COLUMN WRITTEN BY MATT BRASCH
For Digital First Media
Despite its name, Oktoberfest begins in September and luckily for the suburban Philadelphia region, there are many authentic Oktoberfests — and brews — that will be appearing soon. The 2015 Munich Oktoberfest — considered by many to be “THE Oktoberfest” — begins on Sept. 19 and runs for two weeks until Oct. 4. According to Munich’s official Oktoberfest history at www.muenchen.de/int/en/events/oktoberfest/history.html, what we know as “Oktoberfest” today originally began on Oct. 12, 1810 as a 16 day-long wedding reception for Bavaria’s Crown Prince Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. King Ludwig and Princess Therese invited the citizens of Munich to celebrate their wedding on the fields in front of the city gates, now officially known as the Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s Meadow”). A parade was held in honor of the royal couple and the official end of the celebration was marked with horse races.
The following year, someone who probably remembered how fun the party was the year before decided to hold the horse races and an Agricultural Show — but no parade. It may not have been as much fun as the original, but Oktoberfest became an annual event anyway. While some Oktoberfest traditions came and went over the years, one thing remained — it always included beer stands for the thirsty visitor. And Oktoberfest did not stay in Munich; today almost every town in Germany holds an Oktoberfest.
The current Oktoberfest in Munich includes a massive tent for each of the Big Six breweries of Munich — Lowenbrau, Hofbrau, Augustinerbrau, Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr and Spaten — where millions of people drink millions of gallons of beer and eat thousands of pounds of sausage and pretzels. The beer of choice during Oktoberfest was the “Marzen” style from 1872 until 1990. According to the BJCP Beer Style Guidelines – 2015 Edition, “As the name suggests, [the “Marzen” was] brewed as a stronger “March beer” in March and lagered in cold caves over the summer.” In 1990, the Marzen style was replaced with a less malty, easier drinking, golden-colored “Festbier” as the standard festival beer.
Over the past few decades, Oktoberfests have become more popular in America and can be found in many towns and cities beginning in September. Authentic Oktoberfests will provide three main ingredients: beer, music and food. Optional requirements include German sausages, pretzels, mustard, yodeling, wooden picnic tables that must be shared with strangers, and maybe a tent over it all.
With the rise of American Oktoberfests, there has also been a rise in the production of excellent Marzen and Festbier styles by craft brewers. Victory Brewing Co.’s “Festbier” is a Marzen style that is brewed with German malts and hops, which makes it a truly authentic Oktoberfest beer. Another exceptional local brew is Stoudt’s Oktoberfest, and like their other flagship beers, it stays true to the style and their German heritage. Lancaster Brewing Co.’s Oktoberfest is also worthy of filling a liter glass stein (called “ein Mass” in the Munich tents) and singing “Ein Prosit.”
As the summer comes to an end and the evenings become more comfortable, it is a perfect time of year to join with friends and family to say “Prost” (“Cheers”) to Oktoberfest. Here are a few events in the area that should be added to your calendar:
Stoudts Brewing, Adamstown, Pa.: On Sept. 20, and every Sunday through Oct.25, Stoudt’s will hold its traditional Oktoberfest celebration from 1 to 6 p.m. A family friendly event, the Stoudt’s family carries on their German heritage in the Gemutlichkeit Beer Garden with live German music, dancing, and authentic German food, including German sausages, potato salad, and red cabbage. More information about Admission Tickets, which include 3 drink tickets for a Stoudt’s seasonal beer, can be found here: http://stoudts.com/events/
Lancaster Liederkranz Oktoberfest, Lancaster, Pa.: Lancaster’s oldest, traditional Oktoberfest will be held on Sept. 18, 19 and 20. A “celebration of German Music, Food, Drink, Song and Dance,” this event is held “under the big tents” and welcomes the whole family. More information can be found at: http://www.lancasterliederkranz.com/201516fests.html
Brauhaus Schmitz, Philadelphia, Pa.: Philadelphia’s most authentic German bar and restaurant will be holding its 7th annual Oktoberfest on Sept. 19, from noon to 8 p.m. Once again Brauhaus Schmitz will shut down the 700 block of South Street with live Oompah music, face painting, the Liter lift competition, German Dancers, and will be pouring 10 different German beers, including Brauhaus Schmitz’s own Oktoberfest beer brewed by Traunstein Hofbrauhaus in Traunstein, Germany. Get your tickets here: http://brauhausschmitz.com/oktoberfest-2015/