My Trip to Oktoberfest Was Canceled — Here’s How I Celebrated at Home

Turns out Munich is only as far as the fridge.

Vanessa Wilkins at Oktoberfest in Munich, Vanessa Wilkins at Home
Photo: Courtesy of Vanessa Wilkins

Like the majority of annual events held around the world, Oktoberfest 2020 looked very different this year.

The world-renowned festival, which was founded in Munich in 1810 to celebrate a royal wedding, is now an annual celebration of Bavarian culture, with beer being hallmark of the festivities. Oktoberfest had not been canceled since World War II, but due to the pandemic, the German government had no choice but to cancel this year’s celebration and hold a much smaller-scale event to avoid the large crowds.

Last year, I attended Oktoberfest for the first time with my mom. We were excited not only for the festival, but also to spend time with my mom’s sister Jenny, who lives in Munich. Jenny showed us around the city, taught us the German word for toast (prost!), and introduced us to the German drink Radler, which is essentially a mixture of beer and lemonade. I had such a fun time at Oktoberfest last year and couldn’t wait to return in 2020 — and then came COVID-19.

When my trip was canceled due to the pandemic, I was understandably bummed out. However, I realized that just because the official Oktoberfest celebration was canceled didn’t mean I couldn’t still celebrate. So I took matters into my own hands and began to plan my own virtual Oktoberfest.

With a mix of virtual events, online recipes and music playlists, and of course, Oktoberfest-style beer, I created my own weeklong Oktoberfest at Home. Here’s what I did to celebrate — and what you can do to recreate Oktoberfest any time of the year.

Day 1

For my Oktoberfest kick-off, I looked to Paulaner, one of Munich’s most popular breweries, for guidance. Paulaner is one of the six official beers served in the Oktoberfest tents, and this year, the brewery pulled out all the stops for a virtual celebration, including zoom and desktop backgrounds, a stacked Spotify playlist, and do-it-yourself decorations.

Paulaner USA livestreamed a traditional keg-tapping ceremony on their Instagram, and hosted a clever “Follow the Liter” campaign on Instagram, where fans had the chance to win a number of prizes. I kicked off my Oktoberfest at Home with Paulaner’s limited edition 1 Liter can and mug gift set, and it almost made me feel like I was back at Theresienwiese.

Day 2:

One of the things I love the most about Oktoberfest is the live music performed in each of the beer tents. For my at-home extravaganza, watching a live band was a must-have, which is why I tuned into Sierra Nevada’s “Haus Party,” on YouTube. The hour-long set featured performances by the Polka Brothers and the Empire Strikes Brass.

Sierra Nevada typically celebrates Oktoberfest with an annual seasonal brew, but this year they turned it up a notch by releasing an entire host of activities in addition to their special brew. Along with the Haus Party livestream, I kept the party going with the California brewer’s at-home party pack, traditional Bavarian recipes, and online games.

Day 3

I settled down on my couch with some beer and bratwurst for a beer-themed movie marathon. Videos in my queue included the Wiesn-inspired comedy “Beerfest,” as well as documentaries “Beerland,” “Beers of Joy,” and of course, the rom-com “Drinking Buddies.”

Day 4

One of the most unique things I remember from visiting Munich last year was watching a yodeling performance just outside of the fairgrounds. While I could have learned the basics from yodeling sensation Cassidy Rose Graves, I decided to leave the yodeling to the pros and sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed a beer while watching Rose Graves’ mesmerizing TikTok videos.

Day 5

It’s Wine Wednesday! While Oktoberfest is traditionally associated with beer, you may be surprised to learn that there is actually wine served at the festival as well. The Kuffler Weinzelt tent serves traditional bavarian wines as well as sparkling wine and champagne. I enjoyed my wine with the Narwhal Imperial Stout Pot De Creme from Sierra Nevada’s Oktoberfest recipes.

Day 6

On day six I combined beer and education with a virtual tasting hosted by Anheuser-Busch. The “German-toberfest” beer tasting was hosted online by Mick O’Halloran, Robb Jeffrey, and Master Cicerone Max Bakker, and coverd four different Oktoberfest-style beers. I not only learned about flavor profiles, but also learned how to make the perfect pour as well as expanding my tasting vocabulary.

Day 7

For my final Oktoberfest celebration, I commemorated the occasion with my own little closing ceremony. I dressed up in my traditional dirndl, turned on the German toasting song “Ein Prosit” one last time, and said cheers to a successful Oktoberfest at Home.

While a “fake-toberfest” will never beat the energy and camaraderie of the actual Munich festival, it’s still a fun way to celebrate through virtual events and activities available at home. As the saying goes, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. Well, coronavirus handed me lemons and I made radlers. Prost!

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