On Saturday a couple of weeks ago, I ventured out to my very first Oktoberfest. I’m a dedicated beer drinker and I was keen to experience more of the culture that spawned some of my favourite biers. And wowee, Brisbane Oktoberfest was an eye-opener!
One of my girlfriends is an honourary German girl – she lived there for seven years and also met and married a lovely German boy. She’s fluent in all things German and so when she suggested we have a girls’ night out at Oktoberfest we all jumped at the chance. Experiencing Oktoberfest with our very own German translator!
Having never been before, I was probably a little naive in my expectations. I think I thought there would be more things showcasing German culture – beyond the obvious feature of German beers, that is. Obviously beer is the star (and rightly so) but I think I was expecting more – theatre, art, movies, music, that sort of thing, which I would probably have ignored. However, there was an Oompah band there showcasing German tunes (and by that, I mean German drinking songs). When we walked into the main tent and the band was in full swing, belting out German songs, some smart-arse quipped: “I see why the Germans embraced David Hasselhoff”. (Yes, it was me). German drinking songs are something of an acquired taste, methinks.
As soon as we arrived, any thoughts that this might be a highbrow evening of cultural learning were quickly dispelled. Girls dressed in bum-cheek revealing dirndles, knee-high socks and sky-high heels tottered around drunkenly, clutching steins and slopping beer everywhere. Men ambled along in imitation lederhosen and jaunty hats, slurping from their plastic steins and leering at the drunken girls. Meine freundin tut-tutted and muttered sadly about the travesty of these costumes. We wandered past a girl vomiting onto her sky high shoes while her male companion stood beside her gazing into space. We saw a handful of men being escorted out by police, one in handcuffs. Even by 7pm there were clear signs the locals had indulged to excess.
Festival of fun
While it all sounds a bit grim to start, initial impressions are deceptive. There was a real carnival atmosphere and everyone was having fun. Aside from those who’d taken it a bit far, there were still hundreds and hundreds who were enjoying the atmospheric event. In fact, those initial incidents didn’t do anything to create a debaucherous, overdone feeling. Rather, it was full of bonhomie.
We lined up to buy our drink tokens and, for a minute were a bit perplexed. How many $10 tokens should we buy? Three sounds too few, 10 too many. We settled on five and forked out $50 each. (Tip for next year: three steins of beer are very, very filling! Four are somewhat challenging the laws of physics and were our uncomfortable limit. One token went to waste because we simply could fit no more into our beer-filled bellies).
The bier, the blessed bier
And with a great amount of gleeful anticipation I grabbed my plastic stein and headed to the beer tent. Hubby and I are both lovers of German beer, and have some experience under our belts of biers (that’s not a typo, it’s German for beer. See, I learned lots!). And we had spent the previous weekend doing homework and drinking German beers from Dan Murphy’s. We drank Lowenbrau, Paulaner, Spaten and Hacker-Pschorr. We were both already quite fond of the Weihenstephaner, preferring it to the other notable German beer on the Dan Murphy’s shelf, the Schofferhofer (which we found to be inferior in flavour to the Weihenstephaner). So to say I was geared up for the beer tent was an understatement!
The girls – a group of six of us – found a table within view of the main tent, but outside which was a bit quieter, allowing us to have a conversation easily. My first beer was a Tucher, an authentic bier I’d never tried before. It went down pretty quickly and I found it to be a mild, pleasant wheat beer. It was lovely. But it lacked the flavour punch I was expecting though and ruled it out as a repeat.
My second beer was a dark beer and I really enjoyed this one. It had a mellow, malty kind of flavour and was delicious. The steins were quite big too, and so by the time I got to the bottom of this one I was feeling the effects a little bit. But it was delicious.
I spent some time in Ireland in my 20s and developed quite the taste for stout beer, usually Guinness or McCaffreys. So I often look at dark beers and expect them to be stout-like. This dark beer (and I confess, I can’t recall the name of this one, but I’m making enquiries) wasn’t a stout. But it was delicious. Very, very delicious.
