The Munich Oktoberfest is known the world over for its large rowdy crowds and indulgent consumption of liter after liter after liter of beer. Less than an hour outside of Munich, the town of Aying is home to the Ayinger Brewery. The family-owned brewery may not be allowed to participate in Oktoberfest due to its location outside of the Bavarian capital city, but they still enjoy the Bavarian tradition of a brewery festival.
Unlike Oktoberfest, which celebrates a variety of beers at the beer festival, the Ayinger Bräu-Kirta celebrates the local town brewery. But similar to Oktoberfest, there is a beer tent, traditional clothing, and delicious food. Brass band music seems to always fill the air. There are also flea markets with local artisans and hand workers and ox races. (You read that right: ox races.)
Visitors from neighboring towns or even those from abroad feel welcomed and immersed in this local family-friendly weekend festival.
What is a Bräu-Kirta?
There are different variations on the term Kirta depending on where you are in Germany or the German-speaking world. Kirta – or Kirtag or Kirchweih – is a local fair or a church fair. So a Bräu-Kirta is a brewery festival or fair.
Breweries across the region usually hold these events annually. Each brewery will, of course, have a fair that is a little different. But the one thing they will all have in common is beer!
In Aying, the fair is organized by the Privatbrauerei Ayinger, or Ayinger Brewery, and held on the fields that surround the brewery. The brewery even produces a special Kirtabier for the occasion.
Experiencing the Ayinger Bräu-Kirta
The Ayinger Bräu-Kirta takes place annually in early October over a long weekend. As mentioned earlier, the exact festivities can vary from year to year. My visit to the festival in 2022 was the first in several years, due to the pandemic.
Celebrations kick off on Thursday evening with a parade to the festival tent and a performance at the town’s Maibaum, or Maypole. (The town is one of a shrinking number that still raises their Maibaum with only supporting sticks and sheer manpower and without cranes or other equipment. The Aying maypole raising is another fun Bavarian tradition and it only takes place every five years. It is a feat to behold!)
Beer Festival Atmosphere
On the second evening of the festival, a ticketed concert is held in the beer tent. Think Oktoberfest or Starkbierfest – a party atmosphere with plenty of music, dancing, food, and drink.
Saturday and Sunday feature all-day family-friendly events. The weekend kicks off with a Trachten flea market where you can find vintage and gently used traditional clothing. Dirndls, Lederhosen, and knitwear line racks. Delicate jewelry covers tables and shines in the autumn sunlight next to hats, beer mugs, books, dishes, and other miscellaneous items with a Bavarian theme.
By lunchtime, hunger will undoubtedly be setting in. And you are spoiled for choice. The large beer tent fills up quickly over the course of the day. If you arrive early, you should have no trouble getting a seat without a reservation. The tent serves hearty festival favorites like Käsespätzle, Currywurst, pretzels, and more. Obviously, Ayinger beer is on tap and it is safe to assume they have an adequate supply. The front of the beer tent features a stage for performances from various local dance groups and brass bands.
If you are looking for a less formal meal, there are other options. A rotating carousel bar serves various beverages and stands sell everything from Steckerlfisch (fish cooked on sticks) to Leberkäse sandwiches. There are also other carnival favorites like cotton candy, chocolate-covered fruit, and Lebkuchenherzen (the popular heart-shaped gingerbread cookies that are seemingly ubiquitous at Bavarian festivals).
In addition to the food stands, there are a few small game stands. Overall, it is a fun and celebratory atmosphere for a nice day out.
For many, however, the highlight and main attraction of Saturday is the ox race. Roughly a half-dozen local oxen hoof it across the field outside the brewery in front of a crowd of hundreds. The only problem? From what I saw, it seems oxen do not particularly like to run (listening to human direction did not seem to be a favorite either). But for a bucket of food (bananas seemed to be preferred by one runner) or some gentle encouragement, they seemed willing to give it a go.
But, boy, did the hardworking human handlers have their work cut out for them as they attempted to coordinate race starts. Judging by the careful grooming both before and after the races, it was clear these oxen were very doted upon.
The races are a standing-room-only affair, with attendees lining the makeshift racetrack. Although with that said, some children climbed into nearby trees for a good view. At a nursing home across the street, residents sat on a balcony and watched the races. And Ayinger does not miss a chance to keep you drinking. Between heats, employees with wheelbarrows of beers and soft drinks worked the race track hawking the beverages.
Traditional Ayinger Bräu-Kirta
On Sunday, the festival takes a more traditional approach. The day starts with an artisan and farmers market. The brewery holds an open house where you can experience the production up close. And, of course, the beer tent is in full swing with food and music all day. For the little ones, there are special children’s attractions.
The weekend of events comes to a close on Monday afternoon. A senior afternoon is followed by a special dinner of boiled pork belly or Kesselfleisch.
Getting There & Getting Around
Aying is very easy to reach. From Munich, the town is on the S7 S-Bahn line. From the train station, it is a short walk across town to the brewery. On festival days, the town is noticeably quiet. But if you are not sure where to go, it is a fairly safe bet you can follow anyone else that gets off the train!
For those looking to arrive by car, the brewery has a large field for parking.
If you want to indulge during the festival, consider staying over at the Brauereigasthof Hotel Aying. The luxury hotel is modern with classic Bavarian charm. (Did I mention free beer is an in-room amenity?)
Save this post for later on Pinterest!
All photos, as well as opinions, are my own.