A September 2000 trip
to Munich by Stavvy
Quote: Notes on Invading Germany: Insight on Oktoberfest, the World's Biggest Beer Bash
Attraction | "World-famous Hofbrauhaus"
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 14, 2000
Attraction | "Neuschwanstein-Orig. Disneyland Castle"
A love of beer is an almost innate characteristic of the German psyche and with order and efficiency being the hallmarks of German culture, it’s easy to see how this attitude has spilled over into the production of their most beloved beverage. German beer production is governed by the world’s oldest "food law," the Reinheitsgebot, or Purity Law, dating back to the 1516 mandate of Duke William IV of Bavaria (a German folk hero whose name has become synonymous with the term "Duke William IV of Bavaria"). The Purity Law is still adhered to for beer produced in Germany for domestic consumption. It states that German beer be comprised of only four ingredients: malted barley, hops, yeast, and water.
The majority of the beer served at Oktoberfest is Marzenbier, meaning "March beer." Yes, folks, the Germans, the most organized of people, have a party called Oktoberfest, that begins in September when they drink a beer known as "March beer." Go figure. At any rate, the Bavarian tradition of brewing large batches beer in March dates back to the 19th century before refrigeration when they needed to finish production before the weather got too warm for brewing. The advent of mechanized refrigeration in the latter part of the 1800’s coincided with the proliferation of railroads in Europe, which enabled thousands more thirsty Bavarians to travel to the Munich Oktoberfest. Even though the larger Munich brewhouses were making special festival brews, demand often outstripped supply, and one way or the other, it is Marzen beer that became the Oktoberfest beer style known to the world, though the style has had, and continues to have, various incantations.
Recent changes in tastes have seen the traditional Marzen brew supplanted by paler, less robust "Oktoberfestbier" to suit broader international tastes, though even this brew tends to retain a deeper amber color than the average lager beer. Most of Munich’s big brewers still produce a draft Marzen at Oktoberfest time for sale in their beer halls and festival beer tents. Typically, a Marzenbier will be copper-red in color, with a full-bodied maltiness, somewhat spicy and tending to dryish, with a heartier flavor than the more common lagers. But you don’t need to know this to enjoy them. What you do need to do is work up a powerful thirst and be aware that you will be considered a wimp if you don’t order by the mass, which is a large, full liter of beer, served in a heavy glass stein by a heavy German waitress who can proudly carry six of them in each hand. That’s twelve liters for those of you who are mathematically challenged, enough beer to slake the thirst of the average party. The German beer waitress is clearly the highest Darwinian evolution of the waitress species. You’ll find out very quickly that even hoisting one is quite a workout.
If you’re not already familiar with Oktoberfest, you’re probably thinking, "Wow, the Germans must really love October…celebrating its annual arrival with such ardent partying each year…" The truth of the matter is that what the Germans actually love is drinking beer – and they’re so anxious to hoist their steins that they can’t ever actually wait until October. The festival actually begins on the second-to-last September Saturday of each year and lasts for sixteen-besotted days. Leave it to Teutonic punctuality to be a month early for a party while the rest of the world is still striving to be fashionably late.
There is actually more to explain the festival than the mere arrival of October. The festival has its beginnings in the October 12, 1810 marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese. The original festival lasted for only a day and was held in the Munich meadow which still carries the bride’s name, Theresienweise, or Weis’n, in the local vernacular. The festival has been held there continuously since then, interrupted only for wars, and only a mere 22 times over the years. Of course, interrupting an annual festival for wars in Germany is akin to interrupting a baseball game for tobacco-chewing. Shit happens, and people strive not to be too deterred by things like a penchant to start European land wars in near-constant, obsessive quests for world hegemony by overzealous German patriots.
Over the years, the festival of Oktoberfest grew in prominence and in duration. The modern Germans, with their inimitable ability to maximize production, decided to further increase the duration of the party over the years to its current 16-day length. It’s precisely this kind of dedication to productivity, combined with billions and billions of dollars of U.S. aid in the form of the Marshall Plan, that has transformed Germany into the economic and beer-drinking wunderkind that it is today.
While the marriage of Ludwig and Theresa ended in divorce, the party lives on and the original inspiration for the event has long since been replaced with a grander and nobler vision: the stalwart consumption of prodigious amounts of some of the finest beer in the world.
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