The Story Behind Oktoberfest + A Festive Brew to Celebrate the Season | By Ron Abbott

Last Updated: November 16, 2020By
For more than 200 years, beer lovers have taken to the fields of Munich in late September to eat, drink and be merry. An average of six million people celebrate every year in Munich, drinking more than two million gallons of beer throughout the two-week celebration, and millions more celebrate in their respective cities around the world.

Taste Test – By Lexi Reich

Festbier is a smooth German lager with a strong malty finish. It’s clean impression and light hop flavor definitely encourage sip after sip. Many breweries are offering take-home flights of your favorite Oktoberfest beers. I like to enjoy Festbier sitting out in the sun, playing yard games and munching on appetizers. As a light drinker, I really appreciate the caramel fruitiness in this full-body beverage. A refreshing way to celebrate this fun holiday!

The History

The festival originated on October 12, 1810, as a public celebration of the marriage of the crown prince of Bavaria, who later became King Louis I, to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The festival was open to the public, a rarity, and concluded five days later with a horse race, a 15th century tradition to honor newlyweds. Attendees were so in love with the celebration that they decided to make the celebration an annual event, and this launched the beloved Barian holiday of Oktoberfest. It quickly evolved to include massive beer halls, parades, agricultural fairs, games and eventually amusement rides, and so much more throughout the two weeks.

The Brews

Similar to how the paloma, not the margarita, is the most popular drink in Mexico, an Oktoberfest beer (also called a marzen) is not the most popular beer in Munich during Oktoberfest season — it’s the Special Hell (often called Festbier). Its rich malty aroma is balanced by a slight cracker sweetness that, rather than filling you up, leaves you wanting more. I tasted this beer for the first time at the Andechs Monastery in Germany nearly 10 years ago. Though Special Hells are rarely seen in the U.S., it’s one of my favorite beers.

The Games

Long before the trend of ax throwing, there was hammerschlagen. The game is simple: players compete to hammer nails into a circular wood surface. Players typically must flip the hammer in the air before striking their opponents’ nails; the player with the last nail standing wins. In Hammerschlagen (German for hammer strike, a nod to its supposed Bavarian origins), each player strikes his own nail. The task demands strength, dexterity, focus and a lot of beer.

Other fun facts: The arc of hammer swing can be no higher than the players ear, while men are only allowed to use one hand, though ladies have the option of using two hands. To win, the nail must be flush or below the surface of the wood.

Photos courtesy of Seedstock.

Ron Abbott is the co-owner of Seedstock Brewery in Denver. This year, they hosted a socially distant celebration where traditional Marzen-style Oktoberfest beer and Special Hell were on tap.

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