We are currently smack in the middle of the world-famous beer festival that is the Oktoberfest. It runs from late September to early October, a continuous drinkathon of between 16 to 18 days. It was once set at a standard 16 days and finished on the 1st Sunday in October but following the introduction of Unity Day (October 3rd), it can now last until then.
It’s the world’s largest fair, attracts around 5 million people every year and only beer
produced within Munich’s borders is allowed to be sold here. Between 7 and 8 million litres are consumed at the Oktoberfest annually along with a prodigious amount of sausages, sauerkraut and other traditional German food. Bavarian beer is served in the famous 1 litre glass jugs.
The Oktoberfest began as a celebration of the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig to Prince Therese in Oktober, 1810 which took place outside the City gates of Munich, where the Oktoberfest is still held. The celebration was repeated the next year with the traditional horse race to close the festival. For the next sixty years or so, the festival was more of a traditional fair than a beer drinking celebration – until the late 19th century when breweries began to sponsor the event and take part in the various competitions. Huge beer tents were also erected and the first glass beer mugs were used in 1892. Stats from the 1910 centenary show that 120,000 litres of beer were consumed and the fair gradually became a celebration of Bavarian beer.
The German diaspora ensures that Oktoberfests are held in many countries around the
world containing citizens of German ancestry. The largest is in Canada, attracting up to 1 million visitors every year but Brazil, the United States and Argentina also host huge festivals.
Tourists make up a significant minority of the Oktoberfest’s visitors but many (especially foreigners) are caught out by the strength of the beer. While Germany beer averages 5.2%, Oktoberfest beer is usually brewed between 5.8% and 6.3%, ensuring that the various ‘recovery’ areas are always well populated.