A brief history of Oktoberfest

(Not Jeremy Kirby)

by Jeremy Kirby

Ye Merry Olde Oktoberfest was first held to celebrate the wedding of Leopold, then Crown Prince of Bavaria (the lowest German state with the highest number of lederhosen per capita), to his Saxon sweetheart, Therese. The year was 1810, and local revelers got together to celebrate the marriage in grand style with lots of drinking and a large horse race. The people of Bavaria had such a great time they decided to repeat the event the next year, but since the wedding was old news, they chose to celebrate the end of the harvest. Subtracting the 24 times the celebration has been canceled (war, cholera, Nazis) this year marks the 175th anniversary of the original festival and in those 175-plus years, the festival has seen a lot of change. Very early on, the date was pushed forward to avoid the wet weather of Bavarian October. In 1880, the fest got its first electrical lighting. In 1881, bratwurst was served for the first time (what did they eat before?) and in 1892, glass steins were used for the first time. Celebrators could finally see the beautiful ruby red lager in its full glory before downing it in a fit of machismo.

Fest Facts…

Since inception, Oktoberfest has really exploded. It is now a world-renowned piss-up, and the numbers reflect this fact. In 2007, the total seating in the festival halls reached 100,000. Consumers drank 69,406 hectoliters of bier (14.7 million pints); ate 142,253 pairs of pork sausage; downed 58,446 units (“I would like one unit, please”) of pork knuckle; and, alas, devoured only 104 units of oxen. There were 980 seated toilets and 878 meters of urinals. The price of beer has always been a large topic among fest-goers, and this year is no different. With the increase in price of raw materials needed to make beer, the price of a maß (pronounced “mass” and equal to 1 liter) of beer has risen to €8.30, or roughly $12.19 ’merican.

Durango’s Very Own Oktoberfest…

San Juan Citizens Alliance’s Oktoberfest returns to downtown this Saturday, Sept. 27, with the ceremonial tapping of the cask at 11 a.m. As in past years, there will be food and craft vendors on Main Avenue between 9th and 11th streets. All four Durango breweries will be pouring, and there is even an optional Oktoberfest pub crawl and music that night. Ten bucks will get you into three music venues in town. Turn to page 21 or visit www.sanjuancitizens.org for more details.

Change of venue…

On Sunday, the party moves to the new Ska Brewing World Headquarters, located at 225 Girard St., in Bodo Park, to celebrate the grand opening. The new digs will bump up Ska’s annual production from 7,500 barrels a year to an amazing 21,000 barrels; that’s 651,000 gallons or roughly 5.2 million pints of sweet, sweet beer. I hope you’re thirsty, Durango.

Sunday’s event runs from noon to 5 p.m. and will have lots of beer, food, music, kid’s activities, beer, brewery tours and more beer. Thirteen breweries from all over Colorado and one from California (Stone – Hell Yeah!) will be there to help them celebrate. If you buy a Ska grand opening sample glass for $20, you can try them all. Ska also plans on offering two new beers at the opening. The first is an India Pale Ale called Hoperation Ivy, fresh hopped with organic hops from Montrose. Ska also will be pouring whiskey barrel-aged Scottish (or Skattish) ale. Parking will be limited, so both Ska Brewing and The San Juan Citizens Alliance encourage attendees to take the bus. Southwest Whitewater will be providing a bus to transport people from downtown to Bodo Park. Pick up starts at 11 a.m. in front of Carvers and/or Steamworks, and will occur every hour on the hour until 5 p.m.

The beer…

Oktoberfest bier and märzen bier are basically one in the same, though they are named after months on opposite ends of the calendar. Before refrigeration, beer couldn’t be successfully made in the hot months of summer. In March, brewers needed to make a beer that would last all summer in the caves below the brewery, so they made one a bit stronger and hardier to ensure no spoilage. Come October, it was time to start brewing again, and the brewers needed to empty the remaining casks/kegs that were storing last year’s beer. They rolled them out and with the last strong beer they had brewed in March, celebrated the end of the malt and hop harvesting season in grand style.

The beer itself is an amber to ruby-red lager with all its emphases on the malt. This beer should be sweet, even juicy, with bready, toasty and caramel flavors. It should be well rounded and medium bodied. Alcohol averages range from 4.8 percent to 6.5 percent ABV. Get your hands on some bottled versions from Germany like Paulaner Oktoberfest-Märzen (5.80 percent ABV) or Spaten Oktoberfestbier Ur-Märzen ( 5.90 percent ABV) just to name a few. Some U.S. and Colorado examples of the style are Samuel Adams Octoberfest (5.70 percent ABV) or Left Hand Oktoberfest (6.0 percent ABV) If you want to go even more local, grab a fresh pint of either Durango Brewing Co.’s Durango Colorfest or Carver Brewing Co.’s Harvest Festbier, both excellent examples of the style.

Oktoberfest bier can be enjoyed with steaks and almost anything else grilled. It will match a burger fine if you don’t put too many toppings on it; stick with cheese, bacon and onions. BBQ pork goes great with the caramelized flavors in both the pork and the beer. Actually, almost any pork product will do. But if you’re like me, you will enjoy your Oktoberfest bier this weekend with either a unit of pork knuckle or oxen. •



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