We’ve all heard of Oktoberfest – that time of year when it’s suddenly acceptable to day-drink your way through copious amounts of delicious beer. However, the real deal – the actual festival – is held every year in Munich, Germany, for 16 days, starting in late September and lasting through the first Sunday in October or until October 3 (whichever is later).
While most of the festivities take place in September, this giant party is called Oktoberfest because its original celebration – the wedding of Prince Ludwig of Bavaria (AKA King Louis I) and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen (try fitting that on a wedding invitation!) – was in October of 1810. All of Munich was invited to celebrate the union, and the party spilled over onto the fields in front of the city gates. It became an annual community celebration that now includes carnival rides and entire beer tents.
Normally, Munich experiences a sudden flood of visitors. Its population of 1.8 million spikes to almost six million people every year as an impressive 7.5 million liters of beer is consumed. But of course, unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures, and due to the pandemic, the well-loved beer festival has been put off until later for the second year in a row. While Oktoberfest has been canceled before due to a cholera outbreak and war, this is the first time it’s been canceled in over 50 years.
However, that doesn’t mean there is nothing to celebrate! The spirit of Oktoberfest lives on for all those who love it (and who anxiously await a ticket to Munich next year!). So, if you’re ready to start prepping for your own Oktoberfest party – and trust me, you will be after reading the menu – then I’ve got you covered. Here’s the beer you need, the outfit you must have, and the food that will transport your guests to Europe!
Serve Up the Good Times
A huge part of Oktoberfest is food and drink. So to help you serve up some traditional Oktoberfest foods, I’ve found a beer selection that’s sure to please and a menu that will give your guests all the tastes of the world’s greatest beer festival…without asking you to cook for an army of tourists.
The Beer You Need
Oktoberfest is all about the beer. At the annual celebration in Munich, only beer from Munich’s six main breweries can be sold. I’m going to recommend keeping with the tradition, though we can only go so far here in the States.
Each of the breweries crafts a special signature beer for Oktoberfest (literally called Festbier), and it’s only served at the Oktoberfest celebration in Munich! It’s a little lighter than your normal beer to make it more suitable for all-day drinking, of course! (Psst! You might see something in stores marketed as Oktoberfest or Festbier – this is as close as we can get to the real thing!)
So, which breweries should you be purchasing from for an authentic Oktoberfest celebration?
You should be able to find their U.S. versions of Oktoberfestbier fairly easily (Total Wine and other superstores usually carry it), but if you can’t, stick with their original lagers. You can also look for specific beers near you at beermenus.com (just make sure it says “beer store” and not “restaurant” if you’re hunting for a beer this way).
Are you feeling extra festive? Why not get a keg (and bring back the memories of ye old college days)?
You can pretty easily find kegs from all the brewers mentioned above. The main thing you’ll want to focus on here is getting the right size. Because as much as I love a tasty beer, I don’t want to try to go through dozens of drinks in a day.
If you’re having a big party, go for the half barrel: 15.5 gallons/165 12oz pours.
Got a good group coming over? A quarter barrel will give you 7.75 gallons/82 12 oz pours.
You can still get a keg for a smaller gathering! A sixth barrel (AKA “mini” keg – how cute!) holds 5 gallons/55 12 oz pours.
Of course, the best way to drink any of this beer is from a glass liter mug or a gorgeously decorated stein.
No Need to Wine About It
Let’s face it. Some of us don’t love beer. But that doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in the Oktoberfest activities! Traditional Kuffler’s Weinzelt might be a bit hard to track down, but you can set up a little wine station amongst the brews to mimic the singular wine tent among the masses in Munich.
Appetizers Sure to Please
Pretzels: What dish is more suitable for Oktoberfest than traditional Bavarian soft pretzels with Obatzda (Bavarian cheese spread)? I love a good soft pretzel, and next to your new favorite beer, you’re sure to get the feel of the festival!
Candied Almonds: For those of us with a sweet tooth, I’m going to recommend candied almonds, a sure-fire favorite for all your guests.
Charcuterie Board: Of course, to properly celebrate, you’ll need to load up a charcuterie board. Oktoberfest is known for these delicious dishes piled high with everything you could want to snack on. They’re so popular that they’re often included in the price with table reservations at the festival.
Here’s what you’re most likely to find on one of Oktoberfest’s famous charcuterie boards. (I might skip the beets, though!)
Roasted Chicken: I’ll be real…I’m grabbing a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket for this one!
German Cheese Spaetzle: A beloved side dish served by the bucket at Oktoberfest is German cheese spaetzle. This is basically mac n’ cheese with some extra flair, and I absolutely love it.
Red Cabbage: Time for a lighter side dish – you’ve got to save room for more beer! This red cabbage recipe leaves you with a sort of salad that’s way sweeter than you might think!
Dampfnudel for Dessert
Of course, there are a variety of desserts you can choose from, including German apple strudel or gingerbread (to represent the definitely not edible gingerbread heart cookies people wear during Oktoberfest). But I’m going to recommend Dampfnudel. It tastes better than it sounds, I promise.
This vanilla dumpling dessert is fluffy, perfectly sweet, and absolutely delicious. It’s the perfect ending to an incredibly scrumptious meal (without making you too full for more beer!).
The Oktoberfest Ambiance
One of the reasons people visit Munich from across the world for Oktoberfest is the ambiance of joy, celebration, and community. Not to mention that there’s just something so charming about taking a step into the past, as the music, decorations, and clothing only add to the overall authentic and exciting experience.
Blast the Polka Tunes
The instructions here are pretty simple. Search Oktoberfest in Spotify or on YouTube, and it won’t disappoint. Set up your best speaker and get ready to boogie to some “Oompah Polka”!
Of course, Oktoberfest is colorful by nature, but that’s because of the carnival rides, the exciting outfits, and the individual personalities of each beer tent! Trying to combine it all together might leave you with a streamer-filled explosion.
I’m going to recommend mimicking the Hofbraü tent, as it’s simple and elegant while still being playful (and it’ll match any indoor or outdoor décor!). Hang white streamers and accent with exciting sunflower and hop bundles (and feel free to sneak in a few fall leaves, too!).
One of the most iconic parts of Oktoberfest is the clothing! The traditional Bavarian dress worn by most women at Oktoberfest is called a dirndl, and men most often wear lederhosen (which are basically a fancy shorts-and-suspenders situation).
The classic shirt beneath the dirndl is white, off the shoulder, with a sweetheart neckline. The dirndl is most well-known for its corset-like look, and there are plenty to choose from online! (Some of them will even include a white shirt underneath.) On top of the skirt of the dirndl goes an apron – tied around your waist with a little bow, if you’d like.
In my opinion, plain black ballet flats look best with this outfit. Or, opt for black boots that can withstand a few splashes of beer. Reminder: only you know your arches, and if you’re hosting, you know how long you’ll be standing. Choose wisely and have a blast this Oktoberfest!