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Report from Oktoberfest: A guide to the tents, tastes, and trends

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Oktoberfest
Whichever tent (and beer) beckons, get there early! Photo by Audrey Sykes

One week down, one more to go at Bavaria’s Oktoberfest. My dispatch is here to help those still on the Munich mission find their place.

No matter which tent you end up in, beer will be €10 a pop and people are bouncing off the walls in dirndls and lederhosen. But to get a grasp of what’s happening in other tents, here’s a rough guide.

Caravans from Italy

The second weekend of Oktoberfest is “Italian weekend.” Camping spaces around the festival are reserved for caravans from Italy, and there’s a notable presence in Munich of accents and sweaters that read “Italia!” These Italian stallions are found in large groups at the beer gardens outside — they arrived too late in the day to actually get in any tent.

Lowenbräu and Hofbräu: The “tourist” tents

Maybe it’s the 15-foot tall lion statue above the entrance that makes things look exciting. Still, Italian tourists, along with Australian and Asian visitors, are known to “park it” at the Louwenbräu tent. The line is always the longest, the tent look is very traditional, and the indoor and outdoor seating hit the 8,000 mark.

The Hofbräu tent seems to be reserved especially for the North American backpacker traveling Europe via Eurail, and the Aussies on Busabout party coaches who like to rockstar their way through Europa. They’re psyched out of their mind that the legendary bierhalle (and legendary tourist trap) Hofbräuhaus has – for a limited time – a flippin beer tent!

Bräurosol and Hacker: The “local rager” tents

The “Hacker” tent (aka “Bavarian Heaven”) and the “Pschorr Bräurosol” are the real party tents for Bavarians ages 18 to 35 (the 16-year-olds are at the Paulaner tent, along with more Austrailians). Both are massive and have lots of side entrances to help you sneak in when main doors are busy (but make sure your group’s woman-man ratio is at least 2:1). Tables are also great for the bigger group.

These tents’ bands are known to mix things up after 5 pm with more rock and pop hits, but don’t expect anything beyond Bon Jovi, White Stripes and the guy who reminds me my life was fine before knowing of his existence… what’s his name… Robbie Williams.

Trend of 2013: The smoking ban inside the beer tents has caused some creative initiatives. Besides sneaky, under-the-table puffs when servers aren’t looking, both men and women in the Bräurosol are smoking out the wooden corridor just before the men’s toilet. Intimate talking corner? Maybe. Ashtray that looks like a sauna hall? Heck Yes. Gross.

Fisher Vroni and Ochsenbraterei: The “foodies” tent

Worthy of a mention are the beer tents that offer more than your run-of-the-mill Oktoberfest food.

Above the Ochsenbraterei entrance sits large motorized figurines roasting a giant ox on a spit – a fair warning for vegetarians, and a mouth-watering invitation for carnivores. Inside the tent, a mechanical ox rotisserie roasts more than 100 bovine during the festival for dishes that go from €15 to €30 per plate. Not the cheapest pick, but as far as rotisserie pros go, 100 years of practice puts Ochsenbraterei at a master level.

Fish-on-a-stick might be a sore second after something as savory as 100 rotisserie oxen, but think of a 50-foot row of fresh mackerel, salmon, trout and more grilled over hot coals to Bavarian perfection. It looks impressive after drinking one beer, and after your second beer it’s to die for.

Hippodrome: The “celebrity” tent

The bourgeoisie of Munich are the “Shickeria” – amazingly tanned, platinum blonde, pearly white smiling (always smiling), and apparently hanging out at Oktoberfest for people to see them drink themselves silly. Yes, Hippodrome is the “see and be seen” tent, which is an obvious reason why they’re the first tent in line at Oktoberfest.

I don’t know if most people who go to Hippodrome are already famous, want to be famous, famously blow more than your average Bavarian spender (an already wealthy bunch), or have a thing for drinking beer on white tablecloths – but I’m guessing it’s a combination of all of these. It can’t be because they like breweries, Hippodrome serves other brewer’s beers… and champagne!

The plus is that the Hippodrome tent – besides looking like a glam “Moulon Rouge” gone Bavaria – has the latest closing time. While other tents end at 11 pm, the upperclass of who-the-heck-knows-your-famous-outside-Bavaria-anyways get to rage it until 1 am. And for singles, it’s a jackpot.

Augustiner: The “family friendly” tent

As cultural and cozy the mood at Oktoberfest is, things easily get loud, messy large men hit the ground – it’s just no place for kids. Good news is the Augustiner tent is known to be great for families, which is vital information for anyone planning to hit Oktoberfest with the little ones.

Tuesdays are “kids day,” which means kids drink for free! Just joking. It means the food and drink menu is marked at a discount for adults and kids with a talking tummy.

About the author

About the author: Audrey Sykes hopped across the pond from the US eight years ago for a Masters degree in global journalism. Since then, she’s lived all over Europe, reporting and editing for music sites, snowboard mags, and travel media. She’s also the Amsterdam author for Party Earth, a guide to nightlife across Europe.

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