The Mayor of Munich opens the festival at noon on the first day by driving a wooden tap into a barrel of beer and proclaiming “It’s tapped!” The world’s largest beer festival is held annually in Munich, Germany; the 16 day long party attracts 6 million people from all over the world who consume 1.5 million gallons of beer and bring 450 million Euros into the City’s coffers. Over the past 200 years, the festival has been cancelled 24 times due either to cholera epidemics or war, and this year it has been cancelled due to the covid 19 pandemic.
Oktoberfest started in 1870 as a celebration of the October 12 marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to Saxon-Hildburghausen Princess Therese. The citizens of Munich were invited to join in 5 days of festivities held in fields in front of the City gates. The main event of the original celebration was a horse race.
Repeated annually, the celebration became larger and more elaborate. There were tree climbing competitions, wheel barrow and sack races, mush eating contests, barrel rolling races and goose chases. An agricultural exhibition was staged, and there were labyrinths, haunted house tours, flea circuses and dozens of game booths. In the 1900s carousels and swings were joined by mechanical rides, including a Ferris wheel and Germany’s first roller coaster.
Makeshift beer stands eventually were replaced by beer halls sponsored by local breweries. Oktoberfest beer, called Marzen, is darker and stronger than traditional beer, although it is still brewed according to strict German standards that limit ingredients to barley, hops, malt and yeast. Only six breweries are allowed to serve beer at the festival: Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbrau, Lowenbrau, Paulaner and Spaten. As the festival grew longer, it was scheduled to begin earlier, in September, in hopes of better weather; now the last day of Oktoberfest is the first Sunday in October. But while the pandemic has locked down Munich, it needn’t prevent you from celebrating the royal marriage. Dust off your dirndls and lederhosen and check out this “Oktoberfeast” for home consumption.
this menu is drawn in part from one printed in The Best of Gourmet, 1995