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How not to be a dreckskerl at Oktoberfest

Published September 21st, 2015

No matter where you are in the world, be it at the heart of the action at ‘Wiesen’ (Oktoberfest) in Munich or getting along to your local German Club or craft brewery, Oktoberfest is a much-loved celebration of German beer.

[If you don’t drink beer and aren’t willing to try, don’t bother getting involved. That’s basically sacrilege.]

As we're sure you're well aware, the infamous 16–18 day beer festival is held annually in Munich, Germany, running from late September to the first weekend in October. But did you know it started back in 1810 when some rich prince guy got married and the whole town partied? Not a bad tradition.

If you want to celebrate with the greats, but not end up passed out in your lederhosen before the sun goes down, read on for our tips on how not to be a ‘dreckskerl’ (aka d*ckhead) at Oktoberfest.

Know your stein

Oktoberfest is a marathon not a sprint. Steady drinking is the key.

Tip: If you’re planning a big day, think ahead and put some Powerade in the fridge for the next morning.

German beers follow a ‘purity law’, which started in 1516 when beer was safer to drink than water due to polluted sources. By ensuring beer contained only high-quality products (barely, hops and water) the law protected the public from poor and potentially lethal beverages.

The law remained on the German books, with the noted addition of yeast, until the end of the 1980s, but lives on with many brewers adhering to the law as a mark of distinction.

The beer most commonly served at Oktoberfest is brewed on Munich ground. The most common drink to order at the Oktoberfest is "eine Maß Bier" – the famous one-litre stein. You might see some steins with lids; it’s believed the lid was invented during the Black Plague to prevent diseased flies from getting into the beer.

Tall-orders:

- Half-litre beer mug is a ‘Humpen’
- A Weizen glass is used to serve Weizenbier (wheatbeer) The glass is narrow at the bottom and slightly wider at the top.  Taller than a pint glass, it generally holds 500 millilitres
- Beer boots (Bierstiefel in German) have over a century of history and culture behind them. In Germany, beer boots contain between two and four litres and are passed from one guest at the table to the next one in a clockwise fashion

The "Hefe"

How drunk it’ll make you:

Wheat beers (around 5% ABV)

- Weizenbier and Weißbier are the standard German names for wheat beer
- Berliner Weisse – a pale, very sour, wheat beer brewed in Berlin. 2.5-5% ABV
- Hefeweizen – an unfiltered wheat beer
- Kristallweizen – a wheat beer similar to a Hefeweizen but without yeast. Interestingly, fermentation is started using sparkling wine

Pale beers (around 5-7% ABV)

- Helles – a malty pale lager from Bavaria 4.5-5% ABV
- Kölsch – pale, light-bodied, top-fermented beer which, when brewed in Germany, can only legally be brewed in the Cologne region. 4.5-5% ABV
- Märzen – medium body, malty lagers that come in pale, amber and dark varieties. 5.2-6% ABV. The beer traditionally served at the Munich Oktoberfest
- Pilsener – a pale lager with a light body and a more prominent hop character. 4.5-5% ABV. One of the most popular German beers on the market

Dark beers (around 6-12% ABV)
- Doppelbock – a very strong, very full-bodied lager darkened by high-coloured malts. 8-12% ABV
- Dunkles – dark lager which with two main varieties: a sweeter, malty Munich style and a drier, hoppy Bavarian style

Socks up, lads

Dress up

You’ve got to don some traditional Bavarian clothes: lederhosen for guys, dirndls for girls. Consider renting a costume instead of buying one. Just don’t spill too much sauerkraut on it.

Carb up

With much drinking comes much responsibility to eat like a German too.

Luckily, most German food is cleverly designed to line the stomach. Get ready for the best and “wurst” of times with pork knuckles with sauerkraut, goulash and dumplings, sausages, schnitzel, and pretzels as big as your head.

Now you’re educated, get out there and PROUST (cheers big ears) this Oktoberfest!

P.S. Germans also have a word for a paralytic drunk person – a “Bierleiche” aka beer corpse.

Don't be one.

Rachel Surgeoner

A self-confessed 'food-tourist', I take hunting for the world's greatest sandwich very seriously, my quest has taken me from Berlin to Hoboken. Stopping off only for vintage shopping, craft beers and Mediterranean sunsets.