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A Seasoned Traveler Remembers His First Visit to the World's Greatest Beer Festival

By Robert Bestor, III

Oktoberfest
Bring on the Beer

"This is Bob, everybody. He's a fabulous guy and a dear friend. Give him anything he wants."

With words to that effect, I was introduced by Graeme, who had known me for all of 15 minutes, and was now a VIP at the world's greatest beer festival, Munich's Oktoberfest. It all seemed like a great idea at the time.

It's been a long, long while since those fateful words were spoken and the memory is very, very hazy but, yes, I did attend the Oktoberfest in Munich once. And believe me, if you do it right, once is enough. It began with enthusiasm, optimism and all the expectations you'd envision of a typical 23-year-old red-blooded American male attending the world's greatest beer festival.

To the uninitiated the Oktoberfest looks like a big summer carnival. There's a midway, with games of chance, plenty of stuffed animals and souvenirs, and a Ferris wheel to complete the scene. But the Oktoberfest is different. Big-top style tents ranging in size from huge to enormous surround the midway and from these come the aroma of hundreds, maybe even thousands of chickens roasting, the sounds of Oomp-pah-pah bands and the accompanying audience participation, and of course the smell of beer. Not just any beer. But some of the finest and freshest beer there is.

In our culture of canned Coors trucked across the 48 states, and laws that until relatively recently forbade beer consumption at the brewery, it has been forgotten that beer is best when served immediately after brewing. It's really more like quality produce or dairy in that it should be consumed at it's freshest. To me, there is nothing like a fine, fresh Pilsner. And it's even better when delivered in liter size by a buxom German barmaid who can stoutly carry upwards of a dozen full liter steins at once!