Celebrating beer like a German
Not a fan of crowds, I have never been all that interested in attending Oktoberfest. However, over the past few years tasting fresh Bavarian beers at Taps in Petaluma, I have grown to really love everything that Munich breweries have to offer. As the trip grew closer, I started to anxiously anticipate getting to taste the six official Oktoberfest beers.
Oktoberfest is the world’s largest beer and folk festival in the world, welcoming over 7 million visitors each year, with roughly three-quarters of those coming from Bavaria and the rest visiting from around the world. At slightly over two weeks, depending on the year, the event actually culminates on the first weekend of October, making it more a SeptemberFest.
The numerous beer tents, both large and small, tap close to 2 million gallons of beer through the festival, but as we found out, this is more than just a beer guzzling party and was not nearly the mosh pit we had expected, even when arriving in the 10th hour of Thursday’s drinking for many of these folks.
Through fairly strict drinking etiquette laws, as well as other safety measures, visiting one of the big tents is like sitting around drinking, eating and singing, packed shoulder to shoulder, with 5,000 of your best friends. Everyone is friendly and folks at Oktoberfest are much more prone to buy someone a beer than get in a fight. It was an extremely pleasant experience.
Oktoberfest was first held in 1810, when the locally citizenry were invited to celebrate the marriage of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese by partying on in the fields in front of the Munich city gates and has continued at that spot ever since. Only beer from Munich breweries can be served, with those six breweries building and hosting at the seven biggest tents at the event. (Two breweries joined forces a few decades ago but still have separate tents.)
The brews poured are generally called “fest” beers and are light and easy to drink, which is good because in most tents they only serve by the liter, which is roughly two pints. The six beers served at Oktoberfest are Hacker-Pschorr, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, Spaten, Hofbräu, and Augustiner, the last one being Münchners’ favorite and also the hardest to find outside of Bavaria. Augustiner is also the only Oktoberfest beer delivered and served from wooden kegs, even though you will see plenty of barrels on the horse drawn carriage which parade in and out of the grounds each day.
With only a day and half to visit, we really had to buckle down in order to visit all seven main tents, try all six main beers and taste as much of the Bavarian food as we could. I am happy to report that we not only did it, but loved it so much that we are already planning our trip to visit again next fall. One trick that helped us get through was that we ordered and shared just one beer per tent. That still put our overall intake at roughly a gallon each, but spread out over two days left us no worse for the wear.
Even though Oktoberfest serves my favorite styles of beer, which are malty and light, I am still all about the food and was not disappointed. We loved just about everything we ate. Along with a huge variety of hot roasted nuts, which we snacked on as we walked around, we also tried oxen, roasted chicken, roasted duck, currywurst, Schupfnudel and Steckerlfisch.