September 18, 2007

Germany’s Oktoberfest — once bitten, twice shy

People often ask me if Munich’s fabled two-week-long Oktoberfest, which begins this year on Sept. 22, is worth attending.    Yes. Every beer lover should experience Oktoberfest once, but there is less reason to do it a second time. Instead, take the food, beer and room Euros necessary for one day at Munich’s Oktoberfest and use it to finance two days in lovely, beer-rich Bamberg.    That said, Oktoberfest is one day in your life that you’ll not regret. In fact, I’ve gone twice, in 1989 and 2004, with the excuse for the latter being my obligation as a beer motor coach tour escort to properly introduce the show to first-timers.    I’ve learned that beer “tents” as such no longer exist at Oktoberfest; rather, a pre-fabricated drinking, dining and entertainment city is erected each September.     A word of warning: Don’t attempt to steal one of those huge, cute beer mugs. They’re watching, and they know all the tricks. You’ll not succeed, and a fine will be levied on the spot. I promise.    In 1989, I rode the U-Bahn to the edge of the Oktoberfest grounds. It was a cool and rainy dusk. Dazed by the grandeur, I worked my way inside from the outer perimeter, passing the carnival rides and soon coming to Paulaner’s beer hall.     At the outer doors, I paused. Absurdly long rows of whole chickens roasted on spits. Signs decreed the price of the liter pours to be six Deutschmarks, 75 pfennigs — or was it 7.10? Women toting anywhere from two to 10 of the deliciously full “Masses” rushed past. There were pretzels the size of Frisbees. An oom-pah band played.     A man staggered past me and vomited violently next to a steel support beam. It felt almost like home.     For more, visit www.oktoberfest.de/en/index.php.Roger Baylor is co-owner of the New Albanian Brewing Co. in New Albany. Visit www.potablecurmudgeon.com for more beer.