The moment that I first walked into the Hofbrau Haus tent, I knew I was going to like it.
It was opening day of Oktoberfest in Munich. PubClub.com had press passes from Tourism Munich and the press was allowed to go inside ahead of the crowd outside. We were being “chased” by an oompha band that was marching into the place, and they were not going to stop, so we had to dash in through the doors and squeeze against a wall to avoid being trampled.
Our plan was for me to head to the station and get a photo of the barmaids carrying those giant mugs – the visual postcard of Oktoberfest – while my associate sprinted for the middle of the building to take a picture of the mayor tapping the first keg.
But before this could be accomplished, there was cause for immediate pause. After avoiding the band, I took a moment to look behind me. The beer hall was already full of people sitting at tables. In fact, there were people as far as they eye could see. At two levels! It was 11 o’clock on a Saturday morning and were all awaiting service from the barmaids.
To describe this, I could only think of one thing: “My gosh, it’s beer drinker’s heaven!,” I exclaimed out loud, to no one in particular.
And that proved to be a phrase that I said time and time again during my five days and nights at Oktoberfest in Munich.
Munich’s Oktoberfest turned out to be everything I had envisioned it being: A massive party with people singing and holding up huge beer mugs, barmaids in outfits holding eight, 10 sometimes even 12 mugs in their fists delivering them to thirst patrons and an all-out fun, happening, lively atmosphere.
Without question, the most fun place to be is the Hofbrau Haus. That’s because it’s about the only place that does not require you to be seated to be served a beer. Yes, at the other “tents” – these things are the size of huge airplane hangers, to the term of tents hardly describes their massive footprint – you do have to find a seat at a long picnic table in order to get a beer.
It’s a good way to meet new people but does take a bit of effort on opening weekend to actually find a spot. It’s also important – very important – to get in good with the barmaid who brings the beer. If she doesn’t like you, she will kick you out and replace you with someone more to her liking. They are busy, those mugs are heavy and they are in no mood for putting up with any crap. Fortunately, our PR skills were sharp and we were loved by all servers.
The music in the beer halls just invites partying. We Americans laughed when the entire beer hall would sing to one of the most frequently-played songs, John Denver’s West Virginia song, Country Roads. “Country Roads, Take me home, To the Place I Belong, West Virginia…”
We couldn’t quite figure out what that song was so popular, but what the heck, right? It’s a great singalong with swaying beer mugs. My favorite beer-swaying, group singing one is the “Ein Prosit” song.
The beer tents open at 11 in the morning and close at 11 at night. It’s hard to define a “peak” time, but it does pick up as daytime falls into nighttime. The most fun place is the center of the Hofbrau Haus where people from all over the world are standing and singing together in what can only be described as one happy scene.
So if you like beer and being around fun people, then by all means go to Oktoberfest in Munich. All those smaller ones at cities around the USA held every October are good, but nothing – and I mean absolutely nothing – compares to the real thing.