A Backyard Biergarten

First a little history

There are few annual festivals like Oktoberfest. It takes place in Munich, Germany over a two-week period ending the first Sunday in October.

The festival originated on October 12, 1810, to celebration of the marriage of the crown prince of Bavaria (who later became King Louis I) to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The festival concluded five days later with a horse race held in an open area that came to be called Theresienwiese (“Therese’s green”). 

The following year organizers combined the race with a state agricultural fair. In 1818 booths serving food and drink were introduced to the event. By the late 20th century, the stalls evolved into large beer halls made of plywood, interior balconies, and bandstands. Each Munich brewer erects one of the temporary structures.  Some with a seating capacity of nearly 6000 people. 

The mayor of Munich taps the first keg to open the festival. Total beer consumption during Oktoberfest tops out at upwards of 2 million gallons. Breweries participate in parades that feature beer wagons and floats along with people in traditional folk costumes. 

Can’t go to Germany?  Bring Germany to you!

With Oktoberfest canceled this year due to the coronavirus,  host your own backyard Oktoberfest.  Go all out with food, beer, and if you like, even traditional attire. After all, when are you going to wear your lederhosen and dirndls again? 

Oktoberfest Must Haves

Decorations Set the Theme

Let’s take a look at some of the other must-have elements for a Backyard Oktoberfest. Of course, lederhosen.  Don’t have lederhosen?  Dress up your backyard. You don’t need a beer tent for 6000.  Use a small backyard pop-up tent to create a beer tent.  Decorate it and your backyard with traditional Bavarian blue and white. Hanging a Bavarian flag, banner, or traditional streamers adds to the atmosphere. 

Music Sets the Mood

Another Oktoberfest essential – music. While you will not likely be hiring a full Oktoberfest band to perform, you may want to ensure you pair beer drinking with the appropriate tune. Every authentic Oktoberfest must include playing “Ein Prosit” every 20-30 minutes, just like they do in Munich. Just try this in your backyard. Every time you play the song, encourage your guests to stand up, raise their glasses, and sing along. We recommend placing cards with the lyrics, along with a phonetic pronunciation key and a translation, on every table, so your guests can follow along. After the song, everyone should take a drink.

Beer, Duh

Speaking of beer to drink, currently, only Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Paulaner, and Spaten Oktoberfestbier ship to the United States. More costly than domestic options. But you may think worth the extra expense. Your guests, who may not taste these beers anywhere else, will also appreciate the additional expense. However, you can just as quickly grab a few six-packs of Oktoberfest style beer from your local grocery store or liquor store. 

If you go the imported route and would like to honor tradition further, Spaten should be the first beer opened at your party. The ceremonial barrel-tapping happens at noon on the first Saturday of Oktoberfest. Whether you tap a keg or crack open some bottles, as the host, you should be the first to do so and proclaim, “O’zapft is!” (It is tapped!).

Buy Local

If you want to put a unique spin on your Oktoberfest backyard celebration, add these cider selections to your offerings. Our friends Gennaro and Paige at Boutique Wine and Spirits in Fishkill, NY, say they are sure to please your guests. 

Gennaro suggests a couple of ciders including the Reisetbauer Brut, which is meticulously made from farmed apples, vinified like Champagne, and aged for 18 months.  The results – a dry apple wine with very fine bubbles. Refreshing and delicious.

He also suggested the Schwarze Birne Pear Cider. It’s made from rare Black Pears that grow on 100-year-old trees. The juice is somewhat tart with high sugar content. The pears are gently pressed in a basket and then fermented in stainless steel. It makes for a uniquely delicious cider. 

And, of Course – FOOD

For a complete Oktoberfest menu, we recommend the following:

  • Appetizers:
    • The Bavarian pretzel is a very common starter. Often, these soft pretzels are served with the Bavarian cheese delicacy Obatzda
    • Hard stick pretzels. A great substitute if you don’t have time to prepare fresh warm pretzels for all of your guests.
  • Dinner:
    • Sausages (Bratwurst, Knackwurst, Thüringer)
    • German Potato Salad
    • Sauerkraut
    • Red Cabbage
    • Käsespätzel
    • Boiled Potatoes
    • Roasted Chicken
  • Dessert:
    • Apple Strudel
    • German Chocolate Cake (Not traditional but a great German dessert.)
    • Various European Cookies. Heart-shaped gingerbread cookies are a particular Oktoberfest favorite

From your Bavarian blues and whites to the German chocolate cake you now have all the components needed to host your own Backyard Oktoberfest! You’ll be turning your backyard into a biergarten every Oktober!

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Posted in By Occasion, Tips & Tricks.