The meaning of Oktoberfest

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Written by Prancing Pony Brewery CEO and co-founder Corinna Steeb.

If you have ever been to the Munich Oktoberfest, then you’d know about the massive beer tents, the smell of pork knuckles, clonking of steins served by beer maids and waiters (who seem to have no limit on how many full steins they can carry) dressed in traditional Dirndls and Lederhosen. But Oktoberfest, and Oktoberfest beers are so much more. The history behind the two biggest beer festivals in the world couldn’t be more different and is quite intriguing.

The Munich Oktoberfest began in October, 1810, in celebration of the marriage of the crown prince of Bavaria (who later became King Louis I), to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen.

The wedding was held in a field known as Theresienwiese or “Wiesn” (“Theresa’s Meadow”), named in honor of the Crown Princess. The crown prince organised a horse race at the end of the wedding, where around 40,000 spectators gathered. The following year, a follow-up race was organised, and the tradition of Oktoberfest was born.

To German born and raised Frank and Corinna from Prancing Pony Brewery, Oktoberfest celebrations and beers have a deep-rooted, but slightly different meaning.

Having grown up near Stuttgart, host of the second biggest Oktoberfest in the world (called Volksfest or ‘people festival’), their beerfest has the same feel, but the celebratory reasons are far from a wedding celebration.

In 1815, vulcano Tambora eruptedin Indonesia, causing a long period of famine that affected countries all over the world, including Germany. The Winter of 1815/16 was the worst with long periods of cold weather, starvation, and misery everywhere. When Wilhelm I. became King of Wurttemberg in 1816, the crisis of the people couldn’t be any worse. His brother in law, Czar Nikolaus of Russia, helped him to relieve the biggest misery with deliveries of grain.

In recognition and to celebrate the end of the famine, King William and his Russian born wife Katharina sponsored a harvest festival in 1818 which encouraged the display of agricultural achievements. The famous ‘Stuttgart Fruit Column’ still marks the entrance to the annually held beer fest, to remind people of the history of their beer festival.

Both festivals have naturally changed over time. What remains the same and is common to many of the Oktoberfest celebrations held in Germany, are big beer tents that can hold thousands of people dressed in beautiful traditional clothes, seated at long communal trestle tables. The largest tent holds 6,500 people inside, and 3,000 people outside. The celebration includes big brass-instrument bands, lots of beer, and hearty foods.

For us at Prancing Pony Brewery, we put on our very own version of the Oktoberfest. It incorporates the German traditions as Corinna and Frank know them; serving German-style foods, pouring traditional German beers in steins, and running plenty of fun traditional activities.

This year, we made three beers, for it has been three years since Corinna and Frank were able to travel back home. We will celebrate Oktoberfest with a Helles, a Dunkel and a Hefeweizen, and we are putting on a two-day event on Saturday 1st and Sunday the 2nd of October, making the most of the celebrations over the October long weekend.

Like every other year, we encourage those attending to dress up either in Oktoberfest outfits or traditional clothes, there will be prizes for the best dressed attendees. Activities like German slap dancing, bell ringing, stein-holding and Bretzel eating competitions complement the live traditional music and make for a fun day of celebrations.

While we start off with more traditional music during the day, we’ll be stepping it up in the evening with a cool music assemble that combines Oompah music with Pop-Rock, played on traditional Brass instruments. For those hanging around till late, our DJ will make sure the dancing shoes get a real workout.

On Sunday, we include families and kids’ activities, in the spirit of making the festival inclusive and fun for everybody.

If you spot Corinna and Frank at Prancing Pony Brewery Oktoberfest, be sure to say hi! You will likely see them in their traditional outfits holding a stein, singing along to one of the many beer drinking songs.

If you can’t make it, the Prancing Pony Festbiers are available as a 12 pack (x4 of each style), which you can find on our website, as well as a 5L Helles mini keg, so you can hold your own celebrations at home.

Ein Prosit der Gemuetlichkeit, from Corinna and Frank.

For Oktoberfest tickets and more information, go to:

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