Oktoberfest – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Beer Culture Glossary

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I. What is Oktoberfest?

Oktoberfest is the world’s largest Volksfest (beer festival and travelling funfair). Held annually in Munich, Bavaria, Germany, it is a 16- to 18-day folk festival running from mid or late September to the first Sunday in October, with more than six million people from around the world attending the event every year. Locally, it is often simply called the Wiesn, after the colloquial name of the fairgrounds (Theresienwiese) themselves. The Oktoberfest is an important part of Bavarian culture, having been held since the year 1810.

II. History of Oktoberfest

The Oktoberfest tradition started in 1810 to celebrate the October 12th marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to the Saxon-Hildburghausen Princess Therese. The citizens of Munich were invited to join in the festivities which were held over five days on the fields in front of the city gates. The main event of the original Oktoberfest was a horse race. Over the years, the horse race was dropped, but agricultural shows and carnival-like attractions were added.

III. Traditional Oktoberfest Beers

The only beers that are allowed to be served at Oktoberfest are those that are brewed within the city limits of Munich. The six breweries that meet this criteria are Augustiner-Bräu, Hacker-Pschorr-Bräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, Spatenbräu, and Hofbräu-München. The most popular beer style served at Oktoberfest is Märzen, a lager that is brewed in March and stored until the festival in September. The beer is typically darker and stronger than a regular lager, with a malty flavor and a higher alcohol content.

IV. Food at Oktoberfest

Traditional Bavarian food is a big part of the Oktoberfest experience. Some popular dishes include Schweinshaxe (roasted pork knuckle), Würstl (sausages), Brezn (pretzels), Knödel (potato or bread dumplings), and Sauerkraut. One of the most iconic foods at Oktoberfest is the Hendl, a roasted chicken that is typically served with a side of potato salad. The food at Oktoberfest is hearty and filling, perfect for soaking up all the beer that is consumed during the festival.

V. Activities and Events at Oktoberfest

In addition to drinking beer and eating delicious food, there are a variety of activities and events to enjoy at Oktoberfest. One of the most popular attractions is the beer tents, where visitors can enjoy live music, dancing, and traditional Bavarian entertainment. There are also amusement rides, games, and parades to enjoy. One of the highlights of the festival is the Oktoberfest costume and riflemen’s parade, where thousands of people in traditional Bavarian dress march through the streets of Munich.

VI. Modern-Day Oktoberfest Celebrations

While the original Oktoberfest in Munich is the most famous and largest celebration of its kind, Oktoberfest celebrations can now be found all over the world. Many cities in the United States, Canada, Australia, and other countries host their own Oktoberfest events, complete with beer tents, traditional food, and live music. These modern-day Oktoberfest celebrations are a way for people to experience a taste of Bavarian culture and celebrate the fall season with friends and family.