Status: 03.10.2023, 07:21 a.m.
By: Cornelia Schramm
The Gantertisch at Schänke 4 is unique: Augustiner landlord Thomas Vollmer, bartender Emil Weiß, tent electrician Christian Watscheder and Ganterbursch Christoph Birk (from left) come to rest briefly away from the hustle and bustle. © Achim Frank Schmidt
Only Augustiner still serves beer from the wooden barrel at the Oktoberfest. And it is precisely this work that happens at the Ganter. In the large marquee there is also a secret regulars' table. A visit.
Munich - Jürgen Zirch is a luminary on tap. He has been pouring in the Augustinian marquee at the Oktoberfest for half his
life. When his big hands hold a measure, it only looks like a half-liter jug. Schänke 4 is his territory. In 2.5 seconds, the farmer from Dießen am Ammersee taps the mass from the wooden barrel.
"Ganter" is the name of the slightly sloping platform over which each wooden barrel is rolled out of the cold store and erected in front of Zirch. The 59-year-old is standing a little below the ramp. He puts on the brass change on which his name is engraved – and hits it into the barrel with the mallet. "When it's freshly tapped, we'll ring the bell," he says, pointing to his golden bell on the wall. "Then everyone will know that there will be beer again."
Working on the Ganter: This is how the wooden barrels get to the bartender
Of course, the beer never runs out at Schänke 4. In the warehouse behind it, there are a good 50 deer ready – that's the name of the 200-litre barrels. A glance from Zirch is enough for the Ganterbursch to provide supplies. Augustiner is the only brewery on the Oktoberfest that still serves beer from wooden barrels, just as it did 100 years ago. In the other tents there are metal tanks and pipes.
Schänke 4 is his territory: Jürgen Zirch (59) has been serving at the Oktoberfest since 1994. © Achim Frank Schmidt
Ganterbursch Christoph Birk (28) rolls the barrels and balances them. "It's between 30 and 40 a day," he says. "A wooden barrel has an empty weight of 80 kilos, plus around 200 litres." The 28-year-old does not have sore muscles. He is a specialist when it comes to barrels: "I work as a shepherd at the Wilhelm Schmid barrel factory in Munich," he says.
There are six taverns in the marquee. But the number 4 is special. Only on their ganter is a table, a kind of regulars' table. Everyone calls it the "Gantertisch". Only a handful of people take a seat here, Ganterbursch Birk and Zirch – when he wants to take a little nap. Waiters rarely get lost here. Craftsmen such as tent electrician Christian Watscheder and former bartenders such as Emil Weiß, but again and again. Landlord Thomas Vollmer also takes a break here away from the hustle and bustle.
Augustiner: The tent family meets at the Gantertisch
What's happening here? Sit tamely, make a snack and talk a bit stupidly, logically. This is where the tent family comes together. All of them are experts when it comes to working on the ganter. And there are a few tricks on the wooden barrel that you have to master.
Oktoberfest bill almost a month's rent: water more expensive than wheat beer in the wine tent
First of all, plenty of sun in Munich: "What comes next is unlikely to please the Oktoberfest visitors at all"
Will the Oktoberfest drive up the Corona numbers again? Virologist assesses the situation in Munich
It was my first time at the Oktoberfest – and it was even worse than I feared
"I can smell the video": Oktoberfest waitress films typical giant mess after 23 p.m.
Fancy a voyage of discovery?
It is a misconception that the wood gives off flavor to the beer. In contrast to wine production, wood and beer never come into contact.
Thomas Vollmer, host of the Augustiner marquee
Jürgen Zirch pulls the "Pfeiferl", an air valve, out of the on the top of the barrel and checks the small brass ball inside. "This allows air to pull in during tapping," explains host Thomas Vollmer. "The pipe prevents a vacuum from forming in the barrel."
Thomas Vollmer, landlord of the Augustiner marquee, with mallet and brass change. The latter actually gets its name from the alternating opening and closing. © Achim Frank Schmidt
When the beer in the keg comes to an end, it tilts and pinches the "Ganterscheitl" underneath. The wooden club is one meter long
– and probably once replaced the security people in the tent. "When it was done, the bartender moved out with it," they tell each other at the Gantertisch. In addition to old technology, new technology is also used on the wooden barrel – completely invisible. "Each barrel is equipped with an RFID chip," says Vollmer. "Every barrel can always be located."
Tradition in a mug: That's why beer from a wooden barrel tastes different
And where does the special taste come from, which is said to be the beer from the wooden barrel? Even during filling, it is spun lower, i.e. with less carbonic acid. It is filled unpasteurized into the barrel and must therefore be stored cold and consumed more quickly.
Ganterbursch Christoph Birk rolls the wooden barrels over the Ganter to the bar waiter. A full barrel weighs over 300 kilos. © Achim Frank Schmidt
"It's a misconception that the wood gives off flavor to the beer," says Vollmer. "Unlike wine production, beer and wood never come into contact." The wooden barrels are pricked and provided with a layer of resin that covers the wood pores and joints and prevents carbonic acid from expelling. With good maintenance, such a wooden barrel can live up to 30 years. In a cold warehouse with very high humidity, the barrels are stored in Freiham.
The warehouse behind the roll-up door is around zero degrees directly behind the ganter table. "Because of the cold, the carbon dioxide is strongly bound – which makes the fresh beer palatable," explains the innkeeper. At 2.3 degrees, Zirch fills the beer into the mugs. And if you sit at the Gantertisch, you will of course have to serve for quality control from time to time. (sco)
(Our Munich newsletter informs you regularly about all the important stories from the Isar metropolis. Sign up here.)