With 25,000 liters of beer flown in for the occasion, it was all good – and terribly wrong.
The very first Oktoberfest was held in 1810 as a celebration of Munich’s Crown Prince Ludwig marriage to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. There were horse races, tree-climbing competitions, carnival booths, parades, dances. But there was one thing that Oktoberfest would come to be known for by the rest of the modern world: Beer.
Beer is a terrible, terrible drink. Sort of.
On its own, beer is absolutely delightful; a crisp beverage with a refined, malty sweetness and the sharp bitterness of hops to balance it off. There are, quite literally, thousands of variants one can enjoy, from the humble pale pilsen everyone’s uncle drinks at the roadside eatery; to fruity lambics that taste more like soda with a kick; to off-beat stouts brewed with vanilla bean, resulting in what can only be described as a liquefied caramel sundae that gets you drunk faster than you can say, “Cheers to Crown Prince Ludwig and his lovely bride!”
There are those nights, however, when you find yourself drinking five liters—the equivalent of 15 standard bottles and change—of beer from what is said to be the world’s oldest brewery in the span of three hours, and you wake up the next day bloated and belching uncontrollably with virtually every breath you take.
Which is, of course, what happened when I attended Oktoberfest 2018 at Solaire.
In my defense, it was hard not to guzzle it all down. When an event advertises that they flew in over 25,000 liters of beer from Bavaria just to make the event as true to Munich’s Oktoberfest as possible—the modern edition, sans tree-climbing and whatnot—you take that as a challenge to let the organizers know that their generosity isn’t going to waste. And man, were they generous.
Not only did Solaire and their first-time partner German Club Manila, who’ve been putting together their own Oktoberfest celebrations for roughly 80 years now, keep the Weihenstephaner beer flowing all night, but they also made sure that tables were never lacking for authentic German food.
It wasn’t the sausages, the strudel, the kaiserschmarm, or the schweinshaxe—which, by the way, is a fun way to say “pork knuckle” when you’re drunk, like, “Hoy Jennilyn, ang schweinshaxe!”—that gets you drinking ridiculous amounts of beer, however. It’s these:
If the only soft pretzels you’ve ever had are those dessert-like ones at that popular chain, you’ve been lied to all your life. Authentic Bavarian pretzels, like the ones served at Oktoberfest, are bready twists of happiness caked with coarse nuggets of salt. They are designed to make you thirsty, and when the closest drink just so happens to be beer, you’re going to end up chugging quite the amount.
I don’t really know why what can only be described as a 90s kids’ dance-pop song ended up becoming a modern Oktoberfest tradition, but it is. And it pops up regularly throughout the night, its jaunty little tune burrowing into your brain and becoming a siren’s song for beer. It’s still stuck in my head, and Oktoberfest was weeks ago.
It comes with a dance, too. When the song plays, either on the speakers or played live by The Bavarian Sound Express, everyone gets up and dances like an airplane, a tiger, a giraffe, and more. It’s surprisingly fun, even though you kind of feel stupid doing it the first few times.
I suppose that’s what the beer’s for.
Of course Jägermeister would conveniently be on hand to set you up for a few Jägerbombs. It’s German, Oktoberfest is a German tradition—it just makes sense.
So when you’re offered a shot or two, the only sensible thing to do would be to take those shots, dump them into your freshly refilled mug of beer, and down that combo like gag reflexes weren’t a thing.
Forget what they say about beer being a social lubricant; socializing is a beerlubricant. Nothing pairs better with beer than a good conversation, and you run into all sorts of interesting people at Oktoberfest. All in one night, I drank with a close friend, my older brother’s college buddy, my sister, some old co-workers, current co-workers of said old co-workers, and a handful of strangers. Plenty a chat was enjoyed; some of them superficial, others with a little more weight behind them.
Trust me, nothing washes out the taste of past regrets better than an ice-cold beer and the knowledge that it will literally always be there for you, because you are at Oktoberfest with a virtually unlimited supply at your demand.
All that beer has to go somewhere, right? But as you get drunker, the walk to the restroom ends up seeming longer and longer, so you start to think, “Hey, if I’m getting up from this wonderful table to pee, I’m going make sure the trip is worth it!”
And so, you drink even more beer, loading that bladder of yours to its breaking point, and then you make a dash to the restroom for the most satisfying urinal visit of your life. Until maybe half an hour later, when you’re doing it all over again.
Oktoberfest might have seen a few updates over its 108-year history, but one thing has never changed: the environment it creates is the perfect catalyst for drinking. It’s exactly as Munich’s royal family intended since the festival’s inception, and it’s the reason the whole world raises their glasses and cheers “Prost!” every October.
So, even if you’re not the type to celebrate 19th Century nuptials, Oktoberfest is still a pretty good excuse in itself to cut loose and enjoy way too much beer. The experience alone is worth the next day’s hangover.
They do say, however, that the best cure for a hangover is another beer.
Maybe my mistake was not coming back for the second and third nights of Solaire’s celebrations. Maybe I just needed to let my system adjust to Oktoberfest.
I guess I’m testing this theory next year.
As a freelance writer for several titles both local and abroad, Marco Sumayao pens articles about virtually everything, from nuanced art critiques to juvenile sex comedies. He was warned at an early age that a career in the arts would leave him broke and hungry. Today, his fast-developing dad bod suggests otherwise.