Beer, lederhosen and culture
Oktoberfest brings German beer culture to Calgary
By Paul McAleer, Contributor
The economy has its ups and downs, but beer? Beer is eternal. Although times are undeniably tough in Alberta, you wouldn’t be able to tell if you were at Oktoberfest on Sept. 23 and 24.
“For me, it’s the friendliest and funnest beer event in Calgary,” says Vince Gilligan, fully clad in lederhosen with a glazed smile on his face.
Stepping into the Big Four building and being greeted by a massive crowd of people, it’s impossible not to notice: there isn’t a frown in sight. Young and old; everyone is getting a little bit schnockered to celebrate Oktoberfest.
Oktoberfest originated in Munich, Germany, more than 200 years ago in celebration of the royal marriage between King Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen during the October of 1810. Now it isn’t exactly known why they decided to have another festival in 1811, but it’s probably because the first one was such a rager that they thought it should be engrained in Bavarian culture forever. Currently, Oktoberfest attracts over 6,000,000 people yearly in Munich.
While Calgary Oktoberfest is tiny in comparison to the real deal, it’s getting bigger each year. Alberta Beer Festivals started organizing the event in 2013, but there’s no need to wait until 2213 to attend. With over 50 breweries, 10 restaurants and live entertainment, chances are you’re never going to feel thirsty, hungry, or bored at the festival. But the best part for some is that it’s so affordable.
“I heard it was a cheap [place to] turn up,” says Mary from Montreal, who refused to reveal her last name. “Alberta’s too expensive right now with the economy… I like to turn up and it’s a good price.”
This year, getting into Calgary Oktoberfest cost $19 in advance, $25 at the door and $30 for a weekend pass. When you enter the festival, you receive a sample mug to keep your beer safely caressed and contained before its eventual ingestion. The entertainment is free, but in order to buy food and beer, you need to purchase tickets that cost a dollar a pop. Generally, it costs two tickets to sample a beer and three to nine for food.
Even though prices are affordable, some proceeds are also donated to various local charities. Originally from Germany, Lukas Ptaszynski of the Banff Ave Brewing Company says that his brewery is helping the Banff Food Bank, one “shotski” at a time. When asked if he got to enjoy any of his brewery’s delicious beer while on the job, Ptaszynski simply responded with: “Oh, I’m happy!”
Even if you don’t like beer, Calgary Oktoberfest offers games, dancers, and most importantly, live music. The German Knights Band, created over thirty years ago, is responsible with filling the halls of the Big Four with jolly polka music. The band is no stranger to crowds of beer-drinkers, as they have been performing at Wurst, a popular local pub, on every weekend for the past five years. The band’s routine often involves audience participation.
“It’s good to be on stage, but when you get right in [the audience’s] faces, they can’t escape,” says Arthur Lapp, the tuba player and lead-harasser of the group. “They love it.”
Lapp will make you waltz with him if you’re pretty, and if you’re thirsty looking, he will make you chug two beers at once. Other than to see his band, one of the main reasons Lapp thinks people should attend Calgary Oktoberfest is “to forget their troubles.”