Picture capturing golden autumnal sunshine in a mug of beer topped with overflowing frothy foam. The steady thump and rhythm of an Oompah band, sausages, pretzels, and blue chequered flags – it’s time for Oktoberfest!
This year, right here in the UK, we’re embracing our love for German lager with a tasty selection of Oktoberfest beer at The George pub, our brewery taproom, and at our sister pub, The Ragged Trousers from Saturday 16th September until Sunday 1st October 2023.
Grab your stein (we’ll have those available), don your lederhosen or dirndl (not provided), and join us as we embark on a tasty journey celebrating Oktoberfest beer. Prost!
What is Oktoberfest?
More than six million people flock to Munich, Germany, every year to celebrate Oktoberfest, an annual festival that began over two centuries ago with a royal wedding celebration.
On the 12th of October 1810, a large celebration was held to honour the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria – who would later become known as King Louis I – to Princess Therese von Sachen-Hildburhausen. The People of Munich were invited to join the festivities held in the fields before the city gates. Five days later, on the 18th of October, an open horse race was held in the area, later named Theresienwiese (Therese’s meadow), which still serves as the official ground of Oktoberfest.
The decision to repeat the festivities and horse races the following year in 1811 kick started the quintessentially Bavarian tradition of Oktoberfest, now the world’s largest annual Volksfest (people’s festival), featuring amusement rides, music, dancing, food, and, of course, beer.
By the late 18th century, each of the Munich breweries taking part in Oktoberfest constructed large, temporary beer halls made of plywood, complete with interior balconies and bandstands, and enough space to accommodate thousands of revellers so that the party could continue even in unfavourable weather conditions.
Over the years, the horse races were phased out while agricultural shows and amusement rides emerged, but the one tradition that has remained throughout is the presence and celebration of German beer.
Oktoberfest has gained significant popularity in the UK, with events and celebrations organised across the country, all aiming to recreate the same festive spirit by offering a selection of authentic German beers and snacks and reproducing Bavarian gemütlichkeit – a feeling of warmth, friendliness, and good cheer!
When is Okroberfest celebrated? Oktoberfest dates for 2023
This year will mark the 188th Oktoberfest, and will run from Saturday, 16th of September to Tuesday, 3rd October 2023.
Traditionally, Oktoberfest took place in the 16 days leading up to the first Sunday in October. However, in response to German unification, from 1994, if the first Sunday in October falls on the 1st or 2nd of the month, the festivities are prolonged to include the 3rd of October – German Unity Day.
Celebrating Oktoberfest Beer
With its connection to Bavarian culture and brewing tradition, beer is an integral part of Oktoberfest. Lager originated from Bavaria, the German state renowned for producing some of the world’s finest beers.
During the inaugural event in 1810, people drank copious amounts of beer as they celebrated the royal wedding. Today, the total consumption of beer during the Munich Oktoberfest alone is estimated to be upwards of 5 million litres.
What’s Different About Oktoberfest Beer?
Traditionally, Oktoberfest beer had to adhere to the Reinheitsgebot – Beer Purity Laws – a decree issued by the Bavarian Duke in 1516, ruling that brewers were only permitted to use three ingredients to brew beer: water, barley malt, and hops. Yeast was added to this list after its discovery in the late 17th century.
As well as adhering to the Reinheitsgebot, only Märzen or Festbier style beer brewed within Munich is permitted in the Munich Oktoberfest. Today, Oktoberfest beer is a trademark reserved for use by Munich’s six traditional breweries: Hacker Pschorr, Spaten Franziskaner Bräu, Paulaner, Löwenbräu, Augustiner Bräu, and Hofbräu München.
Oktoberfest beers are lagers brewed using bottom fermenting yeast at low temperatures. After brewing, they undergo a period of maturation in cold storage – a process known as ‘lagering’. We talk more about this process in our post on ale vs lager, but the result is a smooth, clean-tasting and carbonated beer with malty flavours and just enough hop bitterness, without overpowering sweetness. Traditionally, Märzen, or March beer, was brewed ahead in March and stored over the summer, ready for drinking during Oktoberfest.
These beers have a higher alcohol content than regular lagers, typically ranging between 5-6% ABV. Festbier, which has a lower alcohol content and a milder flavour than Märzen, was introduced to Oktoberfest to allow attendees to drink more beer.
Top 7 Oktoberfest Beers for 2023
We’ll serve all our top picks for Oktoberfest 2023 here in Tunbridge Wells at The George, the Fonthill Taproom, and The Ragged Trousers.
1. Paulaner Oktoberfest: Authentic Oktoberfest beer from a traditional Munich brewer. A perfect balance of flavours, smooth and refreshing, slightly sweet with hints of biscuity malt.
2. Hacker Pschorr Oktoberfest: A traditional Marzen from another of the original six Munich breweries, Hacker Pschorr. This pale amber lager offers a rich bouquet of malt with hints of caramel sweetness balanced with fresh, fragrant hops.
3. Spaten Oktoberfest: Straight from the traditional Spaten Franziskaner brewery in Munich, Spaten Oktoberfest has an alcohol content of 5.9%. Boasting a warm, autumnal copper colour with aromas of caramel and earthy bread, balanced with crisp hop notes, this lager may as well be described as a pint of autumn.
