Oktoberfest is officially in full swing, which means we’re raising our glasses in celebration of the Bavarian holiday. So whether you’re celebrating Oktoberfest in Germany or toasting the festival at home, here are the need-to-know details about the best food and drink for an authentic experience.
The authentic Oktoberfestbiers—the beers authorized for sale in the Oktoberfest tents—are held to strict regulations. Besides requiring a minimum ABV (alcohol by volume) content of six percent, all of the beer must be brewed within Munich city limits. Under these guidelines, there are only six breweries that are allowed to sell beer at Oktoberfest: Augustiner-Bräu, Hacker-Pschorr-Bräu, Löwenbräu,Paulaner-Bräu, Spatenbräu and Staatliches Hofbräu-München.
You might hear the word Märzen when talking about Oktoberfest beer, and for good reason: it’s simply another name for an Oktoberfest-style brew. Long before refrigeration, beer production had to be undertaken during the cooler months, because warm weather led to greater potential for contamination. The brewing process often started in March, or Märzen, and the beer was kept in cold storage to be enjoyed in the fall when it was ready.
Nothing goes better with an Oktoberfest beer than a warm, freshly baked pretzel, a staple of the celebrations. The traditional Bavarian pretzel is briefly dunked into an alkali solution, which is neutralized in the baking process and gives the pretzel its unique color and flavor. After baking, the pretzel is topped with coarse salt or sesame seeds, creating the end result of a crispy, chewy outside and soft, doughy inside.
Germany has a long history of sausage-making and you’ll find no shortage of bratwurst and knockwurst at Oktoberfest. So what’s the difference? Bratwurst is a mixture of ground pork and beef that is smoked, while knockwurst is a mixture of ground pork and beef that is more heavily spiced, and is most similar to the American style hot dog. Of course, the Oktoberfest tents offer more than just sausages (there are plenty of other German specialities), and vegetarian options are only continuing to increase in popularity.
While a trip to Munich might not be in the cards this year, you can still get an authentic taste of the festival at home. Here in the U.S., there are seemingly endless breweries that come up with their own seasonal Oktoberfest lagers—chances are, your favorite brewery makes one. A typical Oktoberfest beer has a slightly higher ABV (alcohol by volume), dark copper color and boasts a malty, spicy flavor due to the heavy use of hops. Pair your favorite with bakery-made pretzels, or head out to a local German restaurant for a hearty, traditional dinner.
Check out all the ways to join us on tour to celebrate Oktoberfest here.