Five hours—five liters of beer. It’s Oktoberfest in Munich.
No, it’s not a rule to drink one liter (ein Maas) per hour, but it’s not hard to do amidst the singing, dancing, eating and overall party-driven commotion taking place for the 176th Oktoberfest. For the world’s most famous beer bash, six Munich breweries as well as several big beer halls from the city set up gargantuan tents along the Theresienwiese. For a group of restaurant and bar owners, beer salespeople and writers from all over the world (this one included), the revelry took place specifically inside the Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr tents.
As is the case every year, all beers sold at the Oktoberfest were brewed to roughly the same strength—about 6.0% ABV—and were golden-yellow in color. (Note: This is the version served in Germany but an orange-hued beer of the same strength is exported to the U.S.) It was delicious and went down oh so easily.
All that beer in one night (yes, some drank less, but others drank more) washed down copious amounts of food. Roasted chicken was served by the half—was useless to ask for a smaller portion. Schweinshaxe (roasted ham hocks with skin that has a delectable crust) abounded and, of course, there were miles of juicy sausage links and fat, bready pretzels larger than an average dinner plate.
On the raised bandstand in the center of each tent, musicians played traditional Bavarian oom-pah tunes, as well as modern pop songs. It’s unnervingly odd, but Take Me Home, Country Roads is a major Oktoberfest attraction. Everyone sings along, no matter what his or her nationality. Most of the German guests were dressed in Tracht, the traditional lederhosen and dirndls of southern Germany. The foreigners wore the international casual attire of the young—blue jeans and tee-shirts.
And all night long the bands played another song at regular intervals, one that gets 9,000 people up on their feet (and often on top of their tables) to sing along: "Ein Prosit, ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit"— a toast, a toast, to good times.