Another mind-boggling fact to get your weary head around, the festival doesn’t serve ‘beer’, per se, but the appropriately named Oktoberfestbier.
Served in 13 huge drinking tents, and made by just six Munich-based breweries, these special tipples are unique to the event, and calling them anything less than their given namesake could see you in trouble with the devoted local patrons.
3. It has an alternative side…
Believe it or not, there’s much more to Oktoberfest than booze. Music is a very important factor in the celebrations, with every alcohol tent featuring brass bands playing a mix of reworked chart hits from the likes of the Black Eyed Peas alongside traditional German Oompah classics.
If a song and dance isn’t your thing, you can head for the Armbrustschützenzelt tent. A popular pavilion for locals and internationals alike, you can spend your time inside drinking Paulaner brewhouse’s Oktoberfestbier, devouring a succulent knuckle of pork and practicing your bow and arrow skills in the annual crossbow competition.
4. Survival of the strongest
Not only are they exclusive to the party, these VIBs (Very Important Beers) pack a punch. Served in the classic 1-liter beer stein, the average Oktoberfestbier delivers a whopping 6% ABV, making these golden-amber lagers stronger than your average brew. Nevertheless, these strong beers are consumed in their olympic-sized pool load – with 6.4 million litres bought at last year’s event.
5. No drinking without consent
You’d think that this behemoth of a beer celebration would be a bit of an anything goes affair, but you’d be wrong. Drinking at Oktoberfest can only commence when the master of ceremonies – the mayor of Munich – cracks open the first barrel of beer, proclaiming ‘O’ zapft is’ (‘It’s tapped!’).
6. It doesn’t start in October
What’s in a name? Not much it seems, as this legendary autumn event doesn’t even start in October! Over the years there’s been a shift to an earlier, hopefully sunnier mid-September start, with the whole festival starting this year on September 19th, and finishing on October 4th, when 12 riflemen will sound a salute on the steps of the plainly named Bavaria Statue.
7. Drink to your good health!
The reason why Oktoberfest has become such an important and popular Munich landmark is not out of mere hedonism, but necessity. Southern Bavaria was once notorious for its awful fresh water supply, so to avoid cholera, the plague and other such nasty ailments, locals would wet their whistles with the safer, arguably tastier alternative of beer.
Water purification has come on leaps and bounds since the 19th century, but that’s not to say that some traditions are worth keeping nonetheless. So, drink to your good health, or ‘zum Wohl!’ as the locals shout!