I’ve been writing about beer for almost two years now, in an effort to grasp and define what makes BC beer culture so special. What I’ve learned boils down to this: People in this province love a good piss-up.
And in a way, we’re pretty good at hosting a good piss-up, too. We can hold our booze and the nights rarely devolve into the sort of wreckage one might expect from a frat party in, say, Ohio (which is how I imagine all parties in the US end up). Take a look at any of the craft beer festivals that have cropped up across this province over the past year.
But these festivals are skinny runts compared to the beer festival to end all beer festivals: Oktoberfest, which is happening right now in Munich.
Oktoberfest is a legendary shit show – one so prominent and mythologized that millions of people descend on Munich every year to take part in the shenanigans. 6.7 million litres of beer were consumed during the 2013 Oktoberfest alone.
That’s obviously a lot of beer, and a profound display of stamina for the German people – one that Vancouverites, Victorians, and Everywhere-elsians can’t possibly compete with, if only because the provincial government won’t let us (how many four-ounce tasting glasses does it take to serve 6.7 million litres of beer, anyway?).
That doesn’t mean we won’t try. There are a few Oktoberfest celebrations happening in and around the Lower Mainland over the next month; attempts (however vain!) to harness the glory of the true German Oktoberfest.
But because we haven’t the history nor the ability, really, to drink to excess quite like the Germans can, I feel it’s in everyone’s best interest to provide some tips on how to survive the drunken revelry without losing your wallet, your dignity and/or your whole weekend to a relentless hangover.
Embrace the stereotype
Why celebrate Oktoberfest if you’re not going to look the part? Basically, this means drinking from a stein and wearing the lederhosen. Seriously, splurge on a pair of lederhosen. Wear them year-round even, because they’re masterfully engineered for marathon drinking.
They’re shorts, so you won’t overheat while dancing in a sweaty pit of hundreds of other people. They have suspenders, so they won’t fall down. The fly is designed so you can relieve yourself without taking them off, and they’re made of leather so when you inevitably spill beer on yourself, it’s easy to clean up.
Eat (somewhat) responsibly
One of the foundations of Oktoberfest is drinking to excess. In order to do so, you need to eat well enough that you won’t become that wasted, feeble loser we all enjoy pointing and laughing at when we encounter them.
Fortunately, Oktoberfest comes with its own tradition of good food, including pretzels and mustard, currywurst, bratwurst with sauerkraut, and other stereotypical German staples.
But keep in mind – you don’t want to gorge yourself. Yes, it’s rarity to have these specific foods in one place in great supply at the same time, and the desire to cram as much of it in your face as possible might be strong (depending on what kind of person you are), but a tummy full of cheesy bratwurst and three steins worth of lager won’t help anybody, least of all yourself.
Join in on the dance
Dancing is another Oktoberfest tradition. It’s fun, it’s a bit silly and, most importantly, its good for the metabolism and will help you to drink longer.
Don’t mention the war
This is more useful if you’re actually in Munich. It’s maybe not a great idea to prod a group of drunken Germans about the most shameful part of their history. Nor would I ask about the Bavarian flags that look suspiciously like swastikas painted on the ceiling of the Hofbrauhaus. You will get popped in the jaw.
Remember: it’s a marathon…
…not a sprint. Don’t chug, drink swiftly. There’s a difference.
Or maybe just don’t drink too much?
Just forget about your dignity
We mentioned above that this survival guide is designed so that you wouldn’t lose your dignity, but you know what? You’re clad in beer-soaked lederhosen, dancing to oompah music with greasy schnitzel-stained fingers. Your dignity left hours ago. Embrace it.
I hope this has been helpful.
Oktoberfest is happening
Vancouver’s largest Oktoberfest celebration is now in its third year, held at Queen Elizabeth Plaza under tents designed to look as authentic as possible: wooden long tables, 130 sanded log stumps for seats, German entertainment, custom-built bars – no expense will be spared. The event runs Sept. 29-Oct. 9 and tickets are available at harvesthaus.com.
Oktoberfest at Vancouver Alpen Club
Vancouver’s longstanding German club throws an annual Oktoberfest celebration, with traditional German food, beer, live music and a DJ. The festivities run Sept. 23-25 and tickets are available at tickets.vacbc.ca.
Stein and Dine
Victoria’s Roast Meat and Sandwich Shop joins forces with Victoria Beer Week for its third annual Oktoberfest on Oct. 22 in Market Square. This one will focus on BC craft beer, curated by VBW. Tickets available at steinanddine.comsteinanddine.com.
This three-weekend festival in Washington State’s Cascade Mountains begins Sept. 30. This is the closest thing the Pacific Northwest has to the authentic Munich experience – the whole town is modeled after a Bavarian village, with even the signs of the McDonald’s and 7-11 are cut in the style. It’s weird as hell to visit – except during the festival. Tickets available at LeavenworthOktoberfest.Ticketleap.com.
• With “files” from Robert Mangelsdorf, who has a great enthusiasm for and depth of knowledge about lederhosen.
Photo via iStock.