Photo by Ryan Harvey/Flickr CC
The Munich beer world is dominated by the Big Six: Paulaner, Löwenbräu, Augustiner, Hacker Pschorr, Hofbräu, and Spaten. It's enough to make a man happy for a lifetime.
To make himself ecstatic for a lifetime, said man would have to drive about 45 minutes southwest of Munich to the Andechs Brewery. Located on a steep hill near the eastern shore of Lake Ammer, the brewery is run by Benedictine monks, who have occupied the site since the 15th century (except for a few decades in the 19th century, when Napoleonic rule secularized church holdings in Bavaria). For non-quaffers, there's a magnificent baroque church, resting place of composer Carl Orff and home to the annual Orff Festival.
But really, leaving Munich to see a church is like leaving Vegas to find a casino. Leaving for beer is another thing. The brewery, one of Germany's oldest, has been in operation since 1455, and over the centuries the good monks of Andechs have perfected the Bavarian drinking experience in their Bräustüberl, a Bavarianism which roughly translates to "Eden for All Things Brewed and Beautiful."
From the parking lot, it's a rigorous but mercifully short climb up the hill, just enough to build a thirst. At the top you find sprawling patios with sweeping views over the neighboring farmland. The patio space is buttressed on either side by indoor dining areas, beer and food counters, and gift shops (just because they're monks doesn't mean they can't make a buck). The restaurant is famous for its pigs' knuckles, but there's lighter fare, such as, um, beef and potato salad. It's not like you're there for a Four Seasons buffet.