Top 5 Monday: All things Oktoberfest

It’s that time of year again – the most wonderful time of the year for beer drinkers, sausage enthusiasts, accordion players, and Germanophiles – it’s Oktoberfest!

Whether you’re planning a trip to Germany or celebrating at home by drinking Miller Light out of a stein…here are 5 helpful tidbits to keep in mind!

1. A little history (Lexie)

I enjoy a good history story so here is an abridged version of one of
the most popular festival’s in the world:

Oktoberfest (the name came about because it ends on the first Sunday of October) originated as a horse race honoring the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese in 1810. Because the wedding and race took place, German Oktoberfest history begins on either the 12th or the 17th  of October, depending on who you talk to. By 1819, the race had been called off, replaced by beer carts and carnival-like atmosphere, the leaders of Munich decided that Oktoberfest would be held each year, no exceptions (these Germans don’t mess around). And though Oktoberfest originated as a one-day commemoration, it was thereby extended to 16 days of revelry and heavy drinking (once again, these Germans don’t mess around).

If you can’t make it all the way to Munich this year, Cincinnati is vying for the title of world’s largest Oktoberfest. In Munich, close to a million people show up to consume 10 million pints of beer, some 750,000 spit-roasted chickens, and more than 800,000 wursts and sausages. (Sadly, traditional oom-pah bands are slowly being replaced by taped music—one disgruntled festgoer complained about hearing “La Macarena” more than 200 times during last year’s fest in Munich).

In Cincinnati, close to 700,000 people jam the streets of “Zinzinnati” during late September, jostling to music from seven large entertainment stages, while dozens of food vendors serve bratwurst, sauerkraut and thousands of gallons of beer.

Oktoberfest is not only an event, it is also a style of beer (my favorite topic. What can I say? I’m German, I don’t mess around). The traditional style guidelines describe an amber-gold lager, robust at 5.2 to 6 percent alcohol by volume, bottom-fermented and lagered for at least a month, with pronounced malt flavors from Vienna malts, usually accented by the German noble hops such as Hallertau and Tettnang. An Oktoberfest is brewed very much like the reddish-amber Marzen beer that was served at the Crown Prince’s wedding in 1810.

If you feel you haven’t read enough about Oktoberfest, here is their official website:

2. Celebrate Munchen-style (Scott)

It’s Oktoberfest time in Munich.  That means that thousands of Bavarians (and a matching number of tourists) are rolling out the barrel in beer tents throughout the city.  If you visit during the rest of the year though, where’s the best place to grab a drink?

The answer is simple: head out to the beer garden.  There are two that are my favorite in Munich.  The first is the Chinesischer Turm.  Located within the English Gardens, a tall Chinese tower marks the spot.  There are plenty of tables and benches set among the greens of the park.  Löwenbräu Bier is served here.

For a slightly different vibe, head to the Viktualienmarkt Beer Garden.  Located in the center of town in the Farmer’s Market, this is the perfect place to assemble a picnic lunch to have with your liter stein.  The people-watching here is also phenomenal.  The beer selection rotates daily among the various Munich brewers.

3. Midwestern/German flare (Kelly)

Over the weekend, I got the biggest urge to go to an Oktoberfest festival.  They are popular in Chicago, and some of my favorite memories of Chicago are going with Lex to either the festival downtown when it’s chilly out, and you can enjoy a nice sausage and a beer….or the Oktoberfest on Lincoln Ave where there is great live oompa songs and never-ending beer steins.  It’s always so much fun, and marks the beginning of fall to me.  And I love how it’s not just about beer; I love the food even more. 

I love how there are German neighborhoods in many cities, where it is like you are traveling abroad, without needing a passport (some favorites are in Minneapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Columbus—wow, I’m a Midwesterner), and you don’t have to jump on an 8 hour flight to Munich to enjoy them.  It’s so much fun to check out other cultures, and what better way than a big celebration such as Oktoberfest?

Anyway, even though there doesn’t seem to be an official Oktoberfest here in FL, (let me know if there is one), it will still be fun to celebrate in some other way with friends.  I’ll definitely have a sausage and kraut….and maybe a homemade pretzel if I’m lucky.

4. Goings-on in the nation’s capital (Leslie)

It can be a bit difficult to get into the Oktoberfest spirit when the thermometer still reads 90 Fahrenheit, but here in DC we’re not too shabby at pretending.  Last year I visited the Barracks Row Oktoberfest near my neighborhood and have to say I was disappointed.  Barely a schnitzel to be found, this was more community street festival than celebration of German fun.  In fact, it looks like this year they’ve decided to call a spade a spade and hold a “Fall Festival” instead. 

Fear not, there are plenty of other options for those looking to don some lederhosen and raise a prost!  Here are a few to get you started:

  • H Street Biergarten Haus – An obvious choice that just opened this spring, the new biergarten in NE is a little slice of Bavaria.  If you feel like braving the crowds and the hipsters, it’s sure to be a good time. (September 18 – October 4)
  • Das Best Oktoberfest – I mean, it’s in the name.  This festival at the National Harbor looks a bit over the top, but will surely deliver the requisite accordion music, pretzels, and cold beer served by waitresses in skimpy costumes. (September 25-26)
  • Capitol City Brewing Company – Okay, so it doesn’t scream traditional German culture, but you can at least pretend while you drink some authentic German beer. (October 2)
  • Suburban adventures – Like most things in DC, the actual culture takes place largely outside of the District itself.  If you’re feeling up to an adventure, check out Germantown, MD, Lovettsville, VA, or Blob’s Park in Jessup, MD.

5. Fun facts before you go (Kelly)

–  If you have ever been to Germany and ordered Weisswurst for lunch, have you ever gotten an odd look?  Well thats because its a sin in Germany to order it past breakfast.  They would eat it with a pretzel and maybe even a beer.
–  About 5 million liters of beer are consumed during Oktoberfest in Munich.
–  Munich celebrates its Spring Strong Beer festival every March as a prelude to the so-called beer garden season, a series of outdoor events culminating with the city’s renowned Oktoberfest, and was originally in preperation for Lent.
–  Beer tents were not found at the first Oktoberfest.  In 1896 the beer stands were replaced by the first beer tents and halls set up by enterprising landlords with the backing of the breweries.
–  Some German words have become so commonly used in English that they are now considered part of the American language. Which of these is NOT an American word adopted from German?
A. Poltergeist
B. Noodle
C. Sauerkraut
D. Kindergarten
E. They are all German words
F. None of these are German words

Answer- They are all German words.  You are a dummkopf if you guessed sauerkraut or kindergarten although poltergeist and noodle were a bit trickier!

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