what is oktoberfest

It’s that time of the year when Oktoberfest celebrations start popping up in cities and towns around the country. We’ll grab our economy-sized steins and venture to the festival for our fill of magnificent beer. But what is Oktoberfest and why are we celebrating? Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t invented as an excuse to wear lederhosen and drink beer before noon.


The first Oktoberfest happened in Germany on October 12, 1810 and it was originally to celebrate the wedding of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen (say that 5 times fast). It obviously has evolved through the years, but it was their wedding that started the festival tradition.


Now Oktoberfest is actually more of a September event due to the warmer weather. The official Oktoberfest in Germany usually starts on the second to last Saturday of the month and then runs through the first Sunday of October. For example, this year it started on September 21 and it will end this Sunday, October 6. In America, we’re all over the place and there are celebrations happening throughout the nation from September through the end of October. We love this because we’re able to hit up multiple events, and make sure to take advantage of our favorite fall activity – drinking beer outside with friends (sometimes while wearing a necklace made out of pretzels.)


When it comes to the beer of (the official German) Oktoberfest, there are actually some strict rules in place. All of the beer served has to be from one of Munich’s six breweries: Paulaner, Spaten, Hacker-Pschorr, Augustiner, Hofbrau and Lowenbrau. There’s also a purity law called the Reinheitsgebot and it says that the recipe can only include barley, malt, yeast and hops. The beer is fermented and lagered for over 30 days and ultimately ends up at 6 percent alcohol.


If you want to seem completely authentic, raise your glass and say “prost” before drinking – that’s the Oktoberfest version of “cheers.”


Want to hit up a hardcore Oktoberfest, but don’t really have the time or funds to make it to Germany? Try to find a local one near you, or host your own. Buy your own stein and drink with some friends. It’s close enough.


Prost and enjoy Oktoberfest this weekend.