How to impress your friends at Oktoberfest

oktoberfest sausage brat

Brat with kraut (and a Kraut)

It’s September and the Germans are giddy as children on Christmas Eve. They know the best drinking holiday on the calendar is just around the corner.  They know two weeks of revelry—soaked in beer and covered in sauerkraut—are soon to hit their beloved Bavarian capital. They know Oktoberfest is coming!

Munich may be home to the first and biggest Oktoberfest but thirsty Coloradoans need not splurge on Lufthansa tickets to enjoy the celebration, Oktoberfest has become an international sensation. Beer geeks worldwide can don their lederhosen and raise their steins anywhere including Denver, the “Munich of the West.”

Whether you’re a Mile High or in Munich, there’s more to Oktoberfest than just a bunch of drunks slopping beer around (granted, not much more) and, being German-American, it’s my duty to teach you a thing or two about my forefathers’ greatest gift to the world. I want you to get the most out of your Oktoberfest experience. I want you to party with knowledge. You may look stupid with your knee-socks and half a pound of bratwurst stuffed in your craw but, by the end of this article, you’ll be the smartest drunkard in the biergarten.

1: It’s not a beer festival

Oh, there’s plenty of beer at Oktoberfest, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that, at its core, Oktoberfest is not a beer festival.  Actually, it’s an anniversary party.

On October 12th, 1810, Crown Prince Ludwig (who would later go on to become King Ludwig I) married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen and, to mark the joyous occasion, they threw one hell of a party at Munich’s city gates.  Though unusual for the time, the event was open-invitation; royalty and commoners celebrated together on the field that would later be named Theresienwiese in honor of the new bride (the field is now commonly known by its abbreviated name, Wies’n).

The highlight of the original festival was a horse race that so excited the audience that the city of Munich decided to make it an annual event.  To give the races a broader appeal, they also added an agricultural show and, by 1818, a carousal and swings, too.  Beer was, for the most part, absent; Oktoberfest wasn’t much more than a glorified 4-H fair.  Over time, somebody realized the obvious: “Hey, this is Germany and Germans love beer; why isn’t anybody taking advantage of this lucrative opportunity?”  At the start, there were only a few, small beer stands dotting the festival grounds but, in 1896, shrewd landlords partnered with local breweries and those little beer-peddling shacks gave way to the massive beer halls and tents we now associate with Oktoberfest.

What's a biergarten party without a boot?

What’s a biergarten party without a boot?

The lesson of the story: it doesn’t matter if it’s a wedding, a horse race, a job promotion, a funeral,…etc.—if it happens in Germany, somebody’s going to bring beer.

2: It’s not in October

Granted, some of the festivities are in October.  The first Oktoberfest in 1810 occurred on October 12th but the 2013 Oktoberfest will last from September 21st to October 6th—about two-thirds of the party happens in September!  If you’re hoping there’s some fascinating, historical reason for the change in dates then prepare to be disappointed; Oktoberfest is held mostly in the month prior because September tends to be a little warmer than October and more people are likely attend if the weather’s reasonable.  A higher attendance equals more money for the event organizers and, to paraphrase Puff Daddy, it’s all about the Euros, baby.

3. Prost like you got a pair

There’s a right way and a wrong way to “prost” AKA the German equivalent of “cheers!”  The wrong way is to delicately clink glasses as if they’re tuning forks.  The proper prost is more like a train wreck; smash your mugs together like they’re made of bullet-proof glass, slosh some of your beer into your friends’ mug, let out a mighty cheer, and do so all while never breaking eye contact.

These aren’t rules I made up, they’ve been around for centuries.  During Germany’s medieval period, the most popular method of assassination was to poison the enemy’s beer.  If you invited the guys over to the castle to watch the jousting tournament over a few brewskis, you’d propose a hearty prost and look for fear in your compatriots’ eyes as your possibly-poisoned beer splashed into their glasses.

Thus, if anybody in your group gets fidgety after prosting, they’re probably trying to kill you.

4. What’s with the black-and-yellow and blue-and-white checker patterns?

Black and yellow are the colors of Munich while blue and white are the colors of Bavaria, the state in which Munich resides.

5.  Know this song, love this song

Any Oktoberfest worth a damn will play this song half a million times per night.

 

Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit 

Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit 

Eins, zwei, drei, g’suffa!


Zicke, zacke, zicke, zacke,

hoi, hoi, hoi 

Zicke, zacke, zicke, zacke,

hoi, hoi, hoi

Prost! 

Click here for audio.

 

About Chris Bruns


Chris Bruns is a self-professed beer geek living in Denver. Chris spends much of his time brewing beer at home with friends and family, attempting to visit every brewery in Colorado, attending special beer events and festivals, purchasing and assessing the latest releases from local breweries, and blogging about his adventures in the world of craft beer. He is also the Denver Craft Beer Examiner on Examiner.com. Contact Chris by e-mail at chrisdbruns@gmail.com or through his blog at www.beerincolorado.blogspot.com.

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