Below is a brief history of the Oktoberfest that is held yearly in Munich, Germany. Although some specific historic items and/or dates may seem to be debatable, you will certainly find that most of the following Oktoberfest history is reasonably accurate.
Most Americans tend to think that the Oktoberfest (October’s festival) is a month long celebration, held during the entire month of October, that is absolutely not the case. In fact, the Munich Oktoberfest has never been a month long celebration. Oktoberfest today is normally the last week of September and the first week of October and lasts for sixteen days. However, it does appear that it was initially a celebration held sometime during the month of October.
Although the actual date of the first Oktoberfest celebration is obviously going to be debatable, it would appear that, from some of the more reliable records, the first Oktoberfest took place in the year 1810, and was held in the month of October.
1810: Crown prince Ludwig I, of Bavaria, ( not “Mad Ludwig” who was Ludwig II ) had married Therese of Saxonia (Sachsen-Hildburghausen) in October of 1810. This marriage is believed to have been the reason for the first Oktoberfest celebration. The first celebration took place in a very large meadow near the town gates of the city of Munich, Germany. This meadow was later named Theresienwiese (Meadow Of Therese) in his bride’s honor. That celebration was five very long days and consisted mainly of horse races and beer drinking. The first year’s celebration was, essentially, for the crown prince’s family and the local residents from the city of Munich and the very nearby surrounding areas.
1811: This year saw the first of the exhibitions of agriculture and animals. The best of the horses and oxen were awarded prizes.
1815: This year the first “Meadow beer” (Oktoberfest beer) was introduced. This appears to be a beer that was brewed especially for the Oktoberfest. It was most likely one of the last brews just before the kegs were laid down to start the “Bock” beer brewing for the coming springtime.
1820: This year the first semblance of the modern Oktoberfest came into being. By the year 1820, they were using special beer huts for the serving of beer. Also, by that time, they were selling many snacks, such as Würste, to the attendees.
1835: This year over 100,000 people, from many far off places, were regularly attending the Oktoberfest. The volume of beer drinking that year was in excess of 67,000 gallons of beer for the festival period. We are not certain what the length of the festival was at that time.
1871: For this year, a German-Bavarian law was passed requiring the measure of beer to be just slightly over one liter. However, they rarely met, or today meet, this requirement insofar as it contains a hefty head of foam. It is estimated that it is closer to 0.8 liter of beer.
1872: This year the start of the Oktoberfest was officially moved to the month of September. This was accomplished due to the fact that October was often quite cold, which greatly affected the attendance and brought about many complaints concerning the cold weather.
1880’s: Sometime during this period, the breweries first introduced the Keferloher (beer mugs made from stoneware) with their own company logos imprinted on them for advertising purposes.
1901: The first electrical lighting was installed.
1910: This was the 100 year anniversary of the Oktoberfest. The amount of beer served exceeded 350,000 gallons during that year’s festival.
During the years 1939 to 1948 the Oktoberfest was not celebrated due to the ongoing world war as well as the post war recovery problems.
Today, the Oktoberfest beer drinking often exceeds 1,500,000 gallons for the sixteen day period. This does not include the great volume of wine that is also consumed. It may come as quite a surprise to first time visitors to Germany, or Austria, that restaurant customers are as likely to order wine as beer. We Americans tend to think of these countries as “beer drinking” countries. A visit to those countries will dispel this notion.
The year 2002 saw nearly six million visitors to the Oktoberfest celebration. They also served nearly 1,600,000 gallons of beer.
The Oktoberfest celebration is now known worldwide and is looked forward to by the peoples from many nations. It has spread area wide in Munich and is truly an event to be attended and enjoyed. Although the Oktoberfest celebrations are available throughout the United States, they are only a very small peek into what the Munich celebration is all about for the Oktoberfest attendees.
So, if you ever have the chance to attend the Oktoberfest in Munich, then do it. Just remember, the start date and end date will not be the ones celebrated here. The Oktoberfest is usually the last week in September and the first week in October–leaning more toward September. Just go on-line with your computer and find out the dates for the year you are going to attend. If you expect to stay in any area near Munich, you MUST make accommodation reservations well in advance. Of course, there are many places within 100 kilometers (about 62 miles) of there that will probably have places to stay but, be aware, both Germany and Austria are very harsh on”Drinking and Driving.”
One place that is a “must” for visitors to the Munich area, during the Oktoberfest, is the Hofbräu Festhaus, München. This place is in the typical Hofbräu style. They can seat 6,898 persons inside and 3,022 persons outside.
Of course, you “must” also visit the Hofbräuhaus (Royal Court Brewery) in Munich at anytime during the year. It is on a somewhat smaller scale than the Hofbräu Festhaus, München, but, it is the original Hofbräu. It is said that Wilhelm V was plagued with money problems when he had finished the construction of the St. Michael’s Church in Munich. He was also faced with a rather large (on the order of 600 plus) household that did, indeed, enjoy their beer. The yearly beer requirement for the household was approximately 130,000 liters (217 liters per person). In order to cut down the beer costs, it was suggested that a brewery be built adjacent to the royal court. This was accomplished and did, in fact, save in the costs of the beer. This Hofbräuhaus was established in the year 1589. The atmosphere is as typically Bavarian as one can find.