Oktoberfest beer with a spicy cheese dip.
Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.
Each year, many people look forward to Oktoberfest, an annual 16-day beer festival held since 1810 in Munich, Germany—the country’s renowned Bavaria region, comprising southeast Germany.
Oktoberfest is said to be the world’s largest fair, with more than 6 million people attending—15% of the beer fans come from outside Germany. Other cities around the world hold their own Oktoberfests, modeled after the original.
While it’s called Oktoberfest (German for October feast), the event begins in late September and ends in early October.
As you can imagine, large quantities of Oktoberfest beer are consumed—almost 7 million liters were served during the 16-day festival in 2007. The traditional style of Oktoberfest beer is Märzen,* an amber-red, smooth, mildly sweet lager with a malty aroma, which originated in Bavaria.
To be designated Oktoberfest beer in Germany, the beer must conform to the Reinheitsgebot (the German beer purity law), which dictates a minimum of 6% alcohol (by comparison, America’s Budweiser has 5%). The beer must also be brewed within the city limits of Munich.
Traditional foods served with the beer include:
Cheese noodles (Käsespätzle, a noodle casserole with cheese and onions—here’s a recipe)
Grilled chicken (Hendl)
Grilled fish (Steckerlfisch)
Grilled ham hock (Schweinshaxe)
Potato dumplings (Knödel)
Potato pancakes (Reiberdatschi)
Roast pork (Schweinebraten), and of course,
Sauerkraut and Blaukraut (red cabbage sauerkraut) with
Sausages (Würstl, including the Bavarian specialty Weisswurst, a white sausage made from veal and pork, seasoned with bacon, lemon, onions and parsley)
*For German speakers who wonder why a beer named for the month of March (März in German) is celebrated in October: Märzen was originally brewed in March and laid down in caves before the summer heat made brewing impossible. At the end of September, any remaining kegs were consumed during the two-week Oktoberfest. While some modern brewers make Märzen seasonally for Oktoberfest, others brew it year-round.
TIME TO PARTY
There’s still time for you to have an Oktoberfest celebration. You don’t need to adhere to the German schedule: Consider that you’ve all of October.
For an adult Halloween party, combine the two events and do a tasting of Oktoberfest beers, fall beers and pumpkin beers/ales.
English/India Pale Ales
(Check out all the different types of beer in our Beer Glossary.)
Oktoberfest beer from Wisconsin: Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest beer with sausage and sauerkraut. Photo courtesy Leinenkugel.
Here’s a recipe from the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, for brats steamed in Oktoberfest beer.
BRATS COOKED IN BEER
Enjoy Leinenkugel’s recipe for Oktoberfest-Infused Bratwurst, brats boiled in beer, then grilled.
1 dozen brats
1 dozen brat buns
Oktoberfest beer, to cover†
1 medium large sweet onion, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
1 yellow pepper, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
2 ounces butter
†We used 5 bottles.
1. Place brats in a Dutch oven with sliced onions, peppers and butter; cover the brats with beer. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer until brats are cooked. Remove brats and set aside remaining beer mixture.
2. Grill brats until golden brown and return to beer mixture until ready to serve.
3. Serve brats on fresh brat buns, plain or toasted, with your favorite toppings: ketchup, mustard, onions, peppers (chopped bell peppers or jalapeños) and sauerkraut.
HOW MUCH BEER DO YOU NEED FOR A CROWD?
If you’re planning a large event, use the handy calculator at Kegerators.com. We calculated that for a party of 25 guests consuming 3-5 beers apiece, we’d need 1 keg, 35 pounds of ice for a room temperature keg, and 30 cups, “Assumes 17% breakage, excluding drinking games.”