When autumn sweeps in and we start to feel that little nip in the morning and evening air, many people turn to thoughts of the boisterous oompah bands, overflowing foamy steins, and traditional costumes of Oktoberfest -- a festival of beer and Bavarian heritage that takes place during the two and a half weeks of late September and early October. The authentic Oktoberfest happens in Munich, Germany and has become one of the world’s most recognizable celebrations.
We see reminders of it in seasonal beer selections that start to show up in stores in late August and displays at the grocery stores showing a wide selection of traditional German foods associated with the festival. Unless you go to Munich every year (if only!), you’re probably used to recreating the festival by serving German beer and some of the traditional foods at a family party. This year, since Munich’s Oktoberfest is cancelled because of the CoronaVirus, I feel like it’s even more important to keep the traditions alive, albeit in a much smaller fashion.
From schweinebraten (roast pork) to Käsespätzle (cheese noodles), there are so many delicious German dishes that you could make at home, but for me, all I need are warm, soft Bavarian pretzels (homemade or frozen work) with a rich, cheesy spread, bratwurst with sauerkraut, warm German potato salad, and of course, maybe most importantly, BEER! 😉
No Oktoberfest celebration is complete without Bavarian pretzels with Obatzda cheese spread, a spiced cheese-butter spread made with aged soft cheese, like Camembert, mixed with butter, a small amount of beer, and spices including paprika, salt, pepper and garlic. Try this Bellisari’s cheese spread recipe to bring a personal touch to the party, made with Dijon mustard along with beer, garlic, cheddar cheese, Bellisari’s Blue Cheese, Honey & Shallot Spread, and, of course, butter, Bellisari’s Blue Beer Cheese is the perfect pretzel accompaniment.
Of the many delicious German sausages, my favorite is probably bratwurst. A crowd pleaser and easy to prepare, brats are a great main course for an Oktoberfest meal. This easy recipe finishes with our mustard-based Saigon Street Sauce. I like to add sauerkraut to bring an authentic German flavor and texture to the best of the wurst!
Add our Warm German Potato Salad to your menu for the perfect traditional side dish. Potatoes, onions, and bacon in a warm tangy sauce will invoke the true taste of the Oktoberfest celebration.
Beer is obviously very important for any Oktoberfest party. Starting in August, you’ll be able to find a number of Oktoberfest-style beers at your local grocery or liquor stores. Grabbing a few six packs of these or other German beers is certainly an option -- especially if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on imported beverages.
However, if you want to create a truly authentic experience, you should buy beer from any of the six Munich breweries that have tents at Oktoberfest. Only these six breweries can produce the official Oktoberfestbier that is served in Munich: Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, and Spaten. Not all Munich breweries ship their Oktoberfest beer worldwide. Currently only Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Paulaner, and Spaten Oktoberfestbier are shipped to the United States.
If you go the imported route and would like to honor tradition further, Spaten should be the first beer opened at your party. Traditionally, the ceremonial barrel-tapping happens at noon on the first Saturday of Oktoberfest. Whether you tap a keg or crack open some bottles, as the host you should be the first to do so and proclaim "O’zapft is!" (It is tapped!).
You should play music at your party. It’s a great way to keep guests entertained and encourage them to get into the spirit of the event. A good mix of traditional oompah and other German tunes should do the trick.
Decorations are important for turning your space into the perfect stage for your Oktoberfest party. Traditional Bavarian blue and white is the most common way to decorate. Hanging a Bavarian flag, banners, streamers, wreaths, or evergreens will add to the Bavarian feel.
However you choose to celebrate Oktoberfest this year, we at Bellisari’s hope you do so safely and responsibly. Fröhliches oktoberfest and prost from all of us at Bellisari’s!