Oktoberfest: Beer, Brats, and 'Brezels

It's not just an excuse to drink
Soft Pretzels

Soft Pretzels

Oktoberfest — it’s an excuse to eat and celebrate, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s also important to remember, albeit however hazily, that there’s a great deal of history behind this festival.

The first Oktoberfest was held on October 12, 1810 in Munich, Germany, to celebrate the marriage of Prince Ludwig to Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen. A parade and a horse race were held on grounds in front of the entrance to the city at the time, which were subsequently named Theresienwiese, after the princess. Later additions to the celebrations included an agricultural show and carnival booths. Since then, Oktoberfest has become a vital component of Bavarian culture, and has been held every year from late September to early October nearly without fail — notable interruptions include several cholera epidemics, two world wars, and hyperinflation.

The horse races are no longer held, but nowadays, nearly six million people descend on the city every year, and consume more than seven million liters of beer. The festival opens with a 12-gun salute and a sendoff by the mayor, who cries out, “It is tapped!” and pops open the first keg. There are “official” Oktoberfest beers which have higher than normal sugar and alcohol content, and which technically have to be brewed in the city of Munich in order to be designated officially as Oktoberfest beers. Oktoberfest celebrations are held around the world throughout October, but none are as large as the original one.

We reached out to some of our favorite chefs to gather together the best and most innovative Oktoberfest recipes out there. There’s a little bit of everything — from recipes geared towards the do-it-yourself types (such as Holstein’s bratwurst and Landbrot’s soft pretzels) to those who prefer to pretty much set it and forget it (check out the braised red cabbage). While not all of these recipes are strictly traditional (take, for example, the German Beer Pizza), nor strictly German (see Wolfgang Puck’s wiener schnitzel), we hope that you’ll take these with a grain of pretzel salt and just remember to have fun.

German Beer Pizza

This fun and unique recipe for boozy pizza comes to us courtesy of chef Tony Gemignani, co-owner of Tony's Pizza Napoletana and Tony's Coal-Fired Pizza in San Francisco...







Spicy Beer Mustard

This versatile and addictive condiment goes well with a variety of grilled meats, but pairs especially well with chef Anthony Meidenbauer's bratwurst...




Pork and Veal Bratwurst

This recipe is a great project for the do-it-yourself types out there...




Beer-Poached Bratwurst

Chef Robert Wiedmaier, chef-owner of several successful restaurants in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, shares his recipe for bratwurst...