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Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest

Much like the name doesn’t suggest, Oktoberfest is an annual event occurring in mid-September and ending on the first weekend of October in Munich, Germany. It is the world’s largest Volksfest. For those of you who don’t understand German culture so much, a Volksfest is a beer festival accompanied by a traveling funfair. The event attracts more than 6 million people every year from all over the world and has been in operation since 1810.

Perhaps the biggest attraction of the festival is the beer itself. The local breweries will produce a special beer, labelled Oktoberfestbier which is a registered trademark by the Club of Munich Brewers, which will be sold exclusively during the progress of the event. The beer sold at the event must have been brewed within the Munich city borders, and conform to the Reinheitsgebot, also known as the German Beer Purity Law which states exactly which ingredients can be used. There are six brewers permitted to sell their product at the festival grounds; Augustiner, Spaten, Löwenbrau, Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr and Hofbräu-München. Oktoberfestbier is a type of Märzen that is typically lighter in colour. It is served in the iconic Maß glasses, also known as a Stein, which hold a litre and can be filled within 1.5 seconds by experienced staff.

In 2015, the festival officially sold 7.3 million litres of beer, which in perspective is almost enough to fill three olympic sized swimming pools. Needless to say, it is a huge part of the Bavarian culture and a central element of the festival.

It is also a celebration of Bavarian culture. The locals are quick to showcase their Dirndl and Lederhosen which are the traditional Bavarian clothes, usually in the colours of blue and white to represent the Bavarian flag. There are a number of traditional food stands around the festival serving traditional Bavarian dishes such as Knödel, Bratwurst, Brezel and Weißwurst. There are also traditional practices such as the tapping of the first keg of beer at exactly mid-day after the opening parade in the Schottenhammel tent. Once this is complete, 12 gunshots are fired on the stairway of the Ruhmeshalle and the festival is declared open. Bets are even placed to see how many strokes it takes the mayor to tap the barrel before the beer flows; the lowest recorded number is 2 and the highest is 19.

The festival began as a wedding celebration for the marriage of Kronprinz Ludwig who would later become King Ludwig I and Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on the 12th October 1810. The citizens of Munich were invited to join in the celebrations at the grounds in front of the city gates which were named Theresienwiese which is where the festival is still held today. The festivities were repeated again the following year, and have since developed and bloomed into what we know as Oktoberfest today.

Oktoberfest is a family friendly event, and since 2005 there have been noise restrictions until 6.00pm to accomodate for elderly attendees and families. The sound is limited to 85 decibels and quiet traditional brass music is heard around the festival grounds. After 6.00, the party begins, and the Schlager (german drinking songs) and pop and electronic music is played so that attendees and drink and dance with each other. Restricting this to after 6.00 has helped to lift a weight from security and to keep festival and drinking related violence to a minimum, and to help to include people from all ages in the festivities.

There is a reason why the rest of the world models its beer festivals on Oktoberfest, and so it is worth the pilgrimage for any beer enthusiast who wants to immerse themselves into german culture and to have a party. In 2018, the festival will commence on the 22nd September and finish on the 7th October in the Theresienwiese grounds in Munich, and there is a large infrastructure for tourists wishing to visit and to stay in Munich during this time including transport to and from the festival and hotel packages. Knowledge of the German language is not essential for visitors as most Germans can speak excellent English, however it helps to know the word Prost! which means Cheers! to mix in with the locals.