OKTOBERFEST! The best fall party of them all! This is a perfect time of year to enjoy beautiful fall weather with family and friends. Attending Oktoberfest in Munich Germany is on many people’s Bucket List (mine too). For good reason, the party (originating from a wedding celebration) has been a tradition since 1810. The official event in Munich typically takes place between mid-September and early October (Official 2017 dates: September 16th-October 3rd). It’s time to start planning your Oktoberfest event.
This party can be as simple/complicated and budget-friendly/expensive as your heart and bank account can manage. Smaller is simpler, but Oktoberfest provides a great excuse to mingle family, friends, and co-workers. Just be sure to ask for help.
As the size of the party increases, consider asking guests to bring appetizers, entree, desserts, or beverages to share. Many guests love the challenge of preparing a special, party-appropriate dish.
Evite is a great way to send out a party invitation. It’s easy to set-up and allows you to review guest RSVP’s quickly and easily. You can even ask guests to sign up for food or beverage contributions. This feature makes it easy to ensure your guests will have adequate food and beverage and prevents having too much of any one item.
If Evite doesn’t work for you e-mail is an easy option. Hard copy invitations dropped in mailboxes or formal written invites sent by mail also work, but they do require a bit more planning.
Venue or Location
You driveway, patio, or yard provide a perfect venue for Oktoberfest. If it’s cool build a bonfire or have baskets filled with blankets and extra sweaters to keep guests comfortable. Tents are part of traditional Oktoberfest celebrations. Don’t have a tent? Consider borrowing a tent from a neighbor. Tents and tables can be rented, but this will add significant cost to your party budget. Another option is to decorate your garage or open your home to guests. You might also consider renting a picnic facility in a nearby park.
In my opinion, the guest list is the top priority. Next in importance? Food and beverages. To keep the party simple, enlist the help of your crock pot, family, and friends.
Beverages are fairly easy. Non-alcoholic beverages for guests of all ages can include sparkling water with fruit syrups, sparkling cider, and soda. Recommended grown-up beverages include a selection of Oktoberfest Bier that is easy to find in the fall at grocery and liquor stores. I recommend Spaten and Hacker Pschorr for an authentic experience. Riesling and other wines can also be served. Here’s a great recipe for Apfelwein. It’s simple to prepare. I use light brown sugar in place of the corn sugar. If you purchase cider in a glass bottle, you can even ferment right in the bottle. Supplies are readily available on-line. I typically make a 5-gallon batch and serve in interesting bottles that I collect throughout the year.
After dinner drinks (apertifs/digestifs) are highly recommended. Apertifs to consider include my favorite: Barenjager honey liquor. Tastes great and I have wonderful memories sipping this liquor with a sweet Aunt at the end of a visit in Germany. Other great options include schnapps, Jagermeister and Goldschlager. If you are feeling especially creative, you can create an entire cocktail menu for these apertifs on their own.
Depending on the food you serve, you will likely need warming and/or cooling trays. Consider hiring local teens to help replenish food and drinks. This will help you enjoy the party and time with your guests.
Free Menu Printable
Please subscribe to Provenance Preservation newsletter and I will send you a free menu template. Customize with your menu selection, name, address, and party date. I place these on all of the tables for guests to view.
I have provided a collection of recipes. Your party can be simple with a nice selection of grilled sausage or you can compliment the sausage with one or several of the dishes below.
Würstl refers to a variety of classic Bavarian sausages. Buy a selection of sausage, grill, and serve with a selection of mustard. My favorites include traditional bratwurst, thuringer, knackwurst, and bockwurst. We call the butcher in advance so our order is waiting. An easy way to save time.
Schweinebraten (roast pork)
Schweinebraten is a classic Bavarian dish that is very easy to prepare, especially for a crowd. Pork loin can be used in place of traditional pork shoulder. If you are feeling ‘uber German’ you can replace the vegetable broth with dark beer. Yum!
Schweinshaxe (roasted ham hock)
A beer hall favorite! Roasted pork shank (pig knuckles) are crispy on the outside with juicy, delicious meat. These are also easy to make, but I highly recommend you contact a local butcher to order the pork shank in advance.
You can’t have Oktoberfest without pretzels. Soft and chewy, they taste great with mustard, sausage, and beer. Here’s a pretzel recipe. Try making your own, it’s so much fun. I use 1/2-cup water for the yeast and replace the other cup with beer (seems to be a common theme in my cooking). I use baking soda in place of lye as recommended. Prepare the dough the night before the party and bake the pretzels just before guests arrive. What a great aroma!
Kaese Spaetzle can be considered a German version of mac-n-cheese prepared with homemade noodles or mini dumplings. Easy to make ahead. Mix spaetzle, cheese, and cooked onion in a casserole dish and heat in the oven just before serving.
Other great side dishes include fennel salad, potato salad, sauerkraut and red cabbage.
Apfelstrudel is a classic German dessert. Delicious with a scoop of ice cream and a cup of hot coffee.
Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cherry Torte)
Preparing Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte is quite involved, but it is quite delicious.
No Oktoberfest is complete without some ‘oom pah pah’ music. If you really want to splurge, you can hire a band. You can also recruit family members or friends to entertain your guests with live music. I wish I planned my first Oktoberfest years ago when my aunt was still playing her accordion. You can also ask a guest to serve as the party DJ with old records. Pandora or Spotify also offer Oktoberfest selections to get the dancing and singing going. Eins, zwei, g’suffa!
Tableware, Decorations, Fashion, and Fun
Decorate tables with festive tablecloths. You can also decorate tables with pictures, fruit, flowers, or other items that represent the fall harvest (e.g. bundles of wheat, squash, gourds, pumpkins, and grapes). Consider hanging flags or banners. You can even order Oktoberfest plates, napkins and utensils. If you have a really big budget, you should really purchase custom steins, lederhosen and a dirndl dress.
Besides food, drink, and music, there are lots of ways to have fun at your Oktoberfest. Have guests bring photos of their German travel adventures for a picture ‘wall’. You can also buy or build a prop for photos. Share some of the photo highlights as part of thank you note to guests. Consider offering prizes for best dress, best Tyrolean hat, best stein (don’t be surprised if lots of people bring their own!), best waltz, even best chicken dance, etc. The point is to get a little crazy and have fun!
The History of Oktoberfest
On October 12th of 1810, Crown Prince Ludwig, who later became King Ludwig I, was married to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the happy royal event. Horse races attended by the Royal Family marked the close of the event that was celebrated as a festival for all of Bavaria. The decision to repeat the horse races in the subsequent year gave rise to the tradition of the Oktoberfest.
Today, the Oktoberfest is the largest festival in the world. Each year, approximately 6 million visitors from around the world converge on the Oktoberfest on the Theresienwiese.