October is here, bringing yellow leaves, cooler days, pumpkins, and comforting foods and beverages.  This month also holds one of the biggest and best festivals of the year, Oktoberfest.  While the real Oktoberfest is celebrated in Munich, Germany between the last Sunday in September and the first Sunday of October, many cities and towns put on their own versions of the brew-heavy event.  Oktoberfest began as a celebration for the royal wedding of King Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810.  The locals were invited to the festivities held outside the city gates.  Ludwig organized a horse race to accompany the beer and good cheer, drawing close to 40,000 guests.  The celebration was such a hit that the citizens decided to repeat it the following year (1811), but this time they combined it with the state agriculture show and a tradition was born! The festival is still held at the original site. The beer and food have been expanded and are the most identifiable parts of this now worldly party.  We took a closer look at famous beers and foods of Oktoberfest.

Bier (Beer)

There are hundreds of tents in Munich serving up frosty brews to happy guests in Bavarian clothes, but only six breweries (Spaten, Augustiner, Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, and Löwenbräu.) are allowed to serve beer at Oktoberfest. These breweries must follow certain criteria for their suds to be qualified as Oktoberfest beers. The beer must be brewed in Munich, and must also be made in the Reinheitsgebot or “Bavarian Purity Law” tradition, meaning that the beer was brewed adhering to the German law that beer can only be made using barley, hops, and water (yeast was later added)–this is the oldest food law in the world dating back to 1516.  The beers must also contain a 6% minimum alcohol percentage.  Since it can be difficult to find the authentic beers of Oktoberfest in the States, many Colorado breweries make similar brews that follow German tradition.

Left Hand Oktoberfest and Autumn Ale from Breckenridge Brewery are two of our local favorites.

Wurst and Other Foods

Sausages are the most well known food of the festival.  Bratwurst, knockwurst, curry wurst, frankfurters… you name aGerman sausage and it will be there!  In addition to the expected sausages, you could find roasted, grilled, or cured pork knuckles, pork roasts, wiener schnitzel (breaded pork or veal cutlet), and smoked pork chops.  The humble potato is the highlighted vegetable, found in soups, dumplings, pancakes, and salads.  Large doughy pretzels serve as snacks, and apple strudles and plum cakes round out the heavy-hitting meal.

Oktoberfest at Home

You don’t have to travel to Germany to celebrate Oktoberfest.  Host an Oktoberfest party of your own with just a few simple touches! If possible, try to host your party outside taking advantage of the cooler fall days and evenings. Combine the best of the ‘fest by finding a few good German-style beers and serving them right out of the bottle or in glass steins.  Fire up the grill and serve a variety of sausages.  Bratwurst and knockwurst are easy to find to in the regular store, for the more adventurous try a European deli to find the authentic German sausages.  Serve with different mustards and sauerkraut.  Play German music or polka and if you can, round up a few Bavaivrian costumes. Tie in German colors by using black, red and gold tablecloths.  Oktoberfest is really about fun, food, and beer–as long as these elements are present, you will have your very own Oktoberfest! Prost!