TR Robertson –A Festival that had its origin in Munich, Germany, in 1810, continues today and will soon be celebrated again in many U.S. cities, but has also spread around the world marked with dancing, amazing food and lots of beer consumed. The occasion for the first Oktoberfest surrounded a royal wedding between Ludwig, Crown Prince of Bavaria, and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The royal couple wanted to invite all of Munich to their wedding reception. The festivities included a parade, a huge party, an agricultural show, and a horse race. The citizens of Munich had such a good time they decided to repeat the horse races at the same time of year the following year. The horse races are no longer held in Munch, but the agricultural show and other festivities remain. In 1818, a carousel was added along with beer stands. By the beginning of the 1900’s, huge beer tents and halls were added, all sponsored by German breweries. Along with this the carousel had grown into a large fair. Another innovation was the beer tents lighted with electric lights for the first time. Today, Oktoberfest is known as the largest Volksfest (folk festival) in the world. One unusual feature added at the festival, designed in 1949 for the children, is the famous flea circus, where children can see 60 fleas providing the entertainment.
The Oktoberfest has only been cancelled a few times over the years. Beginning in 1933, the festival was cancelled until the end of WW II. In 1980, a bomb planted in a trash can, killing 13 people, and injuring 200 led to the cancellation for one year and in 2020 the festival was cancelled due to the COVID pandemic. Expectations are the Munich festival and other festivals in Europe and around the world will be held once again, perhaps with restrictions in place for safety of those attending. At the Munich festival fourteen large tents and twenty small tents serve beer and wine along with food.
Only certain brands of beers can be served at the Munich Oktoberfest. These beers must meet a certain criterion and are designated Oktoberfest Beer. The two distinct beer styles that are designated are the traditional Marzen lager and a paler Festbier. The breweries that meet the Oktoberfest criteria are Auguwtiner-Brau, Hacker-Pschorr-Brau, Lowenbrau, Palulaner, Spatenbrau, and Staatliches Hofbrau-Munchen. Oktoberfest Beer is a registered trademark by the Club of Munich Brewers.
The typical dates for Oktoberfest are Sept. 24-26 and Oct. 1-3 in San Diego. The festivals in Germany would occasionally run for 16-18 days, lasting until the first Sunday in October. The festival in Munich is called d’Wiesn, after the original name for the fairgrounds. Beer consumption is a large part of Oktoberfest. In 2013 over 6.7 million liters of beer was consumed by 6.4 million people in Munich during a 16-day run of the festival. The beer tents have restrictions on the music being played during the day to control the noise level. Various restrictions on smoking have been implemented over the years.
In the San Diego area, several cities will host a variety of Oktoberfest type activities. The cities of Carlsbad, El Cajon, Julian, La Mesa, Ocean Beach, Encinitas, Ramona, Rancho Bernardo, and San Diego/Balboa Park have plans for activities. Carlsbad will host the Rotary Oktober-Feast Kick-off at the Strawberry Fields Pumpkin Patch on October 2nd. Also on October 2nd, Encinitas plans to hold the Annual Oktoberfest Carnival and parade. On October 3rd the Colony of Olivenhain’s Oktoberfest will be held. On October 16, Too Drunk Guys Brewery plans to hold their Oktoberfest. The German American Societies of San Diego assist and sponsor events around the county as well. No doubt, Gas Lamp in downtown San Diego will be alive and well, as will other establishments around San Diego, celebrating Oktoberfest in late September and early October.
One recommendation for a great German meal is a trip to Ocean Beach and enjoying the Kaiserhoff Restaurant, 2253 Sunset Cliffs Blvd., and enjoying choices for a meal like Sauerbraten, Stroganoff, Goulash, Bratwurst, Weiner Schnitzel, Spaetzle, Sauerkraut, Strudel and much more. For a slightly historical look at Oktoberfest, check out “Beer and Blood” S1 on Netflix dealing with various early German breweries battle for rights to the beer halls.
Break out your Lederhosen and grab your beer steins and enjoy a safe Oktoberfest wherever you find the celebration you are most comfortable. Whatever you do, Be Safe, Don’t Drink and Drive and Enjoy a Time-Honored Tradition.