All hopped up: Oktober is for lovers (of beer)

In München steht ein Hofbräuhaus
Eins, zwei, g’suffa!
Da läuft so manches Fäßchen aus
Eins, zwei, g’suffa!

In Munich there’s a Hofbrauhaus
One, two, drink!
That’s where the kegs are rolled out
One, two, drink!

Everyone has an idea about what Oktoberfest is – the German word for binge-drinking, lederhosen and dirdl-clad Bavarians running amok, or maybe just any old brouhaha. The real Oktoberfest is happening right now in Munich, the capital of the German state of Bavaria, and with over six-million visitors, its true definition is the largest folk festival in the world.

The first Oktoberfest was to commemorate the 1810 marriage of the future king and queen of Bavaria, Ludwig I and Therese, but it soon became a 16-day harvest celebration. This bounty is reflected in the spirit of the modern Munich Oktoberfest, from the massive tents overflowing with people, to the hundreds of thousands of sausages dished out. Then, of course, there is the beer.

While Oktoberfest is much more than litre-sized steins of specially brewed beer, virtually every visitor comes thirsty. Known the world over for its beer, Bavaria has taken the art of brewing and drinking beer very seriously. The Bavarian Hofbräuhaus is the world’s only state-owned brewery, Augustiner Bräu, one of Munich’s most popular breweries, is almost 700-years-old, and every brewery, including Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, Spaten, and Löwenbräu, sponsors a tent at the Oktoberfest. These draw a big crowd – each tent can be found packed full of folks enjoying beer while standing on tables singing oom-pah songs like the one above.

This week at Three Bares Park on lower campus you may see a similar, though ever-so-slightly smaller tent with people sipping beers, complaining about midterms, and chomping on some less than authentic skewered sausages. Oktoberhaus is a three-day OAP-style beer tent put on by AUS in conjunction with the Swiss Club of McGill. If you scoff at the lack of beer variety at Oktoberhaus – just Boréale due to the exclusive contract SSMU has with Brasseurs du Nord – know that the selection isn’t much better in Munich.

Märzen, or Oktoberfest beer, is brewed especially for the festival and is the only type served. Brewed in the month of Märzen, or March, from which it borrows its name, and aged in large wooden kegs in underground caves all summer, Märzen is a pale lager with twice the alcohol of other local beers like the Munich helles.

Maybe if you bring your own stein and lederhosen to the Oktoberhaus at McGill it might feel more like the real Oktoberfest, but chances are that you might have a better time at one of the other Oktoberfests closer to home. Kitchner-Waterloo, for instance, has one of the largest festivals outside of Munich, entering its 39th year on October 10. Meanwhile, Montreal’s own mini-beerfest, the Oktoberfest at Marché Atwater, will feature samples from 19 Quebecois breweries during the hours of the market, October 10-12.

If all else fails, the next time you have a beer in your hand raise it high, sing a song, and be sure to say “prost!”

You can discuss the merits of a nice frosty Boréale with Joseph at Oktoberhaus, happening the rest of this week at Three Bares Park. If he really isn’t there, send your beer-inspired revelations to him at