An annual festival attracting droves of beer lovers the world over, Oktoberfest began in Munich, the capital of Bavaria in Germany. The Munich Oktoberfest claims the throne for the biggest celebration of beer, pulling in around six million attendees every year in the past five years.
While the festivities in Munich and other major cities are on hiatus due to health precautions, you can still raise a glass of your favorite Engkanto craft beer and celebrate in your style.
Let us fill you in with what you need to know about Oktoberfest, from its royal origin and impressive facts down to the most noteworthy gatherings in several countries.
Refreshments at the Fair
Following the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig (who later became King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810, the royal court held a yearly fair for the citizens of Munich with horse racing as the main attraction.
The addition of the first carousel and swings came in almost a decade later in 1818. Meanwhile, small beer stands provided refreshments. The stands soon turned into larger tents at the turn of the 19th century after local breweries took the golden opportunity to ply their trade.
What began as a royal celebration in Munich became a widespread fair across Germany, marking the onset of the Oktoberfest celebration.
The Bavarian expression O' Zapft is! meaning "It’s tapped!" refers to the ceremonial tapping and breaking of the inaugural wooden keg. This line, uttered by the Mayor of Munich, kicks off Oktoberfest in the city. Since its first use in the 1950s, the phrase has been coined by many enthusiasts to kick off Oktoberfest parties.
The Tradition of Pure Beer
Munich's Oktoberfest continues to evolve as a modern festival blending in funfair, food, and music. On the other hand, the six local breweries of Munich continue to adhere to the traditional form of beer using only the four ingredients: water, malt, hops, and yeast.
Only these breweries can serve their beers at Oktoberfest since the beer purity regulation is in place. In 2019, the total consumption of beer was reported to reach a whopping 7.3 million liters. For the celebrations in other countries, various beers are on offer having less strict rules.
Food pairings with these traditional German beers include fresh seafood, baked goods, cheese, venison, sausages, and pretzel. Outside of Munich, festivalgoers are in for a treat of German staples such as bratwurst, pretzels, and various meat delicacies.
Mark Your Calendar Right
Oktoberfest in Germany kicks off around mid-September, which can leave you confused. Among the reasons for its early start is to catch milder weather with winter breeze and rain just around the corner. It rolls on for 16 days until the first week of October to coincide with the anniversary of the royal celebration.
Cheers Around the World
The home of Oktoberfest may be in Germany, yet celebrations are widespread in cities across the United States, Australia, England, and even in South America.
If you're wondering where the second-largest reported Oktoberfest in the world is, then look no further than Cincinnati, Ohio. This large metropolitan area has the largest German immigrant population in the US, and it's clear to see why Oktoberfest is a great deal in the city. The festival carries its deep roots close and blends its Midwestern character by putting together "Oktoberfest Zinzinnati."
In London's Bavarian Beerhouse or Bierschenke, beers are served year-round. The subterranean pub then began hosting a two-week celebration in 2004 to coincide with the Oktoberfest. Incredibly, the people liked it so much that the owners extended it to a full eight weeks, surpassing the duration of the official festival by two more weeks.
German restaurants and breweries in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia's biggest cities, light up and celebrate Oktoberfest in about the same fashion in London’s pubs. Over in Blumenau, Brazil, the merrymaking founded by German settlers is on a larger scale. It claims to be the largest Oktoberfest in South America, hosting more than 500,000 attendees each year.
8 German Words and Phrases to Learn for Oktoberfest
Wies’n - impress the locals and take away Oktoberfest from your vocab. Call the festival “Wies'n” after Theresienwiese, the place where it was first held.
Bierzelt - can't trace your way back to the beer tent? Ask directions by mentioning “bierzelt” instead. The largest bierzelt has seats for 10,000 visitors, so find yours carefully!
Servus! - impart excitement to your fellow beer lovers with this informal Bavarian greeting as you head to the festival.
Prost! - simply put, it means “cheers,” but you must work on the pronunciation to mimic the correct Bavarian sound.
Danke - it's always nice to “thank you” with a smile.
Woher kommst du? - since the Oktoberfest is an international festival, a lot of people you meet will ask “where are you from?”
Noch ein Bier, bitte! - asking for “another beer, please!” in the local dialect should impress the server and could even lead to great conversations.
O’ Zapft is! - you won't have to utter this one, but it's an important phrase in the Oktoberfest tradition that you should keep in mind.