Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Oktoberfest
It’s one of the oldest — and most appropriated — beer traditions, and for good reason. Oktoberfest has been celebrated in Munich for over 200 years, and is the standard to which all other beer festivals are measured.
And, while this year’s Oktoberfests may be on hold for the time being, there’s no reason you can’t crack open a cold can of Oktoberfest and enjoy yourself.
While you do, check out these facts on this beer festival to end all beer festivals.
1. Oktoberfest began back in 1810 as a celebration of the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. (Yes, that was actually her name. Say it out loud. We’ll give you a minute.)
2. The original festival went on for five days, but, for some reason, no one had yet thought to add beer to the mix — it culminated in a horse race. (Awesome. Wow.)
3. They added food and drink in 1818, served from small booths. (Eight years. It took them eight years to think, “Hey. Beer is nice. And this is Germany.”)
4. By the twentieth century, those booths had become full-fledged beer halls made of plywood, with interior balconies and bandstands. Erected by each of the six official brewers of Oktoberfest — Paulaner, Spaten, Hacker-Pschorr, Augustiner, Hofbrau, and Lowenbrau — these things are no small affair: some of the largest can seat up to 6,000 drunken revelers.
5. Now, the festival lasts two full weeks and they go through about two million gallons of beer.
6. Some six million people attend Oktoberfest each year, with two million of them being foreign tourists. If you’ve been lucky enough to attend, let us know what it was like!
7. One of the traditional snacks during Oktoberfest is the pretzel. Crunchy, salty, and delicious, you can often find Brotfrauen (bread ladies) carrying gigantic pretzels in huge baskets from table to table. Not only are they tasty, but they’re great for soaking up all of that beer! While we in the Philly area prefer ours in the soft variety and topped with a bit of yellow mustard, if you’re at Oktoberfest, you might want to try it with Obazda: a cheese spread containing Camembert, butter, paprika, and onions. (Just… don’t breathe in our face afterward.)
8. While it’s called Oktoberfest, the festival might more accurately be called Septemberfest, as it begins in the middle of September. As Oktoberfest morphed from a five-day celebration into the two-week festival it is today, the organizers realized that the days were longer and warmer in September, so they moved it up two weeks.
9. Speaking of weird things concerning months and Oktoberfest, the traditional Oktoberfest beer is considered a Märzen — meaning March. Traditionally, they brewed the beer in the spring and let it lager in cold caves throughout the summer. So, enjoy a March beer during Septemberfest!
- That little general Napoleon was more interested in conquering Bavaria than drinking beer in 1813.
- Cholera had its way in Munich in 1854. (Sound familiar?)
- The Austro-Prussian war put things on hold in 1866.
- Cholera was back in 1873.
- Economic woes brought down the 1923 festival: the Weimar Republic was embroiled in extraordinary hyperinflation — a situation that wasn’t topped until Zimbabwe in the early 2000s.
- World War II put Oktoberfest on hold from 1946 to 1948.
11. While we love our Oktoberfest brews in America — particularly CMBC’s very own Oktoberfest — the likelihood that you’ll find a similar beer during the festival in Munich is pretty slim. The beers served there are closer to what you might think when you hear the phrase “German lager” — they’d more accurately be classified as Dortmunders. The Märzen was more popular at Oktoberfest toward the end of the 19th century and has remained popular here in America.
12. Oktoberfest was the first lager we ever brewed! Way back in September of 2013, we brewed a single 15-barrel batch, gradually increasing batch sizes every year until 2019 when it became our fall seasonal. It was also the first lager we ever canned, in September of 2018.
13. Sweet, nutty, and rich, Cape May Brewing Company’s Oktoberfest is one of the finest examples of the Märzen style you’re likely to find.
14. We keep it German in Cape May with a blend of German malts: Pilsner, Vienna, Munich, Melanoiden, and Caramunich II; Saaz, a Noble German hop; and our Bohemian Pilsner yeast.
15. While we don’t brew it in March and we don’t have any caves to lager it in, our Oktoberfest is fermented at a cool fifty degrees, mellowing the brew.
16. And you can find it throughout New Jersey now! We’ll have it out to Pennsylvania and Delaware soon — keep your eye on our social media for details.