.
Why you should still go when you get the chance
It’s also a local historic event and custom, which I wholesomely respect, and something the whole city shares in. Schneider Weisse is a worldwide renowned brewery that’s has taken over the brewery in Kelheim in 1928, that was there since 1607. Before Kelheim Schneider Weisse operated from München. The whole town has some investment in the Schneider parties and to be a part of it is really an honor. It’s hard, almost impossible to get tickets as an outsider, you have to be a part of it: of Kelheim, of the beer brewing chain (like a hop farmer), of the Schneider family, of the Schneider organisation, of the Schneider fanclubs.
When you get a ticket you are also obliged to wear a lederhosen or dirndl. You will get strange looks (and probably more) when you arrive in jeans and a t-shirt. That’s one of the biggest charms of the party, everyone is in trachten! So when I got a ticket, I went. Not without reservations, I was already tired by the week before and my low health was not helping. I knew however I had some safety nets in place as well, so tired as I was I got myself into a dirndl and went. For one, we had our pension very close by, less than a five minute walk.
It was a wonderful evening, full of gorgeously dressed people and interesting music. We met the Schneider family and a lot of local interesting people and people of the Schneider network. It’s hard but possible to stick to 1 maß, maximum 2 maß of beer, and water for the rest of the evening. You cán order water. Everyone stands on the benches and it’s no exception one or two benches will snap. They just bring in another bench. The party is also heavily guarded, for safety and for your health. You are not allowed to stand on the table. It’s only from 20.00 h to 23.00 h and that’s perfect to keep a part of the heavy drinking in check. You can do an afterparty at one of the hotels, but we didn’t participate in one of those. I was just glad I had a chance to experience such a party and went to bed happily.
I am grateful I got to experience this and met all these people. It was also one of my most tiresome experiences ever and I can only recommend that when you go, be sure to be in full health and still be careful. (I’m glad we planned to stay in Kelheim for two nights after). I’m not sure I would do it again. I liked the experience. I loved the party, the people, the music, the atmosphere, the history, the customs. But I’m no heavy drinker, I don’t like heavy drinking, I won’t encourage heavy drinking, I like to taste and leisurely enjoy my beer and it’s hard to keep heavy drinking in check when it is served in liter glasses at such a high alcohol volume.