What Is Oktoberfest?
It’s a celebration of great local beers, awesome people, and it’s all anchored in classic Bavarian culture (right down to the fashion). If you’re looking for the answer to, “What is Oktoberfest?” you’ll find everything you need to know right here…
By Shira Kogut on Sep. 13, 2017
First Rule of Oktoberfest:
It’s written Oktoberfest, not “Octoberfest”
What is Oktoberfest?
Oktoberfest is the BIGGEST folk festival in the world. It is attended by millions of people from around the world who flock to Munich, Bavaria, Germany to eat traditional foods, listen to traditional music, wear traditional Bavarian garb (lederhosen for men and dirndl for women and tirolerhute unisex hats) and of course drink the famous Oktoberfest/Marzen beer. It is celebrated from mid-September to the beginning of October. The festival begins with the opening ceremony which has been the same since 1950. The mayor of Munich taps the first keg and gives the first glass to a person being honoured usually the Prime Minister or another minister in attendance.
Munich Oktoberfest events not to be missed:
- Official Tapping of the Keg (AKA: Opening Ceremony)
- Costume and Riflemen’s Parade (first Wiesn Sunday)
- Parade of Oktoberfest Landlords and Breweries
- “Böllerschießen” (handheld canon salute) in front of the Bavaria statue
Oktoberfest Video & Tips:
What is Oktoberfest, what should you wear, and more info about Germany’s largest beer event.
How did this event begin? – Oktoberfest history
The historical background: the first Oktoberfest was held in the year 1810 in honor of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig’s marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The festivities began on October 12, 1810 and ended on October 17th with a horse race. In the following years, the celebrations were repeated and, later, the festival was prolonged and moved forward into September.
Oktoberfest begins in September…so why’s it called “Oktoberfest”?
By moving the festivities up, it allowed for better weather conditions. Because the September nights were warmer, the visitors were able to enjoy the gardens outside the tents and the stroll over “die Wiesen” or the fields much longer without feeling chilly. Historically, the last Oktoberfest weekend was in October and this tradition continues into present times.
What is an Oktoberfestbier or Marzen Beer?
Oktoberfest beer or Marzen is a brewed in March especially for Oktoberfest. It has a gravity 2% higher than regular beers and has been served at the festival since 1818. The main suppliers of Okbtoberfestbier are the Club of Munich Brewers which include: Spaten, Löwenbräu, Augustiner-Bräu, Hofbräu-München, Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr.
Traditionally Oktoberfestbiers were lagers of around 5.5 to 6 ABV. They are brewed in March and ferment slowly throughout the summer months. Originally these were dark lagers, but slowly the colour has become lighter and lighter. Since 1990, they have been a golden colour. Some Munich brewers still produce darker versions, but these are mostly for export to the USA.
Want to attend an Oktoberfest?
Check out these Oktoberfest events around the world.
Looking for more about Oktoberfest activities, attire, and tips? Check out these other great posts:
(That means cheers in German)
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