Oktoberfest Wrap Up, 2014
from “Our Man in Deutschland”
Hallo folks! Welcome to the newest column on the HH Bier Blog: “Our Man in Deutschland”, Hophaus’ official Berlin-based correspondent, sending all the latest brouhaha and festive brew-related goings on from the hoppy heart of Deutschland.
It’s been a festive moment in Deutschland, folks.
Locals are still finding their feet after the wild World Cup season swept through the nation, culminating in euphoric German triumph; meanwhile, the annual Oktoberfest took over Munich this past fortnight as 6 million locals and tourists indulged in 7 million litres of Bavarian brew, 100,00 litres of wine, 600,000 chickens, 200,000 pairs of pork sausage and 70,000 units of pork knuckle!
Oktoberfest: Then and Now
Oktoberfest wasn’t always a meat and brew bonanza (nor did it begin in September, as it does now).
Its humble beginnings date back to October 12, 1810, when the good people of Munich were invited to join in on the festivities for the wedding between King Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. 40,000 locals took part, enjoying a great horse race on nearby fields; embraced by the townsfolk, the event became a yearly deal, with food halls and an agricultural show soon added to the growing list of festivities. It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that Oktoberfest had transformed into a chiefly brew-oriented affair, with full-blown carnival-esque atmosphere to match.
204 years down the track, old traditions are well and truly alive in Munich. This year provided yet another fine opportunity to dust off the lederhosen and dirndls, get ridiculously festive, drink bier and drink well. Not just any old bier, mind you. Oktoberfest standard brew is a unique lager, or ‘Märzenbier’, brewed by six Munich breweries especially for the festival. Each brewery also erects an official tent (some as large as 100,000 capacity) where only their brew is served.
The routine is pretty well known by now—Oktoberfesters plant themselves on enormous wooden tables and trestles inside these tents and for two weeks knock back glorious bier in litre glass Maß mugs, or ‘Masskrugs (aka ‘steins’).
Due to the alluring souvenir appeal of these receptacles, the tents hire hoards of security guards to prevent Maß theft—over 230,000 mugs were recovered last year before patrons could run off with them. They’re pretty hefty things, too, though try telling that to Bavarian waitress, Anita Schwartz—she broke the record in 2008 for most beer steins carried at one time, balancing 19 full bier Maßkrugs and walking 40 metres without spilling a drop!
Traditionally, Oktoberfest bier was brewed in March when the heat and destructive bacteria of summer wouldn’t interfere with the brewing process. To get through the hot summer months, it was also brewed to a higher alcohol percentage—at 6-7%, it’s quite a bit stronger than normal German brew, something many Oktoberfest patrons forget, often finding themselves a little lightheaded throughout the course of a festive session and becoming what locals like to term ‘bierleichen’, or ‘beer corpses’.
For those who’ve never been, Oktoberfest might appear a little kitsch and daggy, but those who have know that for two weeks each year, Munich is the jolliest and happiest place on earth. Or, as Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter described this year’s event: “unbelievably pleasant”.
It’s little wonder that the whole world tries to get in on the action with their own Oktoberfest offshoots, with some of the largest gatherings in Kitchener-Waterloo, Canada; Blumenau, Brazil; Cincinnati, Ohio; Denver, Colorado; and Mount Angel, Oregon; each attracting between 300,000 and 750,000 patrons. Hophaus dreams that Melbourne one day assumes its rightful position on that list!
Bavarian Nights, Bavarian Days; all year round at Hophaus, Southbank
Here in Berlin, Oktoberfest came and went without too much of a yelp. In the city of art and hedonism, Berliners like to spread their festiveness across the whole calendar year rather than burn it out in two mad weeks of ‘brew and chew’.
But Melbournians might opt for the best of both—at Hophaus, it’s Oktoberfest all year round; get your Bavarian on any time you like and elongate the festive times to your stomach’s content.
As summertime simmers on the horizon, no better place to be than Southbank for delicious, crisp brews, mouth watering fire-glazed fare and a little festive riverside action.
(Lederhosen and dirndls always welcome).