The Beer at Germany's Biggest Oktoberfest Celebration Must Officially Be Brewed in Munich

The European Commission recently recognized the city's brewing history and water supply as essential to Oktoberfestbier.

Beer steins at Oktoberfest
Beer steins at Oktoberfest. Photo:

Nikada / Getty Images

In October 1810, the man who would become King Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen got married in Munich — and they invited the entire city to celebrate with them, to watch a horse race, and to generally have the best time you could have before anyone had electricity. That event was repeated the next year, and the next, and it eventually became the Oktoberfest celebration that attracts over 6 million people and almost as many pairs of lederhosen to Munich every year. 

But surprisingly, it wasn’t until this week that the European Commission named the city’s "Oktoberfestbier" — the beer brewed in Munich — as a Protected Geographical Indication of Germany. (That’s an ultra-formal way of saying that the designation means that any beer labeled as "Oktoberfestbier" has to come from Munich.) 

"One of the particularities of the beer lies in the use of water drawn from deep springs in the city of Munich, originating in the tertiary layers, up to about 250 [meters] deep," the European Commission said in a release. "The world-renowned reputation that the 'Oktoberfest beer' enjoys today is partly due to the fact that in Munich innovations were introduced very early in the brewing process, which decisively influenced the quality of the beer. The fact that the 'Oktoberfestbier' is brewed especially for Oktoberfest has greatly contributed to the exceptional reputation of this beer."

The beer has long been a centerpiece of Oktoberfest. In 1910, the event’s 100th anniversary, revelers downed an estimated 1.2 million liters of suds which, at the time, was a record. That sounds positively quaint compared to the more modern numbers: According to Bloomberg, the event’s annual beer tab now includes around 8 million liters (and attendees also scarf half a million roasted chickens).

This year’s festival, which was held between September 17 and October 3, was the first Oktoberfest since 2019 as the past two events were canceled due to the pandemic. "There will be an unrestricted [festival] which will hopefully give a lot of people a lot of pleasure," Munich mayor Dieter Reiter announced earlier this year.

And next year will be the first in which Oktoberfestbier has its official Protected Geographical Indication. If that’s not worth raising an extra stein to, we don’t know what is.

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