Oktoberfest : The Distinction of Munich’s Annual Celebration from Other Oktoberfest Events

In many cities worldwide particularly in beer loving countries, Oktoberfest is also observed as an annual tradition but serving mostly non-craft or draught beer. That’s what makes Oktoberfest in Munich different, being the origin of the annual festival, to which only beers brewed in accordance with Germany’s “Reinheitsgebot beer purity law” can become official Oktoberfest beers. That is of great importance as it preserves the distinction between the Bavarian tradition and the global Oktoberfests used as marketing medium by modern-day brewers in other countries.

Actually, Munich brewers would prefer that non-craft brewers, particularly in the U.S. would come up with a different name instead of using Oktoberfest in celebrating their beer. Still, that is also the reason why up to now, as many as 6 million tourists flock to Munich (former capital city of Bavaria) in late September every year, so they could take part in an authentic Oktoberfest celebration before it ends on the first Sunday of October.

What is the Reinheitsgebot Beer Purity Law

The Reinheitsgebot Beer Purity Law was promulgated in Germany 500 years ago to limit the use of barley as beer ingredient, in order to make supplies of wheat available for other production purposes. A Reinheitsgebot compliant brewery can use malted barley, hops, yeast and water as alternatives.

This law requires German brewers to produce more with less, even as they create their own beer styles. Where a brewer imbued coffee or chocolate flavor, they roast malt to create the taste. Brewers who produce beers with fruity flavors have to use hops that can add the citrusy or tropical fruit character to their beer.

Through the years, German brewers had to revise their formulations repeatedly in order to comply with the Reinheitsgebot purity law. The law has never been amended or modified as brewers and drinkers believe it has kept not only the quality of Munich beers distinct through centuries . The law also helped maintain the uniqueness of the country’s Oktoberfest tradition.

Origins of Munich’s Oktoberfest

Munich’s Oktoberfest first took place in October 12, 1810 as part of the Kingdom of Bavaria’s 5-day celebration of the marriage between then Crown Prince Ludwig I and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. This was before Ludwig became the King of Bavaria at a time when the kingdom and the duchy of Sachsen-Hildburghausen were still part of the Napoleonic Rhine Confederation.

Since the marriage to Princess Therese merited Napoleon’s blessing, the festivities took place before and after the actual wedding ceremony, where everyone of Munich’s inhabitants took part in the celebrations. Residents were treated to a banquet in a field outside the city gates, where they could partake limitless amounts of beer, meat, sausages and bread.

By the way, if the name King Ludwig I sounds familiar to you, he is the grandfather of King Ludwig II, the builder of Bavaria’s most famous castle, the Neuschwanstein. Most literature written about King Ludwig II attributes his love for arts, architecture and music over politics, as due to the influence of his doting grandfather King Ludwig I. The latter had once hoped to build Munich into a center for arts and music like Athens.

However, as the turn of historical events unfolded, the aspirations of the two Bavarian monarchs did not fully materialize due to the Austro-Prussian War, and later the Franco-Prussian War. Prussia’s victory over France had eventually diminished the Kingdom of Bavaria into becoming an autonomous state of Germany.

Unfortunately, King Ludwig I’s son King Maximilian died suddenly and mysteriously, without having prepared Ludwig II for his duties as new King of Bavaria To escape the realities of the political turmoil affecting his kingdom, King Ludwig II built castles, of which Neuschwanstein became the most politically controversial but also the most famous castle in Germany.