A Beginner's Guide to Oktoberfest

By Jennifer Mclellan @Jennimclellan

Giant jugs of beer, sausages and hordes of tourists / Germans in lederhosen? It must be Oktoberfest, time to don a dirndl and do your best to booze like a Bavarian.

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What's it all about?

Over 200 years ago, a Royal Wedding took place a la Wills n Kate, between Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxony. They threw such a massive party (sound familiar?), that the newlyweds vowed to celebrate forever more, and so Oktoberfest was born (come on HRH, let's do it again!). It started with horse racing, games, contests and music, and, eventually, beer tents. Now Oktoberfest is the biggest funfair in the world, with 7million litres of beer consumed over 16 days, up to the first Sunday in October.

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What to drink and how to drink it?

No prizes for guessing - beer and lots of it. At the original Munich Oktoberfest, the only beer allowed is the stuff brewed within the city limits. Once approved, it's branded - showing a certain lack of inventiveness - Oktoberfest Beer. London gets its own special brew shipped in straight from Deutschland for the occasion. If you really want to look the part, it's best swigged from a stein. This translates to stone, which the original beer mugs were made from, holding up to one litre of the good stuff. Pick up a souvenir clay stein because, let's face it, the rest of your experience is going to be a little hazy.

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What to Eat?

Sausages and on the regs. Wherever in the world you are it's a Bratwurst (a sausage in a baguette) or a curry wurst (chopped sausage in a ketchup and curry powder sauce) that you are after. If you really want to go all out, throw some apple strudel in there too.
Other German favourites include pork and dumplings, or pork knuckle with braised cabbage, featuring on Hong Kong's German menu, while Brazil complements their sausage stock with a tasty pork knee.
The large doughy pretzels are also great for soaking up all the beer.

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Where to do it?

The Bavarian capital of Munich, of course, where it all began, along with six million other drinkers. Sound stressful?
You've got options, with Oktoberfest spreading its beer kegs wide and far. Canada's twin cities of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, host the largest festivities outside of Germany and like to keep things traditional. With a strong German heritage, the German language is still widely spoken and Kitchener was previously called Berlin, giving them a pretty valid claim to the party.

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Argentina has been on board since 1963 hosting Fiesta Nacional de la Cerveza and Brazil's Oktoberfest-Blumenau is massive. In Asia? Go for Hong Kong's Marco Polo German Bierfest, or hit up Kingfisher Beer's newish Great Indian Octoberfest (sic) in Bangalore.
London has a double dose of the action with two separate locations set for festivities over four weeks - Kennington Park and Millwall Park, Canary Wharf.

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Top tips

• Ordering: In Germany you don't signal one beer with your forefinger you do it with your thumb.

• Warning: Oktoberfest Beer is said to be 1 percent stronger than normal beer, so pace yourself.

• More is more: Men, if you're adding a hat to your lederhosen look it's all about the tuft of goat hair in the brim. A highly-valued object back in the day, the more goat hair you displayed the wealthier you were seen to be. Roll with it.

• Plan: Oktoberfest draws in the crowds everywhere, so if you want a seat in one of the more popular tents opt for a weekday or book ahead where possible.

• Right or left: Ladies if you're donning a dirndl take note of your apron tie - tied to the right and you are taken, but tied to the left is a signal for the singles.

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Dates

Canada: 10-18 October, 2014

Brazil: 8-26 October, 2014

Hong Kong: 17 Oct-8 Nov, 2014

London, Kennington: 18 -28 Sept (Thurs to Sun)

London, Millwall Park: 2-12 Oct (Thurs to Sun)

Stuck in London?

Don’t fork out for last minute flights. Here’s where to do it if you’re hanging in the capital:

Herman Ze German

This place was born for people in search of a bit of German sausage. Plus with (nearly) three London locations, it’s way easier to get your sausage on. Choose from Bratwurst, Brockwurst, Chilli Beef or Currywurst. Go on, what’s the wurst that could happen?

Charing Cross - 19 Villers Street, London WC2N 6ND //Soho - 33 Old Compton St, London W1D 5JP

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Bavarian Beerhouse – Old Street and Tower Hill 

These guys aren’t fussy when it comes to dates, in here it’s Oktoberfest every single weekend. So get stuck in like you mean it. Steins of beer and Jagermeister flow faster than water and the crowd is a rough and ready group who just wanna… drink beer. Hit it Monday to Wednesday for some traditional German fare, but the end of the week is when it really pulls up its lederhosen. Oompah!

Old Street - 190 City Rd, London EC1V 2QH // Tower Hill - 9 Crutched Friars, London EC3N 2AU

Bodo’s Schloss

This sweet chalet bang smack in the middle of Kensington knows how to have a good time. Dress up in your finest lederhosen (or ski kit) and settle in for wiener schnitzel, dumplings, beer, alpine cocktails and some serious leaping around the dance floor with the Heidi-like waitresses. Ski boot sharing cocktails at the ready.

2A Kensington High St, London W8 4PT

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Tiroler Hut

If you haven’t been then you’ve missed out. With a whole load of alpine nicnacs chucked all over the walls and entertainment from people who look like your dad (accordion playing and yodelling, yes yodelling!) plus the highly original Tirolean Cow Bell show, you’ll laugh all night. Every day’s a party and with a DJ late at night, we say take your meat loving mates and settle in. Just don’t forget your dirndl.

27 Westbourne Grove London W2 4UA