Oktoberfest began in 1810 in Munich, Germany as a city-wide marriage celebration for the crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The celebration later became an annual tradition and just had a 200 year anniversary in 2010. The official website of the Munich, Germany Oktoberfest details the layout and extent of the festivities which include quite a lot of beer drinking, which should not surprise you.
Beer made for the Munich Oktoberfest must adhere to the German purity standards of Reinheitsgebot, a regulation dating back to 1516 requiring that only water, barley and hops are used. The beer must also be brewed within city limits in order to be called Oktoberfest beer, and only a few breweries meet this criteria. Our favorites are always Spaten and Hofbräu München Oktoberfestbier. These dark copper-colored lagers are smooth and malty, not too hoppy, and sport a medium-high alcohol content between 5 to 6%.
Destined companions to Oktoberfest beer are soft Bavarian Pretzels, which are still made traditionally with lye (a caustic substance that is also used to make soap), as confirmed by my cousin’s wife who grew up in Munich. The lye gives them their special crunch and dark color and does not remain caustic after baking, in case you were wondering.
Since we’re close to Philadelphia, there are at least 10 local places where we can find Philly-style pretzels, many of which still use the lye method thanks to the PA Dutch influence (aka PA German). Below is our own Philly version of Oktoberfest, and the recipe is really easy: (2) baker’s dozens of salty soft pretzels, (2) 1-liter mugs of very cold Spaten Oktoberfest beer and plenty of grainy mustard. Serves 2.
We of course haven’t even mentioned other traditional Oktoberfest foods like sauerkraut, schweinebraten, bratwurst, and weisswurst but those we’re saving for an upcoming post… it should be our wurst post ever.