Oktoberfest is the largest beer festival in the world.
Each year, around six million visitors descend on Munich to drink more than six million litres of beer over the course of three weeks.
But what a lot of foreigners don’t know about Oktoberfest, apart from the fact that it mostly takes place in September, is that it’s still a very cultural, very local celebration, with only 15% of attendees coming from outside of Germany.
A full 70% of visitors come from Bavaria, the southeastern German state where Munich is located.
Oktoberfest is emulated the world over, but its imitators are rarely authentic.
So when I, a seasoned Oktoberfest veteran and Munich native, saw that Zum Schneider, the New York restaurant that taught us how to pour beer like a German, was setting up an authentic beer tent for their own Oktoberfest, I decided to see how it compared to the real thing.
Zum Schneider set up a giant tent along the water to celebrate its annual 'Munich on the East River,' which they say is the largest Oktoberfest celebration in New York City.
Sylvester Schneider, owner of Zum Schneider restaurant and the man behind the event, took the stage with his band, Mösl Franzi and the Ja Ja Ja's.
The band played typical German Oktoberfest music. Initially, this weeded out the German revelers from the rest, but towards the end of the night everyone was singing, whether they knew the words or not.
The only beer served at the real Oktoberfest are those made by Munich's six breweries: Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu München, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, and Spaten-Franziskaner. While this one had some of those beers on tap, like Hofbräu Festbier and Paulaner Wiesn, some impostors, like Andechs, snuck in. We'll let that slide.
The food was also typically German -- there was rotisserie chicken, bratwurst, obatzda, and giant pretzels. All of it was delicious.
I can't speak for this dude, but my waitress spoke German and had a typically efficient and no-nonsense attitude that made me feel right at home.
Candy apples might seem odd to an outsider, but it's a nod to the real Oktoberfest, which has hundreds of stalls selling candied fruit and apples.
Gingerbread hearts that say 'I love you' and 'Greetings from Oktoberfest'in German are also an Oktoberfest mainstay.
While the tent, which fit around 1,000 people, was only a fraction of the size of those found in Munich (which can fit up to 11,000), they were decked out in genuine German beer benches and raised VIP areas that are typical for the real festival.
Despite Hurricane Joaquin wreaking havoc that night -- it was rainy, cold, and miserable -- hundreds of people showed up and clearly enjoyed themselves.
However, it was still easy to spot the non-German by their, uh, non-traditional garb. Real Germans would never wear a dirndl that hit above the knee, or one that was shiny and neon-coloured. But it's the thought that counts.
You could also tell German from non-German by how they held their mass. This, for instance, is not how you hold it.
And this is how you cheers correctly -- with the bottom. And don't ever forget to make eye contact! In Germany, not making eye contact means seven years of bad sex, and it's taken very seriously.
Waiters had their hands full. This was a good effort, though nothing compared to those in Munich, who carry around 10 masses per trip. The record, in case you're wondering, is 27.
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