It goes without saying that ‘beer’ is a major element of Germany’s annual celebration in Munich, Oktoberfest. There could be a festival without beer but it would not be the world’s largest party like the Munich Beer Festival is today. Visitors may enjoy the food, partake in the music and parades, share pleasantries with the locals, but beer is what they come for – and they get lots of it. Germany is one of the great beer producing nations and has a long history with the ancient brew. There are around 1300 breweries producing 5000 German beer brands. Half of the breweries can be found in Bavaria.
For the party, the Munich breweries make a special Oktoberfest beer called Wiesn Märzen (March Beer). Märzen originated in Bavaria in the 16th century. Because there was no refrigeration back then, a Bavarian brewing ordinance decreed in 1539 that beer may be brewed only between the 29th of September and 23rd of April. Märzen was typically kept cellared through the summer months until celebration time in the fall; this included Oktoberfest beginning in 1810. To have such a long shelf-life, the beer required more hops or higher percentage of alcohol. Only beer conforming to the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516 (Reinheitsgebot), at a minimum of 12.5% Stammwürze (approximately 6% alcohol) may be served at Oktoberfest. According to the original Reinheitsgebot, beer may only contain water, barley and hops (yeast had not yet been discovered). The beer must also be brewed within the city limits of Munich. The handful of breweries that conform to these directives include Paulaner- Bräu, Augustiner- Bräu, Spatenbräu, Hofbräu-München, Hacker-Pschorr- Bräu and Löwenbräu (Bräu means brewery).
PAULANER-BRÄU was established by Paulist monks in 1634. Despite the early date, this is the youngest of the breweries located in Munich. Paulaner is known for its excellent Pils, considered by many to be the best pilsner in the world. Paulaner Oktoberfest Märzen is the most popular beer at Oktoberfest. Unlike other breweries, Paulaner makes its Oktoberfestbier year round. Paulaner can be found at these Oktoberfest tents: Armbrustschützenzelt, Käfer’s Wies’n Schänke, and Winzerer Fähndl.
AUGUSTINER-BRÄU is Munich’s oldest brewery founded in 1328 also by monks. It remains the favorite of Munich citizens. At the festival, their Oktoberfest and Edelstoff beers are the only ones served from large wooden barrels. Augustiner can be found at the Augustiner-Festhalle and Fischer-Vroni tents.
SPATENBRÄU’s Oktoberfest beer has the honor of being the first keg tapped at each year’s festival. Since 1950, the mayor of Munich knocks the tap into the keg and yells “O’zapft is!” (“It is tapped!”). Spatenbräu is Munich’s first brewery and created the world’s first Oktoberfestbier. Spatenbräu will be in the Schottenhammel, Hippodrom, and Ochsenbraterei/Spatenbräu-Festhalle tents.
HOFBRÄU-MÜNCHEN is Bavaria’s state-controlled brewery. It was created in 1589 by Duke Wilhelm V as a more economical way to supply his royal court with beer. Hofbräu’s Märzen beer has won gold medals in the World Beer Championships. Hofbräu’s Hofbrauhaus, the historic beer hall, may be the number one tourist attraction in Munich. Hofbräu can be found at the Hofbräu Festzelt tent.
HACKER-PSCHORR-BRÄU was founded in Munich in 1417, a century before the Reinheitsgebot laws. The brewery is closely allied with the Paulaner brewery. Their beers can be found at the Hacker-Festzelt and Bräurosl tents.
LÖWENBRÄU is the most well-known Munich brewery in the United States. Their special Wiesenbier or ‘meadow beer’ has been served at Oktoberfest since 1810. They can be found at the Schützen-Festzeltand Löwenbräu-Festhalle tents.
History of Oktoberfest
Bavarian Purity Law
Oktoberfest for Ladies