The first few days of fall, trees rapidly taking on the colors of the season, the sun slipping out of sight way too early, mornings indicating those longer nights, and at times, even a light jacket or sweater might come in handy. These are the days leading up to the long, dark, and cold days of the hiemal season, when snow flies in our faces, when schussing is an act not just a word, and when walking one must be aware of the dangers of participating in the world famous Comstock two-step, that is, going kerplop in front of your neighbors and friends.
One of the grand pleasures of early fall is a celebration that started back in 1810, called Oktoberfest. It is the national holiday in Munich, the capital of Bavaria in those days, and was the original wedding reception for Crown Prince Ludwig following his marriage to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hidburghausen on October 12, 1810. The open fields, almost at the gates of Munich were named in her honor, Theresienwiese, and the locals today call the area the Wiesen. Ludwig went on to become King Ludwig the First.
The first question many people as is why is Oktoberfest celebrated in September, and there actually is a reasonable answer. Relating back to that marriage, Oktoberfest started out as the sixteen days leading up to the first Sunday in October. It’s that first Sunday in October that determines the dates for each year’s celebration. Over the years, there have been times when it was seventeen days, and years when it was eighteen days, but that first Sunday in October is the date of reference. This year, Oktoberfest is September 22 to October 7.
And the spelling? Oktoberfest is the German spelling, and you can bet in Munich it will not be spelled in English. They say as many as five million people will be on hand for this year’s event. More people at Oktoberfest in Munich than there are in Nevada.
Oktoberfest is a fair, there was horse racing in the past, there are grand agricultural exhibits, and more food than a gourmand can ever conceive having set before him. Sausages, of course, fish, ham, roast beef, and you can bet a barrel or two sauerkraut. You have to know that Oktoberfest Beer flows as water over Niagara. And, dear and gentle folk, there is a reason for that special beer.
Those that run the show in Munich have rules on what kinds of beer can be served during the celebration. Beer must be, at a minimum, six percent alcohol, that is, twelve proof. It must be brewed in the city, and only then can it carry the dignity of Oktoberfest Beer. Among the breweries most known in this country are Spaten, Paulaner, and Lowenbrau, and the term Oktoberfest Beer is a registered trademark by the Club of Munich Brewers.
Most beer in the 1800s was brewed in the spring when the weather was cool and developed its alcohol content before summer heat could spoil it. A natural preservative, if you will. There was a large effort, according to one myth of the times, to get the barrels down as much as possible before winter set in. In the early spring, the barrels would be emptied, and that beer is called Bock.
So, gentlemen, put on your lederhosen, ladies don thy dirndl skirts, we must all wear our tirolerhute, that is, Bavarian hats with their tufts of goat hair, don’t become a birerleichen, that is drunken fool, and heist a pint or nine. To Ludwig! To Theresa! To Beer or not Beer, the question remains.