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What to Eat and Drink for Oktoberfest

From doughy pretzels to salty brats, here’s your Oktoberfest menu complete with appropriate pours. Prost!

Since its origins as a royal wedding party in 1810, Oktoberfest has grown into a weeks-long festival of Bavarian culture that draws six million visitors to Munich every year. It’s celebrated in German communities all over the world — including here in Ontario at Kitchener-Waterloo’s epic Oktoberfest.

Beer, which flows like the Danube, plays such an important role that the festival officially opens with a ceremonial keg and a shout of “O’zapt is!” — “It’s tapped!” There’s also plenty of hearty German fare to enjoy with gusto, from soft pretzels to piles of bratwurst.

While we love a good party, you don’t need to elbow your way into a crowded beer tent to join in the festivities. With the right food and the right beer — see How to Buy Beer for a Crowd — you can host your own Oktoberfest party filled with oompah and good cheer. Here’s how.

Soft pretzels + lager

The most iconic Oktoberfest snack is big, soft pretzels, warm from the oven and crackling with coarse salt. To wash them down, try a Munich-style (a.k.a. helles) lager — its malty, bready flavours are a natural with the chewy treats. While you’re pouring a cold one, mix two parts Dijon mustard, two parts grainy mustard and one part lager for an easy dip. And if you really want to be authentic, make obatzda, a dead-simple, traditional spread of Camembert, butter, cream cheese, onion, spices and, of course, beer. It’s excellent smeared on pretzels.

Sausages + wheat beer or dak lager

Sausages are synonymous with Oktoberfest and Germany is home to hundreds of varieties. Named after its pale complexion, weisswurst is a Bavarian specialty made from veal and smoked bacon. The sausages are precooked, so all you have to do is heat them up in a pot of hot water. The delicate links pair well with the clove and nutmeg flavours of fruity German-style wheat beers (weissbier).

If you want to fire up the ’cue, bratwurst is a rustic fresh pork sausage that can be grilled for a crowd. A German-style dark lager (dunkel or bock) is the right beer here, as its strong malty character stands up to the charred brats. If you have any guests who don’t eat pork or red meat, remember there are plenty of delicious sausages made with turkey, chicken and seafood. Those on a plant-based diet can stay in the spirit with veggie dogs. These lighter links would go better with wheat beer.

Schnitzel + pilsner

Whether you use veal, pork, turkey or chicken, schnitzel is another beer-friendly German classic that is loved by one and all. (For vegetarians, thinly sliced eggplant performs extremely well under the schnitzel treatment.) Crack a pils (a.k.a. pilsner), as it’s a natural refresher with fried foods and its gentle bitterness won’t overwhelm delicate white meats.

Schweinshaxe + amber lager

If your Oktoberfest party is modest in size, consider making schweinshaxe, a Bavarian beer hall specialty of braised-then-roasted pork shanks, which yields succulent, fork-tender meat surrounded by a crackling shell of skin. It’s an impressive hunk of meat and a terrific match with amber lager, which has a malty sweetness that flatters pork.

Steckerlfisch + pilsner

To balance the carnivorous onslaught, serve steckerlfisch, a beer-garden classic that translates to “fish on a stick” and consists of small fish such as mackerel or trout skewered whole and grilled. Pilsner is the right pour — its crisp texture tempers the oily fish, while its lightly hoppy finish can handle the smoky skin.

Sauerkraut + dark lager

Sauerkraut is the go-to Oktoberfest side because its tart crunch offsets fatty sausages and rich meats. Its bold flavour and aggressive tang are best matched by dark lagers.

Potato pancakes + lagered ale

German-style potato pancakes are another festival favourite. The crispy discs are often served with applesauce and they hit the spot with a golden kolsch (a.k.a. lagered ale), which has a dry, clean finish to cut through the starchy spuds.

Sweets + sips

When it’s time to serve dessert, the beer doesn’t need to stop flowing. In fact, beer is one of the best beverages to pair with sweets. For a classic apple strudel, try a lemon radler — its citrusy sparkle is terrific with fall fruit. But for a rich Black Forest cake, you’re going to have to detour out of Germany and pour a creamy stout full of the coffee and cocoa flavours that work so well with chocolate.

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