The World Through Beer Goggles: Oktoberfests Everywhere!
People just can’t get enough of Oktoberfest—from shouting out “Zigga-zagga zigga-zagga hoy hoy hoy!” and singing, “Ein Prosit, ein Prosit, gemutlichkeit!” endlessly (and endlessly, and…) to doing the Chicken Dance while drinking beer with Homer Simpson. Or is it just me?
The original Oktoberfest, in Munich (above), kicks off this Saturday, September 19, and runs through October 4. But if you can’t be in Germany this year because you’re traveling, chances are pretty good there’s an Oktoberfest celebration wherever you’ll be. Here, some of the more interesting fall beer-fests in some unlikely locations:
Philippines: Multiple cities, September 4 – October 9, 2009
Cynics might say an Oktoberfest sponsored by a single brewery is just a shameless marketing ploy to get people to sit around for hours at a time sampling the company’s wide array of beers. To which I would reply, “And your point is…?” In addition to its regular brews at this year’s events, San Miguel Brewery will offer the limited-edition Oktoberfest Beer. The sponsor’s 30 street parties in key cities kicked off on September 4. Other events include “house-to-house raids,” bar tours, and a five-day-a week, monthlong television game show in October. Highlight: The only Oktoberfest on earth that, apparently, has absolutely nothing traditional about it—no polka dancing, no roast chicken, no oompah music, no weisswurst, no fake lederhosen costumes.
Blumenau, Brazil: October 1-18, 2009
At 18 days long, this is one serious Oktoberfest. More than half a million visitors are expected at this year’s event. And why not? This charming town full of Germanic architecture, founded by German immigrants in 1850, still has a sizable number of German-speakers who cling to their Old World traditions. It even has a beer museum, for crying out loud. The city’s 26th annual Oktoberfest will be staged in a recreated German Village called the Vila Parque Germanica. Beer-drinking contests abound. There will be a traditional biergarten, parades, and dances. This rates an 11 on the Authenticity Scale. Highlight: Free beer distributed from a wagon in the city center each afternoon.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: October 6-11, 2009
What Ho Chi Minh City’s Oktoberfest lacks in the way of lederhosen is made up for by its sheer energy. The Windsor Plaza’s Jade Ballroom is the stand-in for Munich’s Theresienwiese (the field where the beer tents are erected each year), filled with the Munich city colors of blue and white, Oktoberfest posters, and long wooden tables and benches as you would find in the beer halls of Germany. Dancing is called for: the crowd will be zigga-zagga’d by the authentic sounds of Trenkwalder. Amazingly, Oktoberfest has been celebrated here since 1992. Last year’s event attracted 10,000 people who drank an estimated 10,000 liters of beer. To which we say, you can do better than that! Mot, hai, ba, Prosit! (One, two, three, cheers!) Highlight: Vietnamese desserts washed down with all-you-can-drink Schneider Weisse beer.
Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, Canada: October 9-17, 2009
The German roots in these twin towns go deep. Not only do Kitchener and Waterloo boast a number of German-speaking citizens, but Kitchener was formerly named Berlin. Oktoberfest here is one of the largest outside Germany, with more than 700,000 guests expected this year. Events will be spread across 15 individual Festhallen throughout the region, including those sponsored by the Alpine Club (“Famous for our Apple Strudel”), Altes Muenchen Haus (“Home to Canada’s Polka King”), and the Jodler Haus, with an unexpectedly Swiss take on the affair (“Enjoy yodeling and cowbells”). Highlight: One of the largest selections of Oktoberfest souvenirs, including steins, hats, clothes, pins and buttons, and home decorations (for those of you who like to decorate your home with Oktoberfest souvenirs), sold at the festival headquarters, Hans Haus.
Lima, Peru: October 15-18, 2009
Launched in 2002, the Lima Oktoberfest (above) takes place under a massive tent in the city’s VIDENA sports complex. The stage will be rockin’ with oompah music, beer-drinking contests, schuhplattler dancing, and alpenhorn trios. (But don’t worry, you can step outside for a few minutes when they whip out the alpenhorns.) A special Oktoberfest brew of Cusqueña beer will be on tap, which will likely lead to another Oktoberfest tradition—dancing on the tables. The event has proved so popular that a sister beer fest has started up in Cuzco. Highlight: A polka band playing “La Bamba” may sound weird, but somehow, in Lima, it works.
Bangalore, India: October 23-25, 2009
The organizers of the fifth Great Indian October Fest have promised “a safe environment for the entire family,” but personally I think you should go anyway. October Fest (for some reason the organizers have declined to use the traditional spelling) is held on the grounds of Bangalore Palace. The festival features rock bands, flea markets, a car show, a beer tent, and food that reflects the traditions of both Bangalore and Bavaria. Highlight: Bangalore Palace itself, said to have been modeled on England’s Windsor Castle.
Mark Orwoll is the international editor at Travel + Leisure.