By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer
Six breweries in Munich salvaged a canceled Oktoberfest this year, Vinepair reported. The annual festival would have ended Sunday, and though it was canceled in April, breweries held small events at local taverns. Oktoberfest-style beers are big worldwide.
According to Vinepair, the six Bavarian breweries that make official Oktoberfest beer didn’t intend on taking a canceled Oktoberfest lying down—and for good reason. “With 6.3 million visitors, Oktoberfest contributed €1.23 billion—about $1.45 billion—and an estimated 13,000 jobs to the local economy in 2018,” the article said.
Instead, these six Munich breweries that make up the Oktoberfest festival—Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, and Spaten—made plans to salute the 210-year-old event by setting up mini-Oktoberfest events at their nearest taverns. A spokesperson from one brewery said restaurants would decorate their establishments like Oktoberfest, serve traditional delicacies, and offer Oktoberfest beers in traditional one-liter mugs.
Oktoberfest-style beers are some of the most well-known beers on Earth.
The History of Oktoberfest
Many beer lovers don’t know the origins of Oktoberfest. Its history dates back to the 19th century.
“The history of the Oktoberfest stems back to a marriage celebration for Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Teresa of Saxony-Hildburghausen, just outside the Munich city gates,” said Dr. Charles W. Bamforth, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Davis. “They decided to throw a party, and this party lasted from October 12 to October 17—a jubilant party full of food, beer, parades, and music.
“It was so successful they decided to have it every year, and it became so popular in Munich that the city leaders pushed the starting date back to the middle of September because the weather was a bit better.”
Therefore, these days Oktoberfest begins in the middle of September and concludes the first Sunday of October. Dr. Bamforth said that an estimated 7.5 million liters of beer are consumed during the 16 days of the festival. However, regardless of which beer one may drink during Oktoberfest, only six breweries on Earth are officially recognized as making “Oktoberfest beers.”
The Brewers of Munich
“The name ‘Oktoberfest beer’ is restricted strictly to those six breweries that are permitted to sell their products at the festival in Munich,” Dr. Bamforth said. “But Oktoberfest beer styles are brewed all over the world, including here at Sierra Nevada, and their Oktoberfest beer is a partnership with the Bitburger Brewing Company from Germany. So Sierra Nevada has got a history of interacting with other brewing companies, including this one.”
Dr. Bamforth said that due to their partnership, the Bitburger yeast is used to brew Sierra Nevada’s Oktoberfest-style beer. It’s partly identifiable for being not particularly bitter, and it has a good alcohol kick and focuses more on malt than hops.
Oktoberfest beers are closely related to Märzen, or “March beer.”
“German brewers were forbidden to brew in the summer months, so they brewed right through to March and then couldn’t be brewing after that,” Dr. Bamforth said. “So they wanted a beer that was going to be able to be stored through the summer months, progressively consumed, and then finished off around the time that they can start brewing again in September.”
Like the Oktoberfest beers, Märzen was brewed with a higher alcohol content and a “heavily heated malt” called Vienna malt. Of course, with a ban on brewing during the summer, it’s little wonder that people looked forward to Oktoberfest so expectantly.
Dr. Charles W. Bamforth contributed to this article. Dr. Bamforth is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Davis. He received his PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Hull.