History of Oktoberfest
This past weekend we had the privilege of pouring New Planet Beers at the Niwot Oktoberfest. For those of you who have never heard of it, Niwot is a small town just northeast of the New Planet headquarters in Boulder, Colorado. Each year, the local Rotary Club hosts the Oktoberfest event, and despite sporadic bad weather, we had a great turnout!
We had a blast pouring Tread Lightly, Seclusion IPA, and our Blonde Ale. As is pretty typical anytime we’re pouring our beers at cultural events or beer festivals, we were the only brewery pour gluten-free and gluten-reduced beers. People are always curious to try the beers, especially those folks who don’t have a gluten allergy or sensitivity. The main thing we hear is, “I’ve gotta try this…there’s no way it can taste like ‘real’ beer!”
Then we wait.
After that first sip, they look at us incredulously. “Holy cow!” Is a pretty common refrain.
But, I digress! In the spirit of a successful Oktoberfest event, we thought we’d explore this very German holiday in more detail. So, crack a beer, settle in, and let’s talk Oktoberfest!
Oktoberfest really began in 1810, in Munich, Germany. The first celebration was actually a gathering to celebrate the marriage of the Bavarian Crown Prince, Louis (who would later become King Louis I of Bavaria) to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The celebration was held in the fields, later named Theresienwiese (ie “Therese’s Fields”) and the royal family held horse races at the end of the event. The horse races were held around all Bavaria that year, though the royal family was present at the Munich events with Munich citizens.
The first party was such a hit that they decided to repeat the horse races again in 1811. 1811 also heralded the introduction of an Agricultural Fair at Oktoberfest, meant as a boon to the region’s agricultural contributions. By this time, a few enterprising Münchner (Munich citizens) set up beer stands at the festival, and the idea caught on in subsequent years.
Finally, in 1896 the now-iconic first beer tents and beer halls replaced the beer stands, and the rest is history.
Nearly 200 years later, Oktoberfest lives on in cities across the world, though the Munich Oktoberfest is still the largest, attracting over 6 millions visitors from around the world annually.
Each Oktoberfest is a bit different, but many of the cornerstones of those first celebrations can be found in even the smallest Oktoberfest event. Games and events for kids of all ages are still prominent in today’s celebrations, while the horse racing is largely a historical footnote now. Classic Bavarian music and cultural dress such as lederhosen for men and dirndl for women are prevalent and popular, though by no means required attire.
No matter where you find yourself celebrating Oktoberfest, we encourage you to take it all in. Dress in whatever makes you feel comfortable, dance to some traditional polka, grab a liter of bier, and toast to this most awesome holiday! As always, please drink responsibly, and next time you fill your bierstein with beer, reach for a New Planet Beer!