4. Hofbrau Oktoberfest: At 6.3%, Hofbrau Oktoberfestbier is one of the stronger beers to come from one of Munich’s “Big Six”. Hofbrau Munchen’s Oktoberfest lager is golden yellow, with a rich, malty flavour balanced by a hoppy, dry finish.
5. Verdant Festbier: Cornwall-based brewery Verdant offers a soft and smooth 5.2% lager inspired by the Festbiers of Munich. With subtle hints of malt and a complex, hoppy depth, Verdant Festbier is one of our top picks for celebrating Oktoberfest in the UK.
6. Cloudwater Festbier: Cloudwater produces some of the best craft in the UK, so we’ve jumped at the chance of stocking the Manchester-based brewery’s take on an Oktoberfest beer.
7. Northern Monk Monchsbier Lager: Another Fonthill favourite and fresh from our completely accidental mini tap takeover at the Sussex Arms – another brave take on Germany’s favourite beer style.
Celebrating Oktoberfest in the UK
Celebrating Oktoberfest in Munich is a unique experience, especially for beer lovers, but if you can’t make it, don’t worry – you can still join in the fun this autumn right here in the UK. Oktoberfest celebrations take place up and down the country, from small local events at microbreweries and pubs to large-scale festivals with giant beer tents in places like London, Manchester, Newcastle, and Edinburgh.
Local Oktoberfest events and festivals
1. Camden Oktoberfest in London: This popular Oktoberfest event will take place at the iconic Electric Ballroom music venue in Camden every weekend of October. Tickets cost £20.
2. Manchester Oktoberfest: 2023 will mark the 10th anniversary of the Manchester Oktoberfest event. The event will take place on the 13th and 14th of October in Platt Fields Park. Tickets start from £10 but can increase to £100 or more depending on your chosen package.
3. Tonbridge Oktoberfest: Hosted in Racecourse Park, the Tonbridge Oktoberfest event will take place in a beer hall with a capacity of 2,000. Sessions run on Friday, the 13th and Saturday, the 14th of October 2023. Tickets start from £4.50 and can go up to £25 depending on your chosen package.
Oktoberfest in Tunbridge Wells
We’re excited to celebrate German beer with a selection of guest taps dedicated to authentic Bavarian Oktoberfest beer right here at The George, in our Fonthill taproom, and at The Ragged Trousers. Join us between Saturday 16th September and Sunday 1st October 2023 for the following tasty lagers:
- Paulaner Oktoberfest
- Hacker Pschorr Oktoberfest
- Spaten Oktoberfest
- Hofbrau Oktoberfest
- Verdant Festbier
- Cloudwater Festbier
- Northern Monk Monchsbier Lager
As well as our German guest taps, you’ll be able to sample a large selection of weird and wonderful craft ales and lagers from local breweries, as well as well-known brands, and our very own Fonthill ale and lager brewed right here in Tunbridge Wells.
No ticket purchase required, but if you’d like to book a table in advance, you’re welcome to do so. To book a table at The Ragged, call them or drop them an email. For The George, simply book online.
Hosting an Oktoberfest beer party at home
Thinking of throwing your own Oktoberfest party at home in the UK? Great idea! Follow these tips to help you create an authentic festive vibe:
1. Authentic Oktoberfest Beer
Try to find authentic German Märzen, Helles lager, and Weissbier made by the six traditional Bavarian breweries in Munich: Hacker Pschorr, Spaten Franziskaner Bräu, Paulaner, Löwenbräu, Augustiner Bräu, and Hofbräu München. Consider ordering a draught keg or two – aside from tasting great, these will make authentic centrepieces for your party.
2. Tasty Oktoberfest Food & Snacks
As well as adding authenticity, traditional Oktoberfest food and snacks complement Bavarian beers perfectly. Serve grilled bratwurst sausages on a bun with mustard, onions, and or sauerkraut. German Pretzels make for a delicious, savoury snack guaranteed to go down well. For a sweet option, consider an apple strudel or a black forest cake.
3. Subtle Oktoberfest Party Decorations
With the right food, music, and beer, you shouldn’t need too many decorations to set the right atmosphere. You could hang some Bavarian bunting or place miniature flags around the room for a traditional touch. Serving your lager in beer steins will help with authenticity, while stringing fairy lights and hanging wreaths made of hops and wheat can help create a festive vibe.
Finally… you don’t have to dress up to enjoy the party. Still, Oktoberfest is – probably – the only chance you’ll get to dress up in lederhosen or a dirndl dress this year. Plus, it will undoubtedly help with setting a festive atmosphere!
Authentic Oktoberfest beer is either Märzen or Festbier, brewed in one of the six traditional breweries in Munich. Though both Oktoberfest beers are lagers, Märzen has a higher alcohol content, darker colour, and a richer flavour than Festbier.
At The George pub, Fonthill Brewery Taproom, and our sister pub, The Ragged Trousers, we’ll be celebrating Bavarian tradition from Saturday 16th September until Sunday 1st October 2023 by serving up a selection of authentic Oktoberfest beer right here in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.
Whether you’re celebrating Oktoberfest with us this year, at home, at your local pub, or making your way to Munich, we hope you have a fantastic time!