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The Beer Circle » Beer Festival, Beer Week » Liter Steins and German Tradition at Munich’s Oktoberfest

Liter Steins and German Tradition at Munich’s Oktoberfest

Inside of Lowenbau's Oktoberfest tent

Inside of Lowenbau’s Oktoberfest tent

After a quick stop in Belgium to investigate some traditional Belgian brewing practices, I hopped on a plane to Munich for the famed Oktoberfest. I got a sneak peak into Oktoberfest previously at J. Gilbert’s, but my sense was that the real thing would take it to the next level.

The history is storied. Now the world’s largest fair held at Theresienwiese, die Weisn, to the locals, it got its start in 1810 as a celebration of the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig (who would later become the King) to Therese, whose name now graces the park at which the festivities are held.

Oktoberfest is held for 16 days, starting in late September and lasting until the first weekend of October. For beer to be served at the festival, it must be brewed within Munich’s city limits, according to the Bavarian purity law, and approximately 6% ABV. The only breweries that are able to meet this criteria are Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Lowenbrau, Paulaner, Spaten, and Hofbrau.

The food of Oktoberfest

The food of Oktoberfest

A group of friends and I got to Munich on the second day of the festival, Sunday, and made our way to the parade, which housed the man with the world’s largest beard–the day prior, Oktoberfest was officially opened with the tapping of the first keg at the end of its own parade. Late in the morning, we made our way to the Lowenbrau tent to get our first taste of the party.

At Lowenbrau, we were greeted by an animatronic lion proudly announcing the name of the tent, “Loooooovenbrowwwwww.” After some well-seasoned maneuvering to obtain a table, we found ourselves multiple liters deep, singing traditional German songs, and generally immersing ourselves into the crowd–hopefully adding another page to the festival’s storied history.

My main takeaways from the first night are threefold. Drink quickly enough that your beer doesn’t get warm, but not too quickly that you quickly get outside of your tolerance. Bring your own water, the only water served at the tents is carbonated…which leaves you never feeling truly hydrated. Most importantly, leave some open spots at your table, as you’ll meet people from all walks of life.

Third floor of Hofbrauhaus

Third floor of Hofbrauhaus

After recovering from Sunday with a morning of sightseeing around the city center the next day, we decided that the only way to wash down our history lesson was with the legendary Hofbrauhaus itself. Some of us in the group had been introduced to the Hofbrauhaus name in Pittsburgh, but we were excited to see the real thing. Variations of this building have served Germany royalty, saved the city of Munich in 1632, and housed many meetings of Hitler’s National Socialist Worker’s Party. On this beautiful Bavarian Monday, it served our group a delicious dinner: some boiled ox, a dunkelweizen, and an Oktoberfest for me. After taking in more German music, food, and drink, we continued to the metro station with the aim of ending our evening to prepare our return to the tents the next morning.

However, we saw a building graced with the Augustiner name and decided, why not have another? We learned that this small building not far outside of the Marienplatz metro station, was the original location of the Augustiner brewery. Served at this location, and nowhere else that week, was Augustiner’s Oktoberfest, but with a twist. It had been fermented in a wooden keg, so it is more in line with how the beer would have been originally brewed. It was the best beer I had in Germany. Sweeter, and higher in alcohol, the beer was both delicious and dangerous. After some lively conversation with our waiter, we returned to our beds to rest up for the day of drinking ahead.

The original location of Augustiner

The original location of Augustiner

We entered the Paulaner tent at its 10am opening time (vice 9am, which is when we thought that it opened) and stayed for the better part of the day. It is at this tent that we encountered another German tradition, specific to even Munich, of eating your weisswurst before noon. “White sausage” is Munich’s speciality, made from very finely minced veal and fresh pork back bacon, although I can’t say that I appreciated it as much as the locals. Lunch was served with half chickens (many of them), and the evening again turned into one of song and conversation.

After another day of sightseeing, our trip had come to an end. The trip comes highly recommended for beer and history lovers alike.

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Written by Russ Beck

Russ can trace his beginnings in craft beer to sitting in Zeno’s Pub in State College drinking various craft beer options from across Pennsylvania. Since then, he has never faltered in finding new brews, whether they’re rare, delicious, or hopefully both. Russ will be writing on a large variety of subjects, including but not limited to: reviews, homebrewing, and how to take labels off of beer bottles. He’ll drink just about anything, but prefers a nice Stout, IPA, or Weizenbock. Find Russ Beck on Google Plus

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