On a normal day, I’d say there is no wrong way to drink beer. On the golf course? Perfect. Naked in the hot tub? Good. While on horseback? Also good. Out of a coffee mug at your niece’s ballet recital? Fantastic! But this isn’t a normal day. This is Oktoberfest.
And while the most important thing about drinking beer at Oktoberfest is that you are, indeed, drinking it, there are a handful of historically right and wrong ways to do so. This is Germany after all.
So if you want to blend in and appear as if you really know what you’re doing in the beer tents, learn how to drink beer at Oktoberfest the proper way with these tips.
BUT FIRST: THE VESSEL
➤ For starters, you should know what it is you’re drinking out of at Oktoberfest. Here at the world’s largest beer festival, and elsewhere in proper beer gardens throughout Bavaria, you’ll be drinking your beer by the litre. That’s 1,000 ml (34 ounces) of pure liquid gold. Don’t even think about asking for a pint here. At Oktoberfest, everything is Go Big or Go Home—the beers, the tents, the cleavage, the pretzels, the party.
➤ At Oktoberfest, beer is served by the litre in a huge, heavy glass mug called a Maß (sometimes spelled Mass, short for Maßkrug)—pronounced like moss. Got it? However, there is one place at Oktoberfest where you’ll be served beer in (still litre-sized) traditional clay mugs instead of glass—the Festzelt Tradition over in the Oide Wiesn. Being made of clay instead of glass, it becomes a stein (German for stone). Because Oktoberfest is also sometimes Go 1800s or Go Home!
➤ It should be noted that the beer in your maß should always come up to the 1-litre etching around the top of the glass. Bartenders at Oktoberfest are pretty good about nailing this, but there are still a few, if only by accident, violators. Because of this, there is a kind of beer police squad, if you will, that monitors the pouring of beer here at Oktoberfest and at various beer gardens around town.
In the criminal justice system, beer-skimming offenses are considered especially heinous. At Oktoberfest, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad known as Verein Gegen Betrügerisches Einschenken (Association Against Fraudulent Pouring). Dun-DUN! All Law & Order jokes aside, this is a 100% real thing and also why we love Germany so damn much.
HOW TO DRINK BEER AT OKTOBERFEST: HOLDING THE GLASS
➤ During the act of drinking your beer, make sure you’re holding the glass the correctly. To do so, put your hand through the handle, resting your thumb on the top. This helps improve stability—an important factor when your beer weighs 2.3 kg (5.1 pounds) and your face is involved. It’s just science, duh.
➤ It should also be noted that your beer should be consumed using just one hand. Not two, like weak ol’ me. Hell, I’d use three hands if I had them. Now that you know how to drink beer at Oktoberfest, you may want to up your pre-festival iron-pumping.
HOW TO DRINK BEER AT OKTOBERFEST: CHEERSING
Okay, forget everything I just said about holding your glass. Things are about to get dangerous.
When your beer vessel is made of thick glass, weighs in at over 2 kg, and is about to be slammed together with another, it has officially become weaponized.
➤ Therefore, when cheersing at Oktoberfest, wield your beer using the handle itself. This will avoid smashing your fingers whilst smashing your beers together. Cheersing with your hand through the handle could result in broken appendages. I’m just sayin’…
➤ Now, you’re welcome to cheers any damn time you please at Oktoberfest, but there’s one instance when it’s mandatory—Ein Prosit. The song Ein Prosit will be played about ten times each hour (based on traditional requirements), each time ending in a round of cheers. However, you are never to cheers during Ein Prosit—instead, wait for your cue: “Oans, zwoa, drei, Gsuffa!” (which means One, Two, Three, Drink!)
➤ But it’s not as simple as all that of course! At Oktoberfest, when cheersing with your fellow beer drinkers, you’re supposed to cheers each other, touch your glass to the table, then drink. Naturally, this act has its roots way back in ye olde beer-drinking times.
Throughout time, Oktoberfest nobility had come to mix more and more with the commoners. They even went so far as to cheers with them. Gasp! However, in an attempt to still one-up them, they began cheersing them, sitting their beers back down, then drinking. This way they could participate in the festivities, yet still separate themselves. Sure, whatever. I see right through your game, Ludwig!
I realize this means you’re technically insulting the person you’re cheersing… but… meh… that’s just the Oktoberfest way, mmkay?
➤ Last but not least, you should always say Prost! when cheersing someone at Oktoberfest. And by say I really mean shout with gusto, of course.
HOW NOT TO DRINK BEER AT OKTOBERFEST
Now that we’ve covered the dos of how to drink beer at Oktoberfest, we need to cover the don’ts. Let’s start with the one you’ll see the most at Oktoberfest.
➤ DON’T chug your beer all at once, while standing on the table. Sure, it’s funny to watch—especially when someone fails and pretzels go a-flying. But it’s all fun and games until you get kicked out of a beer tent. And you WILL get kicked out of the beer tent.
Though a common practice at Oktoberfest, it is not one taken lightly. You may be cheered on by 10,000 of your drinking comrades, but you’ll also be carried away by a huge, unhappy, tattooed, leather-clad security guard with more facial piercings than you have letters in your name. Choose wisely.
➤ Also, you should never drink your beer out of your shoe. I don’t know why this needs to be said, but it does. Yes, this happens. And no, it’s never sexy.
➤ And finally, no How to Drink Beer at Oktoberfest lesson would be complete without mentioning the noagerl. Noagerl is the term given to that last little bit of beer left in your maß, the last mouthful you could call it. This little bit is believed to be too warm and full of saliva to be enjoyed the way Bavarian beer is meant to be. Therefore, it should never be consumed.
And not only should the noagerl never be drunk, it should never, ever be poured into a fresh mug of beer. Oh the humanity!
So, think you’re ready for your How to Drink Beer at Oktoberfest exam? There are no losers here! Even drinking beer the wrong way gets the job done. Just try to keep your shoes on.