OKTOBERFEST through the eyes of a tourist-restaurateur

I am not a big beer lover… I drink it several times a year, but I am well up in this drink, have some experience of working at «Herforder» plant («WahrsteinerGroup»), that’s why beer in its motherland is the best thing ever!

This year it was the sixth time that I visited my favourite festival in Munich, the biggest food fest in the world.

How much is the entrance to Oktoberfest? How much is a glass of beer? It is possible to drink beer outside the pavilions? Is it possible to have something tasty at Oktoberfest?

Where does Oktoberfest take place? What sort of beer is the tastiest at Oktoberfest? What is the difference between the sorts of beer from different breweries? Where else to go besides Oktoberfest? What interesting restaurants are there in Munich? What are the prices at Oktoberfest?

The answer to these and many other questions has been found!

This year “Oktoberfest” took place from September, 16 till October, 4. This prolonged period of work is connected with the transfer of days off on the occasion of The Day of German Unity (or “The Wall”) celebrations on October, 3. Monday and Tuesday were days off, so the festival didn’t finish on the first Sunday of October, as usual, but only on Wednesday.

We got there on Friday and experienced a hot weekend in all senses. In this report I am trying to describe Oktoberfest through the eyes of a tourist and a restaurateur.

Every time I start Oktoberfest with a small “warm up” in the city centre. I want just to sit for a while and eat some tasty ham hock with beer.

After all these years I defined “Hofbräuhaus” as a perfect place for me. The establishment is more than 600 years old, there is even a table where Hitler liked to sit, at the entrance there is a mini museum and cupboards with loyal Guests’ personal glasses. I implemented this very idea in one of my beer projects “Karabas Barabas” (Lutsk).

My classic order is a ham hock and some beer. During the festival the beer is served in one-litre strong glasses, that can’t be broken no matter how hard you clink them with your friend.

The ham hock served in “Hofbräuhaus“ is special for its incredible succulence and tough crisp. Sometimes you chew it for a long time, but that’s what gives it its value.

As a restaurateur I can say that it’s hard to create any wonderful marinade for ham hock. You marinate it, boil (or stew) it a bit and then you roast it. The process is rather simple. But the final stage shows the secret and the skills. With the help of shock roasting on a spit on a vertical coal oven, this incredible crisp is achieved. But even not in all German establishments it’s made like that.

As for the establishments in our country, it is the crisp that causes the main disappointment, as it is often like some hot aspic.

So, the ham hock is at the high level as usual, the beer is the tastiest, so our culinary grade is “5”!

Some small drawbacks that we noticed (dirty toilets, cheap soap dispensers, dirty furniture and tables, stuffy halls and the absence of ventilating) didn’t affect out festive mood.

We set the goal to taste all 6 Oktoberfest sorts of beer produced by the most famous breweries that are allowed to produce beer for this festival: Paulaner, Spaten, Hofbräu, Augustiner, Löwenbräu, Hacker Pschorr.

Our aim was to feel the atmosphere in every tent, taste and compare the menus, and also to find out the difference between the sorts.

Besides, we managed to try some Bavarian authentic beer called “Andechs Bier” (one of the Bavarians’ favourite sort), the most popular white beer in Germany “Franziskaner”.

Also, in order to find any place to sit we visited some interesting conceptual venues called “Paulanerim Tal” and “Sсhnitzelwirt”.

The Oktoberfest atmosphere is maximum festive. The square itself, where the main festival activities take place, is a huge Disneyland for adults, where the breweries’ big tents are located as well.

The festival also has its secret places. As we were told by some local festival frequenters, there is the old festival closed territory on the Meadow with the paid entrance. The locals call it Oide Wiesen. It’s near the Ferris wheel.

The older locals mainly go there, and everything is made with the maximum authenticity there: from merry-go-rounds to music.

The beer of three sorts is presented there: Spaten, Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr. It’s served in one litre and half litre clay cups there.

The locals call one litre beer a “Maß”.

The service deserves the grade “4” with a minus, or even less. But just imagine the crowd! The waiters (but frankly speaking not all) attract with their hospitality! There are some incidents that often happen in our venues: “That’s not my zone!”, “Don’t you see how many orders I have?” and so on.

The music in Oide Wiesen is not that cheerful too. While in classic tents modern hit cover versions are played, here you will hear only brass bands playing folk motives.

The view of Oktoberfest from the Ferris wheel is fascinating. 150-200 thousand visitors every day – it’s really incredible indeed!

The choice in all pavilions is practically the same: sausages, ham hocks, duck and chicken meat, trimmings (dumplings, cabbage), cold cuts. The assortment was formed for years, and of course you can buy whatever you want. You will not see any “New” signs on the menu.

The atmosphere in the tents is incredible: people from all over the world make friends easily (it’s fostered by the strong beer, of course), dance on tables and benches; join in singing world hits in live performance.

