History of Oktoberfest

September 22nd marked the start of the 2012 Oktoberfest. For many individuals, this is the start of the happy time where people engage in merriment and drink lots of beer. But was that how Oktoberfest started out? Truth be told, it started out with a wedding and horse races.

Back in October of 1810, Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese in Munich. They had a beautiful ceremony and then, as royals tended to do, they had a fortnight long bash to celebrate the nuptials. During this celebration, the people did party, the horses did race and the whole of Bavaria really liked that the horses did race. They liked it so much, in fact, that they decided to repeat this lengthy celebration (minus the wedding part) annually. A few years later, a prominent fixture at these yearly events became – you guessed it – beer.

In the years/decades/centuries following, Oktoberfest always managed to keep their traditions, but would make some changes to stay with the times and become more like the Oktoberfest we currently know and love. One of these alterations was a date change.

Originally held during mid to late October, the powers that be pushed the festival forward a little bit to coincide with the warmer weather late September usually brings. Since calling an event held in September Oktoberfest would be a little confusing, the festival ends on the first Sunday in October. Another change that occurred was the decision to stop the horse races in 1960, though they did make a reappearance during Oktoberfest 2010 – the 200 year anniversary.

As wonderful as Oktoberfest is, in the over 200 years it’s existed, it has been cancelled some years. Due to cholera epidemics and wars, Oktoberfest has been cancelled 24 times, the most recent of which was in 1948 because of the aftermath of WWII.

Nowadays the official Oktoberfest is always held in the Theresienwiese (named after Ludwig’s bride) which is an area located near Munich’s center. It is celebrated with traditional foods and, of course, beer. This isn’t just any beer though. It is beer with strict standards. All Oktoberfest beer must adhere to the Reinheitsgebot, or German Beer Purity Law. This means it has to be a minimum of 6% alcohol and can only be made with water, barley and hops. All Oktoberfest beers must be brewed within Munich city limits. Some true Oktoberfest beers are Hacker-Pschorr, Spaten and Paulaner.

So there you have it, a brief history of Oktoberfest. Now go out, drink, be merry, and impress your friends with your new found beer knowledge. Grab your favorite craft brew Oktoberfest and enjoy the rich taste based on a rich history. Prost!

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