The History, Beer & Food of Oktoberfest

This festive celebration was established in October 1810 by Prince Ludwig of Bavaria in celebration of his marriage. Over 200 years later, year after year, the celebration is held at the same location. “Wisen” (the local term for the celebration) is a Bavarian event that has become a celebration of life not only for the Bavarians and all Germans but also worldwide, with some form of Oktoberfest event in breweries and cities around the globe.

Oktoberfest now lasts 16 days, beginning in mid-September and ending on the 1st Sunday in October. Major Munich breweries sponsor the event and up to 6 million attendees pack into mega beer halls and consume over 5 million liters of beer every year.

Keep reading to learn more about the characteristics of Oktoberfest beers and the foods that are traditionally served.

Only beer brewed within the city limits of Munich are served and are designated “Oktoberfest Beer.” Breweries of this exclusive club include Augstinerbrau, Hacker, Pschorr Brau, Hofbrau, Lowenbrau, Paulanerbrau and Spatenbrau. Oktoberfest beer usually contains only 4.5% alcohol by volume and is a dark reddish copper in color, has a mild hop profile and is typically an amber lager. It’s usually strongly scented of deep-toasted malt and aromatized with “noble” hops (low in bitterness and high in aroma) that makes the beer spicy and herbal yet sweet and grainy.

Domestic Oktoberfest beers vary widely in style, from classic lager to more brewed ale and yet are often labeled “Oktoberfest Ale.” Sam Adams, Harpoon, Brooklyn Brewing, Saranac, Beck’s and Pete’s are good examples of more traditional lagers.

It follows that the foods traditionally served at Oktoberfest are all great foods to enjoy with Oktoberfest lager style beer. Main courses often include potato soup, liver dumpling soup, roasted chicken, pork roast, spareribs with BBQ sauce, suckling pig with potato dumplings, and sausage of all kinds including bratwurst, frankfurters, knockwurst and weisswurst. Typical side dishes consist of potato pancakes, potato salad, red cabbage and sauerkraut.