The waiters are friendly and make contact easily, allow taking photos… no wonder! The average tip for each glass of beer is 1 euro and more! And they bring out hundreds or even thousands of it every day!

By the way, beer is 10,80 euro for a Maß (1 litre). Even the most greedy people don’t take 80 cents back…

One more peculiarity is that being a waiter at Oktoberfest is a family tradition. It’s practically unreal to get a job here. The places were occupied long time ago by the previous generations. All the waiters are grownups (30 and older).

It was very interesting for me, as a restaurateur, to observe the process of beer and dishes distribution. Beer actually flows in rivers. The tap is never closed, only glasses, which are brought up from washing by a conveyor, are put under it.

Before leaving the service area with beer and dishes, the waiter stops near the controller who registers the order in a Keeper.

The money is paid at once near the table. The waiter has a bag on the waist (so called “Banana”) and a mobile terminal. The waiter is also a cashier.

By the way, if you want it very much, you can sing on the stage. I remember that about three years ago a 50 euro bribe helped us sing from the stage…

Such a beer party… and at the exit the same adult Disneyland is waiting for you, and being a bit drunk after visiting the tent you find the attractions much more inviting and you are opened to adventures…

Here, among the attractions, beer and food keep “chasing” you. There are various kiosks with nuts, sausages, sandwiches and even sweets. The most popular beer in the street kiosks is white «Paulaner».

OTHER VENUES WITH TASTY FOOD

Having visited Munich 6 times, I didn’t manage to visit all the venues… but the places that I find very atmospheric are “Richart” confectionaries. The most impressive is the one on the central square called Marienplatz with the view on Mariendom and Dancing Clock.

There is a feeling that the time stops and you breathe in the flavour of fresh bakery and coffee… I like this place very much and this is where I start every morning in Munich, on the summer terrace with Richart Klassiker classic breakfast and a chocolate croissant.

Germany, owing to its considerable Turkish and Arabic population, is famous for its kebabs. But they are tasty not in all places. This is like borshch cooked by various mistresses: it seems that they take frozen meat at the same place, and the sauces are the same, and the recipes as well, but the result is different.

The tastiest kebab (or shawarma) in Munich, I guarantee, is in the establishment called Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebab near the Karlsplatz metro station.

The feature of the venue is a vegetarian kebab with grilled vegetables. But also there are the classic ones with meat (mix of chicken and beef).

Constant queue of 20-30 people from the opening till night shows the popularity and is the quality mark of the venue.

4 funny Turks make kebabs with knives incredibly quickly! They are extremely tasty and substantial!!!

According to my calculation they make up to 800-1000 kebabs daily. It’s not good to count other people’s money, but it looks like the turnover of this tiny kiosk is 4000 euro a day…

The guys themselves are not very sociable, but they make their kebabs tasty and straight from their hearts.

Also some tasty and authentic ham hocks are served in the oldest “ham hock” restaurant of Munich – “Haxenbauer” which is not far from “Hofbräuhaus”. The spit with roasted ham hocks behind the central window attracts right from the entrance.

The venue is loved by the locals.

One of the features is that when you order a ham hock, they bring you several of them so that you could choose. They are already weighed and priced. They are cut when being served.

It’s interesting that they also cook beef ham hocks. But they are, as for me, a bit dry and have no crisp. Not that good…

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE SORTS OF BEER

We tried all 6 sorts of Oktoberfest beer, and frankly speaking we felt no difference.

It’s lager, a bit fortified, light beer. Cooled to the same temperature, has the same thick foam and moderate bitterness (that’s obviously not Pils).

The main difference of German beer from our beer is the lightness in drinking. That’s because of the water. The Alpine water is less “enriched” with minerals and heavy compounds than ours. That’s why it’s better for drinking and assimilating.

I have some experience of participating in negotiations concerning the opening of “Wahrsteiner” beer sub-production in our region. So, everything was suitable: the plant, the equipment (an old brewery was being sold), but the conclusion concerning the water was the following: “No beer can be brewed in this water”. That’s what Germans told. And we drink and are happy…

THE RESTAURATEUR’S CONCLUSIONS

There is a good saying: the victors are not judged. No matter how much we would want to find fault with the ventilation, service, pay toilets and venues’ cleanness in Munich during Oktoberfest, they are overcrowded, people are happy in them and their turnovers are hundreds thousands of euro daily.

The “Oktoberfest” beer tastes the same everywhere. That must be because of the universality of its taste. The recipe was settled for centuries.

There is no problem trying other sorts of beer. At the entrance to any establishment there is a board telling what sort of beer is served in it.

The choice of food is similar as well. But the food is cooked in different ways. Must try: ham hock (Haxe), white sausages with mustard (Münchner Bratwurst) and grilled chicken (Hendl).

Breakfast and bakery – only at Richart. Kebab – at Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebab. But if you want something more original – taste some roasted chestnuts at Heiße Maroni. I didn’t try that, but in the streets it smells tasty…