The Germans are coming! Taking over our drinking venues with their crude folk songs, dubious leather fashions and barrel loads of foamy beer. Such is the surge in popularity of German beer festivals within the UK that even our local city, the normally sedate poshville that is Bath, has succumbed to their rowdy appeal and, in late September, we’ll be hoisting steins and slapping thighs with the Somerset masses at the Komedia Oktoberfest.
Having both lived and worked in the beer festival mecca of Munich we like to think we know how to get through a proper German beer festival so, for any novices out there, here’s our five point plan for survival…
1 Beer Expectations
Unlike most British beer festivals, where the aim is to sample as many different ales as possible, German Oktoberfests usually feature beers from just one brewery (or if it’s a multi-brewery event, such as the Munich Oktoberfest, then the various beer halls will each be operated by a single brewery). This means the choice of beer is likely to be between a lager, a wheat beers and possibly a dark beer or specially brewed festival beer. Bath’s event will be served by our mates at Krombacher so, like most authentic festivals, the beer will be excellent.
2 There Will Be Drunkenness
At many of these festivals you’ll be swigging from vast steins of booze – or pint pots with jugs of booze on standby for constant refills – and be egged on by everyone around you to get caught up in the general drunken revelry. Getting at least a little bit schnockered is almost inevitable, but do try to pace yourself – we’ve seen too many people set off like a rat up a drainpipe only to come out the other end looking like they’ve been chewed up and spat out by a hyena, forcing them to leave early with their dishevelled tails between their wobbly legs. Our tips to stay the right side of inebriated mess include: don’t drink on an empty stomach; avoid getting into rounds with booze-crazed nut-jobs; and do all the other things in numbers 3 to 5…
3 Be Sociable
Us Brits are often a bit shy when it comes to sitting next to a stranger, especially if they’re wearing their great grandfather’s buffed lederhosen*, and will maneuver tables and chairs to avoid such seated mingling. The long tables at German beer festivals make this impossible, so plant your arse on a bench and strike up an immediate conversation with your drinking neighbours. You will also find that talking to your new friends is a good distraction from drinking too much beer.
4 Eat The Meat
Most Oktoberfests provide food, to be consumed at your table. Generally the meals consist of heavy going, greasy forms of meat:** perhaps a roast chicken; maybe a plate of cured charcuterie; or, most likely, a large lump of pork. If you have the option of food, take it. It will be the ideal accompaniment to heavy swilling, tastes great and, again, will provide a welcome distraction from drinking too much beer.
Your German beer festival will almost certainly feature live music, possibly performed by a band dressed in dodgy Bavarian fashion, playing mostly German drinking songs designed to be sung along to. Don’t worry about not knowing any words or tunes as their repetitive nature means you’ll soon get the hang of them. And make sure you join in – losing your inhibitions so you’re hollering and grunting with the rest of them is part of the appeal, helps to improve the social aspect of the event and besides, all that singing and swinging is a desirable distraction from drinking too much beer. Prosit!
The Bath Okoberfest is on Friday September 29th at Komedia. Find out more information and order your tickets here – we’ll look forward to seeing some of you there!
*In Germany it’s tradition to hand down leather pants through the generations. Do not give your Grandad a call and ask if you can borrow his used Damarts.
**These days you can usually expect a vegetarian option as well, and not just chips.