The sun-laden crispness of fall’s return refreshes the senses and ushers in a bevy of celebrations that center around food and drink. One such beloved traditional excuse to socialize, imbibe, and indulge— even for those of us lacking German heritage—is Oktoberfest. But how to have Oktoberfest at home if you’re not able to make the joyful journey to Munich or aren’t living in a locale that knows how to properly pay homage to the original? Turns out it’s not that complicated to achieve authenticity even if you’re a newbie at hosting one.
“What strikes me the most about Oktoberfest is the camaraderie. It’s really about having a good time and enjoying each other’s company,” says Katja Lindemann. “Everyone is in a good mood. People sing, strangers become friends and everyone just gets along.”
And Lindemann ought to know. Born in Ulm, Germany and raised by a chef-butcher who instilled a love of cooking in her at an early age, at 18 she moved to the Black Forest for a three-year internship at the Hotel Traube Tonbach. This property boasts three restaurants including one that’s garnered a three-star Michelin rating for the past 25 years. From there Lindemann relocated to New York City to continue her hospitality management training and she’s called that city home ever since.
Setting the Scene
Ideally you need a wooden table and bench known as a Biergarnitur, but if that’s not readily available, go for a look as close as possible. A beer tent is a classic element to include, especially for backyard or rooftop recreations, but that might be a bit over the top for those in apartments or without outdoor party space.
Ideally, Lindemann says a tablecloth with a Bavarian flag on it, is the perfect decor. “Stick to blue and white colors, those are the Bavarian flag colors,” she advises. “You can easily get just the right quality table cloth on Amazon if you search for Oktoberfest Tablecloth.”
Feeding Your Guests
“There is no Oktoberfest without a big, giant brezel,” explains Lindemann. “We eat the weisswurst with sweet mustard. In New York I see a lot of people eat brezel with mustard, but in Germany you wouldn’t do that,” she laughs. “The sweet mustard goes with the Weisswurst.”
As for the proper way to prepare and present these delicacies, the brezel really ought to be served hot from the oven and the simplest way to cook the weisswurst, according to Lindemann, is to boil it and add a pinch of salt to the water. However, if you’re really feeling ambitious, though Lindemann asserts it’s no easy task, you can grind your own sausage at home and then roast, pan fry or poach it.
Regardless of how you opt to get your weisswurst to your guest’s plates, Lindemann insists the only way to properly eat it, if you’re really going for the Oktoberfest gold at home, is a technique called zuzeln. “Basically, this means that you suck the sausage out of the skin. And, yes, that’s the traditional way of eating Weisswurst.”
Beer, Beer, Beer!
“The good news,” Lindemann says “is that so many liquor stores sell Oktoberfest beer. Just make sure you get a Hefeweizen. That’s the one that goes with the brezel and weisswurst.”
“The traditional Oktoberfest beer is being served in steins. You wouldn’t use any other glasses,” Lindemann explains. “Germans are very specific on what glass goes with what beer. When you serve Hefeweizen, make sure you use a Hefeweizen glass. This glass’ shape, long and widening at the top, is designed for head and volume. It also helps maintain the beer’s aroma.”
“It’s very important to serve the beer with foam on top, the head,” she adds. “In Germany, a beer needs to have foam on top otherwise it’s considered not fresh. And make sure it’s nice and cold!”
Don’t Forget the Music
“If you can’t afford to hire an Oktoberfest band, which I assume most of us wouldn’t, you would play folk music,” she says. “A traditional song is “Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit“. You would typically raise your glasses and cheer while singing to that song.”
“Germans like to schunkel which means that you wrap your arms with the person next to you and you slowly move from the left to the right while listening to and singing along with the music.”
And there you have it. What more do you need? Chill your beer, warm your brezels, savor some weisswurst and schunkel the day away with your nears and dears.
Header image courtesy of Shutterstock.