Although there are now Oktoberfest celebrations going on all around the world, many insist that the true Oktoberfest experience begins and ends in Germany. And that Munich’s Oktoberfest (which has entered its second week) is the mother of them all.
Munich’s Oktoberfest began as a royal wedding celebration in October of 1810, when Crown Prince Ludwig hooked up with Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, and they invited the whole town to a meadow outside the city to celebrate the marriage.
And celebrate they did…
For five days citizens ate drank and made merry. In fact this party was such a hit that they decided to do it next year and the Oktoberfest tradition was born.
Held every year from mid or late September to the first weekend in October, Munich’s Oktoberfest is by far the largest celebration of its kind in the world.
Drawing more than 6 million people annually, today’s Oktoberfest is 16-18 day celebration of Bavarian culture. And although it features all kinds of events (and a full-fledged amusement park), people come to party with an emphasis on drinking beer.
And drink beer they do…
Last year officials estimated that visitors consumed almost 2 million gallons of beer, and they’re poised to break that record this year.
Oktoberfest is also a huge boon for Bavarian tourism and predictably things get wild!
Munich’s Oktoberfest Beer Style
Amazingly enough, Munich’s official Oktoberfest beer is not a Märzen, the lager that is most commonly associated with the season and Oktoberfest celebrations here in the states.
For over 100 years, the Märzen (a full-bodied malt-rich lager) WAS the official beer style of the festival but no longer.
In 1990, festival organizers realized that modern tastes were changing and that festival-goers were asking for something lighter.
So In deference to this growing consumer preference, the official beer style of the festival was changed from the Märzen to a Golden Lager. So much for tradition…what’s next? An Oktoberfest IPA?
6 Breweries 6 Official Oktoberfest Beers
What didn’t change was the breweries invited and the rules which governed the beers that are served.
Basically, only beer conforming to the Reinheitsgebot, and brewed within the city limits of Munich, can be served at Munich’s celebration.
And since ‘Oktoberfest Beer’ is actually a registered trademark held by the Club of Munich Brewers, (which consists of the Munich breweries allowed to attend), it’s usage in Germany is controlled by the festival.
Currently there are six breweries allowed to serve beer at Munich’s Oktoberfest. They’re all relatively big names in Germany and none of them are youngsters.
Augustiner is Munich’s oldest brewery, it was founded in 1328. Spaten was established in 1397. Hacker Pschorr in 1417, Hofbräu in 1583), Löwenbräu (1383?) and Paulaner, a relative newcomer to the club, was founded in 1634.