Munich's six main breweries are usually locked in bitter competition. But this year, they have taken the unprecedented step of joining forces to create a special beer in honor of the 200th anniversary of the Oktoberfest. The move follows a recent drive to strengthen the festival's folk traditions.
The six Munich breweries that supply the Oktoberfest are notoriously fierce rivals. But they have buried the hatchet temporarily this year and collaborated to craft a special historic beer marking the 200th anniversary of the festival, which starts on Sept. 18.
"This kind of cooperation is unprecedented," Stefanie Scharpf, a spokeswoman for Inbev, the Belgian-Brazilian group that owns Löwenbräu beer, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. In an act of homage to Bavarian culture, the city's master brewers concocted a top-secret recipe for a strong brown ale called "Jubiläumswiesnbier," meaning Oktoberfest Jubilee Beer.
It will be served exclusively in a vintage Oktoberfest tent that has been specially erected to evoke the history of the festival that was first held in 1810 to allow the citizens of Munich to celebrate the wedding of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig, the future Bavarian King Ludwig I, to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen.
"The amber-colored special beer is full-bodied in taste with a flowery malt aroma," the brewers said in a joint statement. "The brewing masters have ceremoniously pledged to keep the recipe secret and only to use it this year."
"Our anniversary beer is similar in color and alcohol content to what was drunk 200 years ago. But in terms of taste we have made quite a few improvements," said Jörg Lehmann, the top brewery technician at InBev's Spaten-Löwenbrau subsidiary.
It will pack a punch, with an alcohol content of around 6 percent, in line with the other beers brewed specially for the Oktoberfest each year by the six breweries Löwenbräu, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Paulaner, Spatenbräu and Augustiner. Each brewery has its own tent at the festival. Standard Bavarian beers tend to have a lower alcohol content of around 5 percent.
In accordance with tradition, the jubilee beer is being supplied in wooden barrels, unlike the other festival beers which will mainly be pumped from steel tanks to ensure a steady supply in the tents which hold up to 10,000 people at any one time.
The anniversary tent will be adorned with flags, coats of arms and fir branches to give it nostalgic flair, and will offer old-fashioned dishes such as Böfflamott, a formerly aristocratic meal deriving from Boeuf a la Mode in French (marinated beef and lard), and Rumfordsuppn, an irresistible-sounding thick broth made from sour beer, potatoes and yellow peas. Revellers will be treated to displays of Schuhplatteln, a foot-stomping, thigh-slapping Bavarian dance, and the atmosphere promises to be altogether more sedate than in the other tents.
There will also be horse races to recall the historic race that took place at the first Oktoberfest in 1810 to entertain the royal wedding couple. Even though the Oktoberfest tradition is 200 years old this year, the festival is only being held for the 177th time because it was cancelled on 24 occasions in times of war and during two cholera outbreaks in the 19th century.
The anniversary follows attempts to make the festival more traditional in recent years. In 2005, the Munich city authority ordered the oompah bands to turn the volume down and play more original folk tunes. And Bavarian folk purists have been urging locals to stop buying cheap Chinese-made Lederhosen imports and stick to costumes hand-stitched by Bavarian tailors.
There have been fears that the smoking ban being enforced for the first time at the festival this year could spoil the party by exposing foul smells from fat, spilled beer, toilets and food waste that had previously been covered up by the nicotine.
Brewery managers at three of the 14 tents are resorting to specially-bred composting bacteria developed by local entrepreneur Hubert Hackl who claims they can devour the odious slime that gathers under the tents and thereby prevent the stench from infesting the packed tents.
But the spokesman for the tent managers, Toni Roiderer, told SPIEGEL ONLINE he wasn't worried about any smells.
"The boys and girls coming to our tents will smell so sweet that there won't be a problem. They'll bring deodorants along with them this time instead of cigarettes. The only thing you'll smell will be the delicious fragrance of pork knuckles and fried chicken," he said.
Besides, given the annual consumption of six million liters of beer at the festival, many visitors are likely to be too drunk to worry about a bit of odor.