By the time I’d finished this one – my second litre of beer – I thought I’d better go and try some delicious German food, lest things get a bit messy.
Meine freundin (that there is some more German language – it means ‘my friend’) recommended a cheese kransky, which I’d never had before but certainly sounded promising. I mean, it had cheese in the title, so it was already a winner in my view.
The cheese kransky
If you’ve never had a cheese kransky take my word for it, you’ve missed one of life’s little pleasures. Well, not so little, actually. It’s spektakular! And this one, from The German Sausage Hut, seemed to be the best that a cheese kransky could possibly be. Improvement not possible. I mean, check it out. It is a smokey, spicy sausage infused with small cubes of cheese melted throughout, nestling in a freshly baked crusty roll (it was still warm!). On top of this, I piled sauerkraut, mustard and sauce. Unbelievably good. I could really embrace this German culture! (Wiki tells me the cheese kransky is actually Polish, rather than German. Hmmm… Will check with meine freundin). Ever since my experience with the kransky I’ve been keen to repeat it and have learned that The German Sausage Hut operates out of the Farmers Markets at the Powerhouse. Am planning to go to my first farmers market soon!
My family is off on a camping trip next week with meine freundin and her family, (and two additional girlfriends and their families) and meine freundin has promised to bring cheese kranskies. I’m ridiculously excited. I mean, I shouldn’t be looking forward to these things that much. They’re really fattening and unhealthy.
But they’re sooooooooo good!
The warm pretzel (or brezel)
O’ warm pretzel, how I love thee! To keep things on an even keel, as we embraced the German beers, we girls snacked on warm pretzels. One of life’s mysteries is how the word pretzel can be applied to so many widely varying products. I mean, you get those crunchy chip-like pretzels in a foil packet in the supermarket, such as Parkers Pretzels, but aside from the shape, they bear no resemblance whatsoever to the giant, warm, chewy, crusty pretzels you can buy at Oktoberfest or from street vendors in New York City.
Anyway, if I had prayed for the perfect warm pretzel (brezel) and God wanted to answer my prayers I would find myself holding a brezel from King of Cakes. I swear, it was delicious. The crust was chewy, with a tangy salty sprinkling on it. The dough was divine. Manna from heaven. If I believed in heaven. I wanted to photograph it, but I ate it. All three of them, actually. And then I had a cinnamon stick, also from King of Cakes. Yeah, I pretty much made a pig of myself with all the food. German food is really good. I did not know that. Even the sauerkraut was tasty, which I was not expecting!
Luckily for me, meine freundin‘s husband – the lovely German boy she married and brought back with her – just happens to work at King of Cakes. Good news for me, bad news for my waistline. But I digress…
Back to the beer
By now the beers had settled and the threat of the wobbly boot had someone abated. I was ready to embrace the third and final beer on offer. The Schofferhofer. As mentioned previously, I have had the Schofferhofer before and while I prefer the Weihenstephaner, the Schofferhofer is still a mighty fine beer and for my money was easily the best beer of the day. We enjoyed two Schofferhofers and as midnight neared the Oompah Band veered away from German drinking songs and launched into 99 Luftballons. At last! A song I could sing along to! We hit the dancefloor and tried to burn even a tiny fraction of the calories we’d inhaled over the past five hours. Then it was over.
Hubby is a home brewer and often waxes lyrical about the differences between various yeasts, beer varieties and origins. And if I listened to him I’d be able to write more knowledgeably about wheat beers, lagers, ales and dark beers. I’d be able to put Oktoberfest in a more intellectual context. I actually listen to him, but don’t really remember what he says.
So, suffice to say, Oktoberfest was an awesome night. I had a TON of fun with my besties and we had a ball. We drank, ate, gossiped, laughed and we even danced to the real, live oompah band. It was a hoot and if you’re ever wondering if Oktoberfest is worth the effort, it totally is. Prost! (That’s some more German language – it means ‘cheers’).
Right, any questions?