Most people today have never known a world without Oktoberfest — the festival draws millions of revelers to Munich, Germany every September. But next month, there will be no lederhosen and dirndl-clad crowds; no cheery oompah music booming from tents; no steins spilling over with amber-hued brews. For the first time since World War II, the largest beer celebration on the planet is canceled.
The disappointing news came during a press conference on April 21, where officials cited the Coronavirus pandemic as the reason “Oktoberfest cannot take place… The risks are simply too high.”
Fortunately, beer aficionados looking to celebrate this September aren’t totally out of options.
Though ongoing COVID-19 shutdowns and social distancing rules mean would-be festival-goers are stuck at home, online retailers like Tavour allow access to a festival’s worth of German-style fall brews. While many stores do tend to stock up on a couple Oktoberfest-themed beer options during the season, Tavour’s app goes further. It allows adventurous beer drinkers (i.e. those who would otherwise be attending beer festivals this time of year) to access selections from across the nation, delivered straight to their doorstep.
One example is Brewery Vivant’s CoqToberfest, a Festbier that bears striking resemblance to those served in Munich’s famous tents. The brewery is in Michigan. Meanwhile from Maryland, Elder Pine Brewing & Blending makes a Festival Lager, done in the style of traditional German Märzens. Among others, Tavour has also partnered with Rahr & Sons Brewing in Texas to offer OAKtoberfest, a Festbier aged in bourbon barrels.
As for food to accompany the arsenal of fall beers on Tavour, Oktoberfest itself has long stuck to simple yet hearty cuisine. At-home revelers would do well to stock up on items like Schweinebraten (roast pork), Würstl (sausages), and of course, a basket full of Brezen (pretzels)!
And, while live music may be out of the question, YouTube provides plenty of music videos to help set the atmosphere. Some Bavarian music bands to check out are The Oompah Band, the Oompah-Delics!, Schwaubapower, and Rehinlander Band. All play the famous music and drinking songs normally heard at Oktoberfest.
For those who’d still like to don some traditional Bavarian-style clothing, there are numerous retailers who offer it online. From Etsy to eBay, there are plenty of colorful dirndls and fun lederhosen options to choose from. There’s also Ernst Licht, an online retailer that actually specializes exclusively in German Fest attire.
Now, while this year’s at-home partiers can always take to social media to share their celebrations with the world, no virtual replacement for Oktoberfest has been announced for this year. This is a stark difference from many beer festivals in the U.S. who have already made the switch. The largest among them, the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), is planning an online model for this October to help cope with their own pandemic losses. Still, GABF runs for three days, and this year’s online version will go for two. By comparison, Oktoberfest traditionally runs for 16 to 18 days — and it attracted over 6 million people last year.
It’s also worth noting that relatively few changes have been made to the Oktoberfest format since it began 210 years ago in celebration of the marriage between Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese. Sure, now there are more tents and attractions than there were back then, but the atmosphere — and the beer — has remained very much the same. So, as long as there’s spirit and beer (which the Tavour app has covered), Oktoberfest 2020 can live on. Even if it is at home this year.