Optimize Your Taproom for Oktoberfest
We Americans love to celebrate other cultures’ holidays, all for the sake of a pint. This is true, particularly for St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, and Oktoberfest. However, most of the time, the reason for the season isn’t clear. In the case of Oktoberfest, there is a very special reason, it all started with love.
The History of Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest began with a simple decision to hold horse races during a reception to bring some fresh excitement to a royal tradition. The people of Munich were invited to celebrate the wedding of their prince, Ludwig of Bavaria to Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen in October of 1810. I’m willing to bet they also drank beer. One good idea, and likely some beer, led to another. They decided to do it again every year. Eventually, they decided to expand it from a few days to a couple of weeks. But instead of extending later in the year as it got colder, they extended earlier in the warmer weather, thus shifting the beginning of Oktoberfest activities to September.
Today, Oktoberfest claims to be the world’s largest folk festival. It’s family-friendly, and among its reputation for all things beer, the festivities in Munich also include rides, games, booths, souvenirs, music, competitions, and food. It’s everything we could want to enjoy with our family and friends, but with beer.
The Oktoberfest Beer
Since 1990, the official Oktoberfest beer has been a pale lager meant to compete with the dominance of other pale lagers. However, from 1872 up until then, Märzen (pronounced MARE-tzen) was the official beer.
Märzen means March in German, which is traditionally when it’s brewed. Then it sits and waits for late Summer to arrive. Märzen is a beer like no other. This amber lager is made with German ingredients and with a common brewing practice that creates a smooth and elegant beer full of flavor. It also has a drinkability that begs for another sip... and another round.
Oktoberfest at Your Taproom
Putting on a version of Oktoberfest at your taproom is a lot of work but will likely be worth it. Your staff will line their pockets with extra tips, but the value for your taproom is even better. The point of Oktoberfest is the conviviality of bringing people together through shared joyful experiences and great food and beer. The release of beer-fueled dopamine (the natural joy drug) will cement that experience in their brains. They will come to associate a good time with your taproom. They may even visit often, sharing their great experience with friends and family.
Offering simple German fare, such as pretzels and Bratwurst, are easy add-ons that can complement what you already serve. Serving German beer is typical, particularly a pale German Festbier or an amber Märzen. Serving your everyday beers, like a Hazy IPA, is atypical, but your guests will probably appreciate the unique pairing options that connect the old world with the new.
Since Oktoberfest is a folk festival, you can create your own mini-fest at your taproom by offering games, contests, raffles, swag, dancing, and a healthy combination of local and German Oompah music. If you want to level up your Oktoberfest game, encourage the men to dress in the traditional Lederhosen and the women in the traditional Dirndl. Weiner dog races are also a great way to offer family-friendly fun.
For the late-night crowd, after the kids and families have gone home, consider offering the Masskrugtragen, or Liter Stein carrying competition and even the true test of beer-drinking strength, the Masskrugstemmen, or competitive Stein hoisting.
Stein hoisting (Masskrustemmen) in the U.S. is a real event with rules and a governing body. Each liter Maß Krug, when full of beer, weighs approximately 5 lbs and is held out in front with proper form. The last one standing wins. To learn more about this event, go to www.ussteinholding.com. Yes, this is a real thing. No, I’m not joking. The current US Men’s national record is 21 minutes and 17 seconds, set by Michael Tyler.
The Ultimate Stein Hoisting Event Checklist
If you want to host your own stein hoisting event, download our quick start guide to learn how!
Oktoberfest Beer and Food Pairing
Märzen is also a great beer for pairing with food to delight your guests. This is a great beer for the German pretzels and Bratwurst mentioned above. But if you live somewhere in the northern mountainous areas, try this beer with aged cheddar and Elk burgers. If you live in the Southwest, this beer is amazing with anything Mexican inspired. My favorite is a grilled southwest chicken salad with Elote Street corn and Cilantro Lime dressing. If you live in the South or in the Southeast, try this with Gumbo and Andouille sausage, or grilled seafood like Mahi or lobster. All of these dishes take advantage of the big flavor impact of the beer. Meanwhile, the beer serves as a sort of toasted bun to accompany all of these dishes.
Once Oktoberfest is over, it’s time to breathe and figure out what to do with any leftover Märzen beer. Hoppy beers tend to get bitter and harsh when cooked, but the malty ones, like Märzen, are perfect for cooking. One of my favorite ways to cook with beer is to brine meat. The beer moistens and tenderizes the meat while giving it a little extra flavor. Try blanching vegetables or pasta in boiled beer instead of water. Märzen is also a delicious liquid to use in stew or chili. Beer cheeses... beer mustard... the possibilities are endless and add a unique element to your menu.
Oktoberfest is the holiday that we all look forward to in early Fall. It doesn’t even have to be a big festival. Merely offering some Oktoberfest-inspired fare for one day or one weekend is a great start. Just remember that this holiday is about connection and love. Love for each other, love for the culture, and love for the beer.