Get your lederhosen out, Oktoberfest , the annual beer festival held in Munich since 1810 ends Sunday. It’s a multi-day festival running from mid-September to the first weekend in October.
So, why Oktoberfest? Why not Septemberfest since it begins in September not October?
The answer is a two week outdoor festival in October in a northern climate means chilly nights under the tents in your lederhosen while drinking a liter or two of Märzen. So, over time the festival crept into typically warmer September, but kept the name Oktoberfest.
The first Oktoberfest was a country fair, with a horse race as the star attraction. It was also the celebration of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig’s marriage to Princess Therese von Saxe-Hildburghausen. The festivities, held on the fields in front of the city gates celebrating the royal event with many beers, wines, sausages, chickens, kraut and noodles, ended a week later.
In the years following the first celebration, the event grew beyond the initial week. Today, festival goers enjoy sitting in the beer tents quaffing beer, visiting the food stalls and strolling the gardens during Oktoberfest without feeling the damp chill of mid-October.
This year’s events include the Parade of Oktoberfest Landlords and Breweries, the Official Tapping of the Keg, Oktoberfest Mass, Böllerschießen (cannon salute) and an agricultural fair.
The Lord Mayor of Munich has the honor of tapping the first keg of Oktoberfest beer. Once the first barrel has been tapped, the beer flows for the more than 6 million people attending the event.
These festival goers will raise a stein or two during the festival. As you can imagine, large quantities of beer are consumed during the 16-day festival. In 2013, for instance, 7.7 million liters served.
With that many people attending and that much beer consumption, some personal belongings do get left behind. Each year, hundreds of glasses (how do they see their way home?), phones, wallets, jackets, and other unusual items, such as a set of dentures can be claimed at a large lost and found tent.
Traditional food stalls serve up Hendl (roast chicken), Haxen (pig’s feet), Schweinshaxe (grilled ham hock), Weisswürst (white sausage), Steckerlfisch (grilled fish on a stick), Brezen (pretzels), Knödel (potato dumplings), Käsespätzle (cheese noodles), Reiberdatschi (potato pancakes), Blaukraut (red cabbage), and Obatzda (spicy cheese spread).
Oktoberfest, the German celebration, has grown into an international festival of beer, with festivities popping up all around the globe.
Oktoberfest, the beer, is a lager (bottom fermenting yeast and longer, cooler fermentation) that originated in Bavaria. It’s medium to full bodied and varies from pale to amber to dark brown. Traditionally, it was brewed in March just before the hot summer months when temperatures interfered with the fermentation process. And then lagered in the ice caves over the summer.
Märzen beer was also a little higher ABV than usual to help preserve the beer through the summer months. Märzen is now known as Oktoberfest.
A few suggestions for some very good German and U.S. Oktoberfest/ Märzen beers you should try.
Ayinger Oktoberfest-Märzen has a deep golden color tinted with amber. It is lightly sweet with a malty nose balanced with floral hops. It’s medium bodied and the dryness comes from long maturation.
Paulaner Oktoberfest-Märzen was developed to celebrate the original Oktoberfest over 200 years ago. This is a full bodied beer with rich malt flavor, dark toffee note and underlying fruitiness.
Spaten Oktoberfest Ur Märzen was created in 1872, with aromas flavors of biscuit, caramel malt, and hints of spicy, grassy noble hops.
Weihenstephaner Oktoberfestbier is a full, rich-bodied, hoppy lager brewed for the Festbier season. Deep gold color, malty with great mouthfeel and lots of flavor.
Heater Allen Brewing’s Bobtoberfest caught my attention when researching Oktoberfest beers. It’s named for the head brewer’s late brother Bob; the person who sparked his interest in brewing lager beers in general and Oktoberfest beers in particular.
Bob Allen was a friend, teacher at North Kitsap High School and Olympic College, a member of the West Sound Brew Club and a great brewer, cider maker and winemaker. The first Bobtoberfest was held in Poulsbo. It was quite a celebration. Unfortunately, a trip to Portland is necessary to taste this beer.
Samuel Adams OctoberFest has a deep golden amber hue and is a malt lover’s dream.
Silver City Oktoberfest is an authentic interpretation of the classic style. The rich malty sweetness and spicy hop character are balanced by 6.2% ABV.
Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest is a collaboration with Mahrs Brau of Bamberg, Germany. An authentic Oktoberfest beer that’s deep golden in color with rich malt complexity and spicy hop character from Record, Magnum, Palisade, Saphir and Crystal hops with 6% ABV.
And then there is Firestone Walker Oaktoberfest which claims to be a true German Märzen bier, brewed with premium imported Pilsner and Vienna malts. It’s spiced with Bavarian hops and fermented with the famous Bavarian Augustiner Lager yeast from Munich.