Once Upon an Oktoberfest

Once upon a time… Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen were married, and that was the seed that began one of the greatest beer festivals in the world. The story begins with a wedding celebration, a horse race, and a five day festival held to commemorate the future king’s marriage in 1810. The popularity of the festival prompted the continuation of the event in subsequent years, with the addition of an agricultural show to highlight the farming in the Bavaria that still exists to this day. As years passed the celebration grew and now it is an international event drawing crowds of over six million people.

Oktoberfest in Germany has 14 large beer “tents” that are semi-permanent structures in the festival grounds. Each of the tents has a different theme, food, beer, and music to give it a unique atmosphere. All of the beer served in these tents must come from one of the six breweries located in Munich: Paulaner, Spaten, Hacker-Pschorr, Augustiner, Hofbräu and Löwenbräu. Oktoberfest beers must follow the Reinheitsgebot, or Bavarian Purity Requirements established in 1516. Originally the only ingredients allowed in the beers were barley, hops, and water, centuries later yeast was added as a fermentation agent. These traditional beers have inspired other breweries worldwide to create similar brews to serve in satellite celebrations.

While Oktoberfest is probably best known for the beer, there are many other aspects to the festival that have gained attention. The food enjoyed is a variety of traditional German dishes from the brezel (large soft pretzels), Hendl (roast chicken), Schweinebraten (roastpork), Schweinshaxe (grilled ham hock), Steckerlfisch (grilled fish on a stick), or Würstl (sausages). The event is also extremely family friendly with a fairground including carnival rides, parades, and musical acts fit for all ages. Oktoberfest is a jubilee of the culture and society of Bavaria, and the recognition has spawned observances around the world.

In the United States there are several Oktoberfest celebrations paying tribute to the German festival. The largest and most popular American observance occurs in Cincinnati, Ohio every year. Over a half million people come attend the party in the historic Fountain Square District featuring the largest chicken dance and the running of the weiners, a Dachshund race with all of the dogs wearing hot dog bun costumes. Other observances include La Crosse, WI with their high proportion of German-Americans and a craft beer night; Oktoberfest by the Bay in San Francisco, CA featuring a 21 piece Bavarian band; and of course there is a large celebration in Las Vegas, NV at the Hofbrauhaus with a complete reproduction of the famous beer hall in Munich by the same name. With all of the fun celebrations occurring worldwide, we have decided to begin our own. With our traditional Oktoberfest beer, Noble Chaos, leading the tap list of other autumn-inspired beers, we’ll be celebrating alongside the Bellaire Harvest Festival to commemorate another harvest and the bounty of northern Michigan.  

We hope you join us in raising a glass to the celebration of German culture. Don your dirndl or lederhosen and come out to Short’s Oktoberfest Celebration to try traditional beer styles, food dishes, and garb.