Oktoberfest Beer & Wine Drinking Tips
Oktoberfest Beer & Wine Drinking Tips

Oktoberfest Beer & Wine Drinking Tips:

Here are the answers to a bunch of common questions we often get about drinking beer and wine at Oktoberfest in Munich.

Where can I get Wine At Oktoberfest?

Germany is a huge wine (wein in German, pronounced vine) country, even though Oktoberfest it is almost all about the Bavarian beer.

1. The Wine Tent (Weinzelt): Has over 15 different types of wine.  Our favorite is their Apfelwein which is a tart apple wine.  Weisswein (white wine) and Rotwein (red wine) are their staples with Riesling being the #1 type of wine.

2. Schützen Tent: Carries everything from Vodka-Red Bulls to Wine.  More importantly, Schützen Festzelt has a 1/2 liter glass of white wine for around 9 Euros which is an amazing deal since non-beer drinks usually cost a ton.

3. Hofbräu Tent: The Hofbrau Tent has personal pint-sized bottles of white wine available to buy.  This is a huge deal as an Oktoberfest goer as the most popular tent now has everything under one roof.

4. Cafe Kaiserschmarrn: Although it is one of the 22 small tents at Oktoberfest, this Gingerbread castle-like cafe is a great place to get wine and other tangy drinks.  They are famous for their sparkling Prosecco and even do a wine barrel tapping on opening day.

5. Free Standing Drink Stands: You can also get wine, champange, mized drinks, and schnapps at the free standing drink stands on the Eastside of the Oktoberfest grounds near the games & rides.

6. Alternatives To Wine: A great alternative for non-beer drinkers in the rest of the major tents is Radler (Shandy) which is 50% Helles (light beer) and 50% Lemon Soda (Sprite).  This mixture at least kills some of the beer flavor of the drink.  Radler is the same price as regular beer and a lot cheaper than Oktoberfest wine.

Helpful German Drinking Words:

1. Huge Beer Mugs: The huge 1-liter beer mugs called a Maß (pronounced: mass) are the standard drinking glass at Oktoberfest. Maß literally means stone in German and comes from the days when the large mugs were stoneware instead of glass.  Don’t expect to see any decorative steins at Oktoberfest’s large beer tents, they have used the glass Maßs since 1872.

2. Beer Types: Dunkel Bier (pronounced: dunk-al) is Dark Beer and Helles Bier (hell-las) is Light Beer which only means the color, not the calories. Radler (rod-la) is known in American as Shandy and is made up of 50% Helles Beer and 50% Lemon Soda/Sprite.  Hefeweissen (hefa-vi-sen) wheat beer which is really big in Bavaria is served a special glass when you are in an old school bar hall.  Russ (ruse) is just like Radler but with Wheat Beer instead of Light Beer.  Russ is typically only in the smaller beer tents but you can still look for it.

3. Wine Types: Wein (vine) is wine; Weißwein (vice-vine) is white wine, Rotwein (wrote-vine) is Red Wine.  Riesling is our favorite type of German white wine.  Sekt (zeckt) is champagne although Champagner (sham-pan-ya) also works.  If you are buying wine from the store make sure it is isn’t carbonated.  There’s nothing worse than carbonated wine.  We accidental bought a bottle of horrible carbonated wine and learned our lesson.  Be careful of the word Spritzer, which is often in wine that comes in a 1/2 liter mug.  This term means that as it means your wine has mineral added to it so you aren’t getting a real 1/2 liter of wine.  Some people do prefer the taste of Spritzer to wine.

4. Bar Workers: Kellner (kehl-nah) is a male bar worker; while a Kellnerin (kehl-nair-en) is a female bar worker/waitress.  It’s a huge bonus if the workers like you so be polite and tip generously, especially on your first couple drinks.  If you hear a whistle being blown it means there is a server carrying beer behind you trying to get through.

5. Beer Corpses: Bierleichen (beer lie-kin) or Beer Corpse is what locals call the people who get super wasted and pass out midday on the grassy areas behind the Hofbrau Tent called the Kotzhügel (cuts-whoo-gull) or Vomit Hill.

How To Order A Drink At Oktoberfest:

1. Drink Size: In the beer Oktoberfest tents, beer is usually only sold in a 1-liter glass Maß (pronounced: mass).  Wine is commonly served in a half liter glass called Halben Liter in German.

2. Common Way To Ask For A Drink: Ein Liter Bier, Bitte! (ine lee-tah beer bit-teh) is 1 Liter of Beer Please.  Can also say Ein Maß Helles Bitte (ine mass hell-las bit-teh) meaning 1 Maß of Light Beer Please.

3. Best Way To Ask: Eich Haette Gern Ein Bier (eek hatta gur-na beer) I Would Like To Have A Beer.

4. Be Polite: Make sure to use Please = Bitte (bit-ta) and Thank You = Danke (dunk-ah).

Proper Way To Give Cheers & Toast People:

1The WordsProst (pa-roast) is the standard word for cheers in German.  Ein Prosit (eyen pro-sit) Der Gemütlichkeit (Dar Gay-mute-lish-kite) is also commonly used at Oktoberfest in Munich which means I Salute Our Friendship & Good Times followed by G’suffa (zuffa) meaning take a big drink.  Zum Wohl (sum voil), meaning To Your Health, can be added at the end of any cheers, but is most commonly used when drinking wine.

2. Tapping Cups: In Germany, and most of Europe, they tap the bottom of your glasses together instead of the top like in America.  You’ll find that tapping the bottoms also greatly reduces the chances of shattering your glass mug.

