The History of Oktoberfest

October 4, 2017


Whether you’re a fan of parties, revelry, or craft beer, Ontario’s Oktoberfest is a faithful celebration of everything iconic about the Munich original. In both cities, the celebration erupts with music, fresh-baked pretzels, and sparkling amber brews. While the Ontario iteration is relatively new, the Munich volksfest is positively soaked in history. Founded upon the spirit of celebration and refined by a passionate community, the history of Oktoberfest is one well worth knowing.


The History of Oktoberfest


Ontario is famous for its massive celebration in October, but few people actually know how the Bavarian festival came to be. As with many of history’s best parties, Oktoberfest started with a royal marriage. On October 12th, 1810, Prince Ludwig I of Bavaria married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The entire town of Munich was invited to celebrate on the fields that stretched out in front of the city gates, and the festivities included beer, dancing, and horse races. When the event was repeated the following year, the Oktoberfest tradition officially began. In Munich, Oktoberfest still takes place on the same city fields (called Theresienwiese in honor of the princess) that hosted the original 1810 celebration over 200 years ago.


Simple Celebration to Massive Party: Oktoberfest Evolves


While the main reason for the 1811 Oktoberfest came from the popularity of the previous year’s horse races, organizers introduced an Agricultural Show to help promote and highlight the natural bounty of Bavaria. By 1818, revelers could enjoy a carousel and swing sets after refreshing themselves with beer from a small drink cart. As the number of visitors grew, so did the need to accommodate them, leading to the introduction of beer halls and tents in 1896. Munich’s local breweries, like Augustiner-Bräu, both supplied and ran these events. Many of these original breweries still serve Munich-made beer today.


Why is Oktoberfest in September?


While the initial celebration took place in October, modern Oktoberfest in Munich begins much earlier. Brisk winds rolling down off the Alps can lead to cold weather and occasional snow in October, so the festival instead begins around the middle of September and ends by the first Sunday of October.  This simple change allows guests to enjoy the warmer air and walk around the Theresienweise (or Wiesn, as the locals call it) for a longer period of time.


Join in the Fun of Oktoberfest!


Ontario hosts the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest, which began in 1969. Today, it boasts the title of the largest Bavarian festival in North America, and this year, it kicks off on October 6th. You can buy your own tickets to the event, or you can pick up a couple growlers of beer, brewed according to traditional German styles and recipes, from our very own boutique craft beer brewery. We’re nestled right in the heart of downtown New Hamburg, and true to the spirit of celebration, we always have exciting new events on the horizon, like our free contest to be a brewer for a day and our upcoming Anniversary Celebration.


Whether you’re coming to get fuel for your own Oktoberfest or just popping by for a break from the festivities, we say: Willkommen! O’zapft is!

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