The beer served at Oktoberfest are sourced from six Munich’s breweries: Spaten, Augustiner, Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, and Löwenbräu. The beer is served in 1-liter glasses called a “mass,” German for measure. Beer tent proprietors often charge a refundable deposit for the glass. Many beer tents require making reservations prior to the festival.
Oktoberfest kicks off with a parade by festival workers, landlords, horse-drawn floats and beer-tent bands to the fairgrounds. At noon, the mayor of Munich calls out, “O’zapft is!,” which translates to “It’s tapped!,” and hands the first beer off to Bavaria’s minister president.
Traditionally, the Munich Oktoberfest was held on the 16 days leading up to and including the first Sunday in October. Starting in 1994, the dates were modified for when the first Sunday in October falls on October 1 or 2. The festival will then conclude on October 3, German Unity Day.
The first Oktoberfest was held on October 12, 1810, to commemorate the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig (who later became King Ludwig I) to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The citizens of Munich were invited to the royal wedding, which took place in front of the city gates on fields christened Theresienwiese, which translates to Theresa’s Fields. Oktoberfest, an anniversary celebration of sorts, came about when the closing horse racing event became an annual tradition. Today, locals simply call it the “Wies’n.”
Since records were kept, starting in 1980, the largest crowd drawn to Oktoberfest was over seven million visitors in 1985; 2007 saw 6.2 million festival attendees.