A Grown-Up's Guide to Oktoberfest
Step 1: Read up on these cool stories behind this centuries-old beer-soaked bacchanal.
Step 2: Hit the tents, revel and yell “Prost!” way too much.
—Joshua M. Bernstein
The innate human desire to down a cold one after hard work is how Oktoberfest and its namesake beer were born. Before refrigeration, brewing season fell between late fall and early spring, when farming chores were light and the cool temperatures prevented skunked beer. This timetable, however, left Bavarians virtually beer-less by the time they wrapped up the grueling fall harvest. So, several centuries ago, some thirsty men from Munich brewed beer in March (called Märzen), hauled it up to the Alps and stocked it away in ice caves, ensuring they could throw a proper party come late September. Each year, the party grew in size. Then, in 1810, Crown Prince Ludwig I held his wedding reception at the harvest celebration in Munich and officially declared it an annual fête.
Medium-bodied, lightly sweet and malt-forward, Märzen is the perfect seasonal transition brew. It’s low in alcohol and blends the crispness of summer beer styles with a hearty richness suited for autumn’s crisp weather. It’s no surprise Märzen goes well with grilled pork chops, potatoes and sausages.
Hacker-Pschorr Original Oktoberfest
This tawny Munich-brewed Märzen has a clean, toasty-sweet scent, tempered by a touch of spicy hops. It drinks smooth, with a dry finish that’ll make you want another.
Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen
This amber-hued Märzen calls to mind biscuits and caramel, with earthy bitterness along for the ride. One sip and you’ll see why the brewery has thrived since 1877.
Firestone Walker Oaktoberfest
Referencing the California brewery’s roots in Paso Robles (Spanish for “Pass of The Oaks”), the easy-drinking fall seasonal—just bottled for the first time—offers hints of honey and an appealing bitter sting.
Great Lakes Oktoberfest
This Cleveland-made lager is rich, malty and boasts a slight caramel lick. Pair it with a beer-boiled weisswurst slathered with spicy brown mustard.
An all-day drinker, this Pennsylvania pop opens with a malty-sweetness but finishes dry. It’s nutty and medium-bodied and has a touch of pleasing bitterness from German whole-flower hops.
When: Sept. 19–Oct. 5
“Tents”: 34 (Tents? More like airplane hangars)
Revelers in 2013: 6.4 million
Liters of Beer Downed: 6.7 million
Sausages scarfed: 330,000
Oxen eaten: 114
Beer-glass: brawls in 2013
58: (down from 66 in 2012)
Segway Thefts: 1
Missing false teeth: 1
Oktoberfest | Helen, Georgia (Sept. 11–Nov. 2)
Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, this alpine-village replica features a foot-stomping array of Bavarian bands that attract everyone from sorority girls to septuagenarians.
Old World Oktoberfest | Huntington Beach, California (Sept. 14–Nov. 2)
Why? Beach + boatloads of German beer + lederhosen =a terrific time.
Oktoberfest Zinzinnati | Cincinnati (Sept. 19–21)
The world’s largest Chicken Dance and a bratwurst-eating competition (Joey Chestnut’s record: 70) makes Cincinnati’s celebration wonderfully weird.
Madonna Inn Oktoberfest | San Luis Obispo, California (Oct. 11)
The landmark Central Coast hotel is transformed into a Munich wonderland, featuring plenty of locally brewed Firestone Walker Oaktoberfest beer (see above).
Linde Oktoberfest Tulsa | Tulsa, Oklahoma (Oct. 16–19)
Featuring Oompah bands flown in from Bavaria, the gala commences with a keg-tapping ceremony and features beer-barrel racing and the dog race, the Running of the Wieners.
- 2The History
- 3The Beer
- 45 Must-Try Märzens
- 5Munich’s Oktoberfest By the Numbers
- 6Five Of Our Favorite American Oktoberfests