Oktoberfest is the world’s largest beer festival, a name that evokes long tables full of people merrily enjoying generous portions of food while smiling servers wearing Dirndls and Lederhosens bring plenty of beer which is drunk with the energetic beat of an Oom-Pah band playing in the background. The tradition, which originated in Bavaria almost 200 years ago, has now become a global phenomenon and countries as varied as Canada, United States, Australia, Venezuela, Brazil, South Africa, India and China have large Oktoberfests of their own.
Ireland is no stranger to the joys of the Volksfest and since 2008, Oktoberfest has been a growing presence in Dublin. With the love both Germany and Ireland share for good beer, it makes sense that the attendance for the Dublin version of the festival is massive.
“We had about 150,000 people in 2015 and it was a good year with great weather”, says Jascha Bergmann, Project Manager at Oktoberfest Dublin since 2013, who spoke with TheTaste about the event. “I’m not a fan of aiming to increase attendance every year. It’s a quality vs. quantity thing” Jascha says, and he adds that he’d be happy if they match 2015’s numbers.
Regarding how they decided to come to Ireland and put together a festival, Jascha explains that it was actually the other way around, he and his team were contacted by a person that realised how badly the city needed its own Oktoberfest.
The lady running the pretzel stall on our event is originally from Germany but has been living in Dublin for many years. She knows the guy running the sausage grills and said to him that Dublin really needed an Oktoberfest, so he contacted us, knowing that we could pull it off and so this is our ninth event here now.
He studied events management in Edinburgh Scotland and has plenty of experience in events organising, particularly in Germany. When speaking about Dublin’s Oktoberfest he recalls that back in 2008 “it had a very rock’n’roll production” and after nearly a decade of learning and professionalisation, the event has grown remarkably. “We bring over 40 German bar and logistics staff and recruit another 50 locally plus the people brought by the German food vendors.”
What has changed when comparing the first edition to the current one?
“We have come much more professional and learned a lot about Irish customs, from our guests to all the different stakeholders involved in the event. We produce many public events in Germany, nevertheless things work very differently in Ireland, which is an interesting challenge and makes it fun to work on this project. Another thing we see is Dublin recovering from the financial crisis. In 2012, the area around George’s Dock was like a ghost town and now we notice that it is getting busier every year, which is nice to see.”
What are the similarities and the differences compared to the Oktoberfest in Germany?
“Oktoberfest Munich is one of the world’s largest events, so I’d say the main difference is the size. Other than that, the essential Oktoberfest culture elements are the same, or it wouldn’t be Oktoberfest. The traditional Bavarian events consists of the music, the food, the beer, traditional dresses and a fairground. We try to fit a carousel on the site, when there’s space. However this year we thought we’d mix it up a little bit and got a brand new ring-the-bell and a boxing machine, where our guests can prove their strength.”
Regarding the selection of beers tasted at the event, Jascha points out that the star is Erdinger Hefeweizen, “a premium wheat beer brewed in Germany with fine yeast and in accordance to traditional Bavarian purity standards. Mr. Brombach, who traditionally attends the tapping of the ceremonial beer keg is always thrilled how good Oktoberfest Dublin’s Hefeweizen tastes, because in addition to the high quality beer you need to get the refrigeration and CO2 mix right to make the Erdinger taste great.”
Besides Erdinger Hefeweizen, some other beers poured at the event were Fischer’s Lager and Erdinger Dunkel, which is a wheat beer that Erdinger’s brewers once made for Mr. Brombach’s birthday in the 1980s, as well as other Erdinger specialties such as the brand’s Oktoberfest beer and Erdinger Alkoholfrei, their non alcoholic beer, “In my opinion it’s the best tasting alcohol free beer there is” says Jascha.
Food wise, Jascha and the organisers worked with an experienced German partner “who has been coming over to Ireland with us since the first event. In authentic wooden huts they serve Haxn, pork knuckles with Sauerkraut, German Bratwurst sausages and Leberkaese, which is a Bavarian beef and pork loaf you eat with sweet mustard” Jascha says, “mmm… that made me hungry!” he adds.
Besides drinking beer, what is usually the visitor’s favourite part of the Oktoberfest?
“Everyone wants to get into the main marquee in the platform, where our live band plays together with DJ Udo. They do a great show and the party down there is fantastic. They have a few new special song performances, but their most popular classics are always the trumpet on fire and the Alp Horn. You have to come down and experience it yourself”.”
What do the Irish beer scene and the German one have in common?
“From the feedback we’re getting from our guests it’s definitely the passion for beer. Despite the booming craft beer industry in recent years Germans as well as the Irish appreciate a beer brewed with passion. Erdinger is privately owned -by Mr. Brombach- and not by the biggest industry players. Call it romanticizing, but I like to believe that people feel that spirit. We definitely do, as we are closely working with the brewery every year.”
Gabriela’s passion for writing is only matched by her love for food and wine. Journalist, confectioner and sommelier, she fell in love with Ireland years ago and moved from Venezuela to Dublin in 2014.
Since then, she has written about and worked in the local food scene, and she’s determined to discover and share the different traditions, flavours and places that have led Irish food and drink to fascinate her.