Shout ‘prost!’ because Oktoberfest is coming! Here’s what you need to know to host a party at your place, from the best Bavarian beers to beer hall snacks.
Forget long weekends and summer holidays, all serious beer lovers know Oktoberfest is the peak event of the drinking calendar. Maybe you’re not quite an aficionado, but curious to learn more about the world of beer. Well seriously you take your beer, this annual festival can help you get German beer on your radar (or should that be Radler?). Follow this easy guide on how to host a fun Oktoberfest themed get-together at home, complete with food ideas straight from Munich’s beer halls and the best German beers to stock up on at your local First Choice Liquor Market.
The Oktoberfest beer festival is a two-century old tradition that began in October 1810 in Munich, Germany, as a two-week celebration of King Ludwig I’s wedding. Kicking off on the third Saturday in September, it’s a major drawcard for tourists to Europe, who join locals in beer gardens to drink beer by the litre to the lively sound of traditional German music.
No need to get dressed up in a traditional Oktoberfest outfit like lederhosen and dirndl dresses (unless that’s your thing), but if you want to go all-out with your Oktoberfest theme, set the scene with traditional decorations – think blue and white checkered bunting, napkins and tablecloths. Pick a playlist that includes oom-pah music and ‘Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit’, a song about toasting to wellbeing that’s always followed up with joyous cheersing. Once that’s sorted, it’s time to dust off those steins and get pouring.
To capture the essence of an Oktoberfest celebration, though, all you need to do is gather your friends around a rustic wooden table filled with traditional German favourites. The good news is, you don’t need to spend hours in the kitchen to create authentic Oktoberfest party food. Start by picking up easy-to-serve hot dog rolls, German sausages or ‘wurst’ as they’re called, and a few kinds of mustard. Add a platter of sliced smoked salmon, deli meats and Emmental-style cheese such as Jarlsberg, plus pickles and dark rye bread. For a hearty main, buy a hot roast chicken or pork from the deli and serve with potato salad, coleslaw and sauerkraut.
Soft pretzels are the ultimate German beer snack, so try this cheat for making your own – buy ready-made pizza dough and shape into pretzels. Bring 1.5L of water to the boil in a saucepan over medium heat and add 4 tbs bicarbonate of soda. Boil the pretzels for about 45 secs, then drain on paper towel. Place pretzels on a lined baking tray, then sprinkle with sea salt flakes and sesame seeds if you like. Bake until golden and cooked through then serve with a cream cheese dip.
Now for the most important part of any Oktoberfest party – the beer. For the authentic Oktoberfest experience, you’ll need large beer mugs along with imported beers from producers that take part in the Munich Oktoberfest. There are lots of different styles of German beer, all of them delicious, but we’ve narrowed it down to two crowd-pleasers – smooth, malty Helles-style lager and refreshing Weissbier, or wheat beer.
Popular in Munich, Helles-style lager is an easy-to-drink pale beer style that’s loved by lager drinkers around the world. Sweeter and less hoppy than pilsner, these bottom-fermented beers have a crisp taste and make a perfect pairing for traditional Bavarian dishes. Enjoy the delicate herb and caramel notes of Paulaner Munchner Hell and the full-bodied flavour and subtle bitterness of Hofbrau Original.
Unlike lagers, which are bottom-fermented, wheat beers are top-fermented, and this creates a cloudy ale with fruity flavours and aromas. These refreshing and tangy beers go well with seafood, soft pretzels, cured meats and roast chicken or pork, and their fruitiness makes them a great choice for guests who usually drink wines. Try Paulaner Weissbier, which has tropical banana, mango and pineapple aromas, and the tangy and aromatic Hofbrau Weiss Bier.
Whichever beers you crack first, we recommend pouring them into traditional steins (or large beer glasses with handles) to get that authentic Oktoberfest feel.
Oktoberfest-goers looking for a refreshing drink that’s lower in alcohol can choose to fill their beer glasses with Radler. This is the Oktoberfest equivalent to the classic shandy mix of lager and lemonade. To make one, just fill half your glass – or a large serving jug – with Helles-style beer and top up with lemon-flavoured soda.