Pull on your lederhosen and dust off your bierkrug because Oktoberfest is upon us! The world’s largest fair, playing host to at least 6 million revelers in Munich, will commence on Saturday, September 19th at the crack of noon. Dieter Reiter, the lord mayor (Oberbürgermeister) of Munich, will tap the first barrel at that time, shout "O'zapft is!" ("It's tapped!") and declare the Wiesn (the colloquial name for the fairgrounds, named Theresienwiese which means "Theresa's meadow") officially open for the Oktoberfest celebration. The party will last until October 4th - the first Sunday in October - as is tradition.
If you think you’re serious about beer, the Germans have had Reinheitsgebot (“purity order”) or the German Beer Purity Law in place since 1516, with some of the regulations contained therein showing up even earlier. The Germans take these regulations so seriously that only beer brewed within Munich city limits that conforms to Reinheitsgebot is permitted to be served at the Munich Oktoberfest. The German Big 6 authorized are Augustiner-Bräu, Hacker-Pschorr-Bräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, Spatenbräu and the mouthful for English speakers, Staatliches Hofbräu-München. The beers they produce are officially designated Oktoberfest Beer. Just try to pace yourself or you may hear the locals refer to you as a bierleiche, or “beer corpse.” By the way, if you’re a bartender and you think you have beer pouring skills, know that veteran Oktoberfest bartenders can fill a liter stein in just 1.5 seconds.
Oktoberfest isn’t just all about beer. Oktoberfesters should make the time to watch the Oktoberfest Costume and Riflemen’s Parade, which takes place on the Wiesn during the first Sunday of the festival. There’s also the Parade of Oktoberfest Landlords and Breweries, the Official Tapping of the Keg (mentioned above), the Oktoberfest Mass, Böllerschießen (handheld canon salute) and an agricultural festival. And, of course, there’s all that delicious, hearty German food: würstel (sausages), hendl (chicken), brezel (pretzel), schweinsbraten (roast pork), knödeln and sauerkraut to name just a few.
For those who can’t attend Oktoberfest in Munich, there are festivals paying homage to the German celebration hosted across America. In Los Angeles on September 20th, Angel City Brewery will offer their Oktoberfest Beer, German food, live polka music, a sauerkraut eating contest, stein hoisting and prizes for the best dressed during Angel City Oktoberfest. The 30th Annual Berghoff Oktoberfest – the longest running and largest Chicago Oktoberfest celebration – runs from September 16th to September 18th and features live music, German cuisine, a raffle to help support Delete Blood Cancer DKMS and much more. Harpoon Brewery in Boston has been hosting Harpoon Octoberfest since 1990. October 2nd and 3rd, partiers can enjoy Harpoon’s fall brews, bratwurst, live music on 3 stages, chicken dancing and a German chocolate cake eating contest.