While we were completing our beer warm-up in Belgium, we had three more friends gearing up to hop across the pond for the week-long road trip portion of our vacation. And what better place rendezvous than at THE Oktoberfest in Munich? (Answer: there isn’t one)
I’ve previously described this three week festival of the biers as the adult version of Disneyland. I hold to that, not because of the carnival rides and hyper-thematic atmosphere, but because everything about attending is filled with joy (or alcohol, same same).
- You get to dress up! If you don’t come prepared with a dirndl / lederhosen, I promise you won’t leave Munich without one. An overwhelming majority of festival goers are sporting ye olde Bavarian folkwear, and you’ll feel like the silly one if you’re not. Plus, there’s just something fun about getting into character!
2. The anticipation. If you don’t get excited about big events like this, you should check your pulse because you might be dead. If you don’t have a table reserved, the best way to expedite your beer acquisition is to get in line prior to the grounds opening and waiting, which naturally creates a build up of emotions. Alternatively, if you have your big girl (or boy) pants with you, drink away day 1 wherever you can, then show up early on day 2 to snag an unreserved table and prepare for a long day of beer! It’s not quite a bull rush upon the gates opening (because litres of beer from days’ prior weigh you down) but there is a rush of happiness when you finally get seated and get a beer maiden’s attention.
3. The beer, duh. It’s hard to follow Belgian beer, but if any country is going to hold it’s own, Germany is the one. Whether your preference lies with the fruity Hefeweizen, dark Dunkel, yeasty Weisse, or the classic brew named for the festival itself, what truly matters is that the standard serving size: a full litre. Putting down a couple of those is a feat, but what’s more impressive is how many of them the beer maiden/men can carry at a time. It’ll put your grocery unloading capabilities to shame.
4. The atmosphere. There are 17 large (massive) festival halls, or tents, on grounds, each with it’s own personality, traditions, and food. The Hofbräu tent is the largest, with room for 10,000 folks who are ready to chug, dance, and be merry; this attracts a largely international demographic. The Lowenbräu tent still has my heart after getting adopted by a rowdy group near Die Heldensteiner‘s stage plus being taught their songs and accompanying traditions. The Armbrustschützen tent hosts the German crossbow championships (apparently that’s still a thing) as well as performance whipcrackers (can confirm this is real!), which gives it an awesome old-world feel.
5. The camaraderie. The tents are set up with long tables / benches to maximize patronage, so odds are good you’ll be flanked by folks you don’t know. Between that and reduced inhibitions, you most certainly will make new friends while tiring out your biceps lifting the heavy steins. And nothing brings folks together more than cheering on a random person bold enough to get up on a table in front of thousands of people and attempt to chug a full stein (a common occurrence in the Hofbräu tent).
Tables can be reserved to guarantee your spots, but in many cases you have to buy the whole table which makes it very expensive if you’re not willing to make it rain (or hail, I don’t judge). We’ve never needed to do so in three Oktoberfests’ time, which is one of the things that’s helped make us many a new friend.
For folks who are in Munich any of the other 49 weeks of the year, you can get a taste of the Oktoberfest atmosphere by visiting the permanent Hofbräuhaus in the heart of the city. It’s got a very similar feel as the expansive dining areas filled are with long tables / bench seating, dirndl & leaderhosen-clad servers wielding armfuls of giant beers, delicious food and live music daily.
But alas, after many a day filled with beers, it was time to put down the steins and become one with nature in Switzerland.