3. Eye Contact: Make sure to make eye contact during cheers or it’s said you will have 7 years of a bad sex life.

How is Bavarian Beer Different?

While there are over 40 types and 4000 brands a true Bavarian is held to strict brewing standards.  These rules are called the Bavarian Purity Law (Reinheitsgebot) of 1516 which limits the ingredients and regulates how the beer is made.  The result has been some of the best, and most consistent beer in the World.  Bavarian beer is known for its full flavor and higher alcohol percentage, but it also has more sugar than normal.  It tastes great but if you aren’t used to it you will have a massive hangover the first day unless you drink enough water as the recipe can only include barley, malt, yeast, and hops.

Which Types Of Beer Are In Each Tent?

At Oktoberfest, the beer must come from one of Munich’s 6 breweries (Paulaner, Spaten, Hacker-Pschorr, Augustiner, Hofbräu, and Löwenbräu).  Each tent will have beer from the main brewery that sponsors the tent.  Your ordering options will be limited mainly to Helles (Light Beer), Dunkel (Dark Beer), or Radler (Shandy) which is 50% Helles mixed with 50% Lemon Soda (Sprite).  A few tents also carry Hefeweizen (Wheat Beer) and Russ which is just like Radler but with Wheat Beer instead of Light.

Do They Have Hard Alcohol For Sale?

As you walk around the Oktoberfest grounds you’ll run into a number of free-standing Schnapps Stands.  This is a great place to get a little sweeter alcohol to sip on.  The schnapps in German is a little more syrupy than in America but it is good.  Common flavors include Kirsch (cherry), Apfel (apple) and Pfefferminz (peppermint) plus many more.  They do check for flasks at the tent doors, but if you do somehow sneak one in, don’t drink it out in the open.

What Is The Oktoberfest Drinking Age?

You can buy beer in Germany at age 16 and hard alcohol at 18.  The same holds true for the beer tents at Oktoberfest in Munich.

Do They Serve Non-Alcoholic Drinks?

They sure do!  Alkoholfreies Bier is non Alcoholic beer in a 1-liter glass and costs the same as regular around 10€.  Also served are Apfelsaftschorle (apple juice), Sprite, Cola (coke), and water which all come in a 1/2 liter size for abound 4.20€.  Wasser is water, Tafelwasser is bottled water and Hahnenwasser is tap. Make sure to ask for your water at “still” as most water you order in Germany will be by default carbonated mineral water.  The water is almost as expensive as the beer, but you have to stay hydrated.

Why Is Drinking So Big At Oktoberfest?

Drinking in Munich in the Fall is no coincidence because it is important to the beer brewing cycle.  Dry goods like Hops and Barley come into season in the Fall so it is traditionally the same time when brewers would buy ingredients and start a new brewing season.  To empty their old barrels for the new Fall season, the Breweries used to throw huge parties to get people to drink the last of the Marzen Beer (made in March) at the bottom of the barrels. Because the leftover Marzen beer at the bottom of the barrel was aged much longer than the rest, the beer became much darker and stronger referred to as Dunkel.

Later, these Fall agricultural Volksfests (People’s Fairs) are 100s of years older than the Modern Oktoberfest which sprung out of a marriage celebration for crown prince Ludwig in 1810.  It wasn’t until around 1850, however, that beer tents started to really pop up in abundance at Oktoberfest.  In 1887 the local brewers got even more involved in Oktoberfest by adding a large parade, expanding their influence, and shortly after started building mega tents.  Since then, what was once more of an Agricultural festival has grown into a state-fair-like collection of dozens of beer tents holding 1000s of drinkers a piece.

In comparison to Spring Marzen beer we mentioned above, the darkened beer left in the barrels from the celebrated Fall brewing season is called Bock and is traditionally served in the Winter.

Another factor that made the beer popular at Oktoberfest was the quality in Munich.  Bavarian Beer Purity Laws kicked in starting in 1516 which has ensured Munich’s beer is consistently great.

Other Major Drinking Events In Munich:

You’ll find plenty of other festivals centered around drinking in Munich.  The other highlights include the Strong Beer Festival (Starkbierzeit) each March where the extra strong Doppelbock beer has been featured since the 1600s.  This festival is very much like Oktoberfest as everyone dresses up in traditional clothing, uses communal benches, sings to music.  The biggest difference outside of the beer itself is that instead of glass Maß, you will drink out of one-liter ceramic steins called Keferloher.

May Day celebrations are also a ton of fun as it is when the year’s first batches of Marzen (March) beer is tapped.  The festivities for May Day also have a lot of dancing around the May Pole.  Our favorite May Day celebration is probably the 2-week long Münchner Frühlingsfest which centered around May 1st each year and is known as Oktoberfest’s little sister.  This Spring festival is huge and has been taking place on the same grounds of Oktoberfest since 1964.  It is complete with carnival rides and huge beer tents, some the same ones from Oktoberfest.

The Other Oktoberfests:

The Gäubodenvolksfest in Straubing, Germany is considered the other Oktoberfest.  It runs in mid-August instead of September, is celebrated by the whole city in a big beer tent, and is called the 5th Season by locals.

During the 3rd or 4th weekend of September each year, Salzburg also has their famous Saint Rupert’s Festival.  It isn’t on the same grand scale is still awesome if you are in the area as the entire city comes to life with lederhosen and dirndls.  Likewise, Vienna also has their own version of Oktoberfest starting at the end of September.