Back in 1810, Germans in Munich decided to celebrate the marriage of Prince Ludwig and Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. In 1811, they realized that they’d thrown a pretty fun party and threw another one around the same time. By 1819, it was official: Oktoberfest would be an annual event, lasting between 16 and 18 days, in honor of Bavarian cuisine, culture, and history. Since then, Oktoberfest has grown into one of the most popular food and drink festivals in the world, spawning copy-cat festivals from the U.S. to Vietnam.
Some original Oktoberfest activities (like horse racing and tree-climbing) have been left in the past, but the most important aspects remain: Only beer brewed in Munich can be served at the festival, and then only if it is designated Oktoberfest beer. There are six beers that have passed the “Reinheitsgebot;” Augustiner, Hacker Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, and Spaten. The food, too, has stayed traditional. In Munich, you’ll dine on classics like sausages, pretzels, cheese noodles, sauerkraut, roast pork, grilled fish, and potato pancakes.
One of the largest Oktoberfests outside of Munich is Oktoberfest Blumenau in Brazil, which, in spite of being many thousands of miles away from the original, has not strayed from tradition. They serve traditional German dishes, wear lederhosen, and drink beer in enormous tents. Americans are never ones to turn down a celebration involving beer, so it should come as no surprise that the U.S. has more than enough iterations of Oktoberfest. Perhaps the biggest stateside festival is Oktoberfest Zinzinnati. There’s no “Reinheitsgebot” in Cincinnati, so a wider selection of beers is available to festivalgoers — from Stella Artois to more traditional Spaten.