Friday, 2 October 2009

Beer O’Clock: Oktoberfest

Neil Miller takes a look at his German calendar,and heads straight down to Wellington’s Malthouse clad in leiderhosen . . .

Oktoberfest It has begun.

The 176th Oktoberfest opened in Munich on 19 September and will run through to October 4.  Over 6 million litres of beer will be drunk at the event which is both the world’s biggest beer festival and the world’s biggest fair.  Fourteen larger and several smaller beer tents and beer gardens provide enough seating at any one time for 98,000 of the expected 6 million visitors.

Oktoberfest began as an elaborate wedding commemoration for Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen (who had narrowly avoided marrying Napoleon) in 1810.  Since then, Oktoberfest has been cancelled only 24 times due to wars or outbreaks of disease.

If proof was ever needed that Oktoberfest is actually a pretty classy event, look no further than the organiser’s decision in 2007 to ban serial oxygen-thief Paris Hilton.  The official reason was that Paris “cheapened” the festival in 2006 with her attendance but the real reason was perhaps that she had used her time at the festival to run an advertising campaign for canned wine.

Malthouse is looking to start its own October beer tradition with the first annual “Octoberbest” – a month long celebration designed to showcase some of the medal winners from the Brew NZ Beer Awards and some Malthouse staff picks from Beervana and elsewhere. 

Oktoberfest at Wellington’s Malthouse will enjoy some important differences from the German version:

  • While entry to both Oktoberfest and Octoberbest is free, a “Mass” (one-litre stein) in Munich this year will cost between €9.30 and €11.60 – almost NZ$24.  That makes it almost as expensive as drinking on Auckland’s Viaduct.  Malthouse prices will be lower.
  • On 24 occasions the German Oktoberfest has been completely cancelled due to epidemics (usually cholera) or wars.  Neither of these phenomena is expected to affect Courtenay Place in October.
  • Smoking is permitted in the Oktoberfest beer tents even though Bavaria has some of the most stringent anti-smoking laws in the world.  Oktoberfest has an exemption from the smoke-free laws, Octoberbest does not.
  • New in the Malthouse fridge is the very appropriate Galbraith’s Munich Lager.  This is a rare bottled beer from the iconic Auckland brewpub.  It is a Bavarian style lager which pours a pale gold with a firm head.  It has a spicy, grassy nose, a sweet, nutty body and a crisp, bitter finish.  Authentic German ingredients are used.

Head brewer Keith Galbraith is a wonderful host and has even inspired some poetry over at the Beer Haiku Daily website.  The poem is called “Perfect”:

Butcher and brewer
Make ESB sausages
Perfect with mashed spuds

This poetic offering is by Rupert Morrish who notes "my local butcher makes these excellent Bitter and Twisted sausages for Galbraith’s."  I suspect this is not the first time the dashing Keith Galbraith has had a poem written about him. *

Finally, a pertinent question, can it really be a coincidence that the first day of Oktoberfest was also International Talk Like a Pirate Day?

* I have no actual evidence of this of course.


Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine


  1. Wait... "Over 6 million litres of beer will be drunk... [by] ...the expected 6 million visitors."

    One each? And they call it a festival? I've drunk more than that just skiving off work and catching up on the blog for the last half hour.

  2. *Only* 24 times? That seems rather a lot. I know they're Germans, but even they can't have had that many wars can they?

  3. Sean Fitzpatrick3 Oct 2009, 10:07:00


    Ahhh, but you have not seen the size of the queue, my son.

  4. Nice post and accompanying photo. Love those mugs. Makes a man thirsty.


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