|In stead of looking as some technical aspects of beer I thought I'd discuss one of the most famous places to
drink it - Oktoberfest! It's Germany's largest folk festival. Even though most people in the USAA know about it
many do not realize it actually starts in September. Locally it's just called “Wiesn” (meaning “the meadow”), it is
staged for 16 to 18 days on the 77-acre Theresienwiese in Munich from the last 2 weeks of September into
the first weekend of October.
Since the first Oktoberfest in 1810, it has grown into the most famous beer festival in the world, hosting about
6-7 million visitors every year. The original festival’s popularity is inextricably tied to its large beer tents, many
with up to 10,000 seats. Each tent has its own unique décor and character.
There are strict regulations regarding the beer served at the Oktoberfest. Only the large breweries that brew
inside Munich’s city limits are allowed to deliver beer to the Oktoberfest—these are Augustinerbräu München,
Hacker–Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, and Spaten-Franziskaner-Bräu. The smaller breweries
(including Forschungsbrauerei and brewpubs like Union Bräu) as well as those from outside town are banned.
There is a popular myth that there is one distinctive style of beer brewed for Oktoberfest—but historical evidence
shows that there have been many changes in the beers served at the festival in the past. In the first 60 or so years
the then popular Bavarian dunkel seems to have dominated the festival. As is often the case, the historical record
makes note of the common beer only when something notably different is introduced.
For decades the reddislh–brown marzenbier ruled the tents, but in recent years the style has changed yet again.
Since 1990 all Oktoberfest beers brewed in Munich have been of a golden color and a slightly sweetish malty
nose, with medium body and a low to moderate bitterness. According to European Union regulations, no beers
except those brewed by the authorized large breweries of Munich are allowed to be labeled “Oktoberfest,” yet
many American breweries brew their own versions of Oktoberfest beers. Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams)
claims to be the largest brewer of Oktoberfest beer because no single brewery in Munich brews more of the
festival beer than their American competitor.
The Oktoberfest is also a part of living Bavarian history. It originated in the year 1810 when Bavaria’s king
Maximilian I. Joseph organized a 2-day festival (on October 13 and 14) to celebrate the wedding of his son,
Crown Prince Ludwig (later Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen. On this occasion free
beer and free food were offered at four different locations in Munich and a horse race was organized in what was
to become Theresienwiese (named after the princess).
At the race ground innkeepers from downtown Munich had set up tents where food and beer were sold. The
entire spectacle was popular enough to make a tradition out of the festival, a tradition kept alive for 200 years
and only discontinued in times of war and cholera. It is often forgotten that the first Oktoberfest was a political
manifestation to demonstrate national unity during and after the Napoleonic wars (when Bavaria was fighting
on the side of the French).
For weather related reasons, the festival was moved forward in the calendar from early to mid-October in the first
decades to the last 2 weeks of September in the 1870s, with only a couple of days reaching into the actual month
of October. On noon of the first day of Oktoberfest, the mayor of Munich taps the first keg and proclaims “O’zapft
is!” (“It is tapped!”) and the world’s largest beer party comes to life.
Hope you found this month's column of interest. If you have any questions about beer or brewing
or just want to submit a word for me to discuss here just e-mail it to me.
Thanks and Cheers!
|A new column by
|Jack O'Reilly attended the
famous Siebel Institute/ World
Brewing Academy in Chicago.
|I'm very excited to be part of the BeerNexus team. I think my many years in the
beer business both as a brewer and manger will enable me to explain and
investigate many topics of interest for those who really love craft beer. Hope you
join me every month.
More by Jack: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #!2