While there are many culturally rich aspects of a true Oktoberfest, the all-important beverage of choice tends to hog the spotlight. While shopping for your party provisions, keep an eye out for the quintessential Oktoberfest beers, which are brewed for the festival. Most of the German imports from the aforementioned Munich breweries can be found stateside, so check your local beverage distributor. The newer specialty Oktoberfest brews are pale ales, lending a light, balanced flavor perfect for the day-drinking extravaganza. If you want to sample the original style traditionally served since the fest's inception, try the märzen. It is darker and spicier in flavor, but beware of its high alcohol content.
In addition to the myriad meats and salty side dishes, there are a handful of tasty German desserts to help quell sweet cravings after a day of Oktoberfest drinking. Apple strudel and plum cake will help round out your party menu. If you want to get creative, try bienenstich, a cream-filled cake with a caramelized almond topping. Another authentic Bavarian treat worth trying is Kaiserschmarrn. This sweet pancake dish is one of the region's most renowned desserts and will be a favorite for those who love a warm finish to a hearty meal.
Oktoberfest is a celebration not only of culture, but also of merriment, camaraderie, and togetherness. This vibe is exemplified in the tents and community-style tables that are erected each year to house the millions that flock to Munich for the fest. To replicate the cozy atmosphere, simply employ benches in lieu of chairs. Much like the true German Oktoberfest, guests will get to know each other and become close friends in no time. Be sure to add some blue and white flair to decorate the table, as these are Bavaria's colors.
Arguably one of the more fun elements of Oktoberfest is donning the traditional German attire or "tracht". Yes, gentlemen, this means lederhosen! The proper dress for women is called a dirndl. If you want to get really serious, pick up a Tirolerhüte, a traditional Bavarian hat complete with a plume of goat hair. Though this apparel might be hard to come by in stores across the U.S., you can purchase these items online with ease. Plus, the Oktoberfest season falls in line with another holiday where your new costume will certainly come in handy: Halloween!
Any old pint glass will certainly do, but when celebrating the world's biggest fair, why not crank your drink ware game up a notch? Known in America as a beer stein, the German word for this impressive goblet is "krug." And when asking for a fresh top-off, remember to request another "mass" or liter of beer. With the exception of wheat beers, all Oktoberfest beverages are poured to equal a liter in volume. In other words, pace yourself. Prior to the year 1892, the Oktoberfest krugs were all crafted from stone. Today, all krugs are made of glass and it is customary to clink your krug with your drinking companions, as you all yell "prost" (the German word for cheers!). And remember, Oktoberfest etiquette dictates that you never drink with two hands, so mind your manners.
As one might suspect, the festival menu is chock-full of mouthwatering meats and the side dishes that complement them. Roast pork and rotisserie chicken pair nicely with homemade potato salad (or potato dumplings if you're feeling ambitious). Sausages are also in high demand and include anything from bratwurst to frankfurters. Try a sweet mustard with the sausages as the Bavarians do. One unusual item not typically seen in the States is Steckerlfisch, fish served on a stick. "Obatzda" (cheese spread), kraut salad, cucumber salad, and dark, heavy gravy are all classic sides to add to the table. And of course there is bretz'n: the giant oversalted pretzels that are impossible to resist.
Each year in Munich the first keg is tapped by the mayor, who then declares "O`zapft is!" ("It's tapped!") Until this tradition is complete, no one may drink. Following the ceremony is a 12-gun salute and a colorful parade of costume groups, riflemen, musicians, and even some horses and other livestock. While it may not be possible to get a keg of the authentic Munich festival brews, a tapping ceremony can be replicated by appointing a makeshift mayor to kick off your Oktoberfest party. Another rousing custom prevalent at the fest (which most likely occurs after a few liters have been consumed) comes when guests scale the tables and dance to the live music.
Speaking of music, more than 400 performers play at Munich's celebration every year and this serves as a main component of the entertainment. Traditionally brass bands play "oompah" music to get people on their feet, and occasionally, on the benches and tables. While it might be a bit difficult to employ a true oompah-playing Bavarian brass band at your party, live music is a cornerstone of the Oktoberfest experience.
What would the world's largest fair be without a few games and amusements? Die Wiesn is brimming with amusement rides and games for patrons, including everything from the Weissbier Carousel to rollercoasters, and even a giant Ferris wheel. Incorporate the fairground mood with carnival games and booth-style creations to get your party-goers in the spirit. Since the consumption of libations is one of the main amusements of any good Oktoberfest celebration, concoct a few original drinking games for your guests to try.
There is one thing you will see all over the place in Bavaria during the fest, and that is "Lebkuchen" hearts, or gingerbread hearts. These large iced cookies are inscribed with proclamations of love for your sweetheart, or schatz. To get the crowd involved, set up a Lebkuchen station for your guests to ice their own edible love notes. These treats double as dessert and souvenirs!