With the COVID-19 pandemic spreading throughout the world rapidly this year, the decision was made in April, during the height of the pandemic, to cancel Oktoberfest 2020 in Munich. While, many of us already know that it’s been cancelled, along with basically everything else this year, do you really know the story behind Oktoberfest and how it came to be?
The world’s largest folk festival attracts about 6 million visitors a year, come out to Munich to participate in the two week-long event we all know as Oktoberfest. Though the decision to cancel the event this year was difficult, the origin of Oktoberfest is simply not feasible during these trying times.
Since we can’t go to Oktoberfest this year, we’re here to tell you the history behind the celebration. First off, Oktoberfest actually starts in September. The first Oktoberfest was to celebrate the marriage of the Bavarian Prince Ludwig in 1810 and was originally a horse race. The next year the citizens decided that they wanted more, and the festival was later combined with the Bavarian Agricultural Fair. The festival was essentially moved to Mid-September/Early October because the climate in Munich was more preferable.
It wasn’t until 1818 that the festival began to evolve into what we think of today; vendors began bringing food and beverages to the celebration and Oktoberfest became a top priority in 1819. Originally, brewers would come and set up small beer tents but eventually with word getting out about the giant celebration, more visitors from all over the world began to come and those small beer tents evolved into giant beer halls. Some of the beer halls can even hold up to 6,000 people, talk about close quarters! Definitely not ideal with a pandemic going on…
In Oktoberfest tradition, the mayor of Munich always taps the first keg and that is the official start of the festival. Oktoberfest beers are some of the most well-known beers in the world, with consumption during the two week-long event rounding out at about 2 million gallons of beer consumed.
For those that aren’t able to travel internationally, there are many well-known Oktoberfest celebrations here in the US in heavily populated German-American areas. The oldest American Oktoberfest celebration takes place in a very small town in Georgia with a population of only 572 residents, the town replicated a traditional German village and mainly consisting of Bavarian descendants.
Because there’s a pandemic going on and everything is cancelled, you can have your own Oktoberfest celebration at home with friends and family (socially distanced of course)! Take a look at a few of our tops picks for Oktoberfest beers: Sierra Nevada’s 2020 Oktoberfest is a brew with select German hops and Vienna malts with a fresh taste and even a virtual Oktoberfest experience hosted by Sierra Nevada (Info here: oktoberfest.sierranevada.com). Another good option is Sam Adams Oktoberfest, we personally enjoy this one as we always have it on tap at our office Oktoberfest mixer! You can never go wrong with a classic Oktoberfest beer. Lastly, if you’re looking for an authentic Oktoberfest beer that you can get here in the states, check out Weihenstephaner’s Oktoberfest; this brewers is based out of Freising, which is North of Munich and exports to the US, you can find their beer at places like Total Wine or your local bottle shops.