Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Oktoberfest

One of the most famous European festivals to take place each year – Octoberfest. The festival actually takes place during September and traditionally finishes on the first weekend of October.  During this time Munich in the Bavarian region of Germany is transformed into a massive beer drinking community. People from all over the World arrive in Germany to take part in what has become possibly the largest beer festival and funfair anywhere. Many other cities in different countries now hold their own versions of Oktoberfest based on the original concept.

The first Oktoberfest was held to celebrate a royal wedding in 1810 when the entire population of Munich was invited to participate in the celebration in the fields in front of the city gates.  The closing ceremony included a horse race which continued each year until 1960.  Oktoberfest has only been cancelled 24 times and only due to war or epidemic. 

Oktoberfest
Image by RitaE from Pixabay

The festival is very much associated with beer drinking and there are some strict rules concerning the beer served.  Only beer brewed within the city limits of Munich and meeting certain criteria is permitted to be served and is known as “Oktoberfest Beer”.  In addition to the beer the festival is about celebrating the culture of Bavaria and Germany and includes traditional food, costumes and customs. 

Before any beer is served the breweries and restaurants parade into the festival site in traditional costume with horses and decorated floats. At precisely 12 noon the Lord Mayor opens the first barrel of beer, followed by 12 gunshots after which the restaurants can start serving beer.  The first litre is normally served to the Bavarian President.

pretzel 1690191 1920

But Oktoberfest is not just beer.  Bavaria is renowned particularly for its sausages such as Bratwurst, made from either pork, veal or beef, or Weisswurst, a Bavarian white sausage made from minced veal, pork and back bacon. The most common food associated with the festival however is a half spit-roasted chicken known as Hendl. Up to half a million Hendle are served each year!  Almost anywhere you go in the festival grounds you will come across people roasting and then eating these delicious greasy feasts!  Other popular dishes may include a roasted pork knuckle and, of course, the ubiquitous pretzel.  But, let’s face it, you are going to need something fairly substantial and greasy to soak up all that beer.

Unfortunately Oktoberfest 2021, like 2020, has not taken place due to ongoing pandemic fears.  Here are a few Oktoberfest numbers for you and we all hope to be drinking again next year. 

  1. Nearly 7 million visitors attend each year from around 45 countries.
  2. The Red Cross has 15 hangover recovery beds and between 7000 and 10,000 people will seek medical attention.
  3. The record for a waiter carrying the most number of beers at one time is 27 – that is 1 litre Steins.
  4. A little over 7 million litres of beer are consumed
  5. It is estimated that the festival is worth 1.1 billion Euros to the Munich economy

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Dave Winteridge
I am a restaurateur in the South of France but originally from Great Britain. I have spent around 30 years in the hospitality industry and over the past 12 years I have opened restaurants in Spain and France. I am a keen skier, living in the Pyrenees, and ideally for the future I would like to spend less time at the stove and more time at the keyboard.

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