When you think of Germany, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? If you said Oktoberfest then you are not thinking big enough! Oktoberfest may be the most well known, but it is far from the only beer festival in Germany. There are plenty of them through out the year in most cities throughout the country.
Unlike festivals in America, which are over run with drunk people who cause havoc wherever they go, German fests have a particular way to enjoy the fun so that the drunks don’t cause too much trouble for everyone else.
1. Buy a ticket before hand
Believe it or not there is a cap on the amount of people allowed in the tents. Securing a ticket before hand gets you a meal and a guaranteed spot inside the tent. If you want to attempt to get in without a ticket, going during the week or during the day will give you a better chance of getting in. Trying to get in the evening on a weekend without a ticket will be impossible. Keep in mind they close the halls between lunch and dinner reservations to clean.
2. It’s ok to stand on the furniture!
The beer halls are set up with very long tables running the length of the tent. Instead of chairs they have benches. When the Band starts playing, everyone stands on the tables to sing, dance and clink their ‘Masses’ (the giant beer glasses) with their neighbors.
3. Be prepared to get very close to strangers
Americans are not used to sharing tables with strangers, but in Europe this is a common practice. It is max capacity in the tents and the aforementioned benches allows a large amount of people to squeeze in. When beer is flowing people tend to get a bit friendlier and that’s part of the fun. Enjoy the dancing and camaraderie and don’t forget to Prost!
4. Look your neighbor in the eye when toasting
In Germany there is etiquette for everything, including how you salute your neighbor when drinking beer. In America and England we say Cheers! In Mexico it’s Salud! And in Germany, they say Prost! When you clink your Mass into your neighbor’s be sure to look them in the eye, otherwise you will have seven years of bad sex. This is a real superstition, but it’s up to you if you want to risk it!
5. A small selection of beer
All this talk about beer and I realize some of you might have the wrong impression of what kind of beer is even offered at the Fest. Germany has a strict rule about making beer and because of that, the most common beers at any bar or restaurant at Pilsner or Hefewizen. Hoffbrauhaus has a Dunkel (dark beer) but otherwise, they are few and far between.
6. Be mindful of the employees
Everyone associates images of big chested women holding 10 giant glasses of beer in both hands with beer fests, and as you’ll find out when you go, those images are true to life. Women carry the beers and the male attendants carry the food trays. Moving through the crowd with all that food and beer is quite a talent and can be fun to see. Just be careful not to get in their way!
7. What not to bring
Water bottles and big bags will not be allowed in the tents. You will be requested to leave them outside. While your water bottle will probably not get stolen (and to be honest you bag probably won’t either) don’t risk bringing your giant backpack filled with everything you own to the Fest. Bring a small bag, or even better, just keep stuff in your pockets.
I hope these tips help you enjoy your experience at a beer festival. Most German towns have some kind of festival many times a year. The biggest will be in the Spring and Fall.
Have you ever been to a beer fest? Let me know your experiences in the comments!
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