Oktoberfest Brisbane 2011

This week instead of another German beer Drinking Note, I’m looking at the core of Oktoberfest; the festival itself. Not the real event, but Brisbane’s version of it, a family friendly festival held at the cities showgrounds. Is it a true reflection of the Oktoberfest spirit, or just another excuse for young Aussies to “smash piss”?

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Ulrich the German frog getting into the spirit.

I’ve never been to the authentic Oktoberfest (it’s on my bucket list), so I don’t have much to compare the Brisbane version to. I did go to this same event two years ago, and I wasn’t impressed; huge lines, odd beers, and drunken idiots passed out or vomiting in many public areas. I’d been assured that the event had become more civilised since then, so with a relatively open mind I decided to give it a second chance.

After paying our entry fee I headed straight for the bathroom (I’d enjoyed a few Erdinger Oktoberfest Biers prior to arrival, just in case) While in the bathroom a rather loud individual entered the stalls and yelled “awwww yeeeeah, who the f*ck is DRUNK?!! WOOOO!!” This was met with cheers, applause, and more swearing from the other blokes in the bathroom. I sighed quietly to myself; it seemed my fears that the festival was just an excuse for idiots to get pissed and act the fool were confirmed. Brisbanites simply can’t enjoy nice things…

…that was my initial impression. Thankfully, that was the only time I encountered this kind of behaviour on the night (I did see the police eject a fellow later, but It’s possible that it was the same character from the bathroom). Once I’d met back up with my friends, we made our way into the festival proper.

Prior to arrival, my biggest concern was how much time I would be spending in lines. I hate lining up for anything, and at the event two years ago the lines were horrendous. However this year the lines were nonexistent. I never had to wait behind more than one other person for food, drinks or tickets. There would have been around two dozen places to purchase beer, allowing it to flow freely.

There was ample seating, both undercover and in the fresh air. We found an outdoor table first, then when the sun went down we ventured into the huge beer tent/hall where we found two adjoining tables to seat our growing group. The atmosphere in the beer hall was very jovial; everyone was drunk, but a happy and controlled drunk. The entertainment was a bit eclectic; an authentic German band, with Abba songs played in the interludes. It seemed that every person attending was gifted with the ability to sing in German…must have been something in the beer.

Overall the beers didn’t blow my mind. There was the Tucher Brau Lager which was the most popular beer with the crowd, possibly because of its similarity to boring Australian lager; the Schofferhoffer wheat beer, which had all the flavours you’d expect from a wheat beer with a slightly ‘watered down’ quality; and a third beer identified only as ‘Brisbane Oktoberfest Dark Beer’ (I discovered later in the week that it was brewed by the Burleigh Brewing Company!) This was by far the tastiest beer on offer, a dark amber brew with very apparent hop notes (amarillo maybe?). It had a relatively light mouth feel, and was very refreshing. It was a shame that barely any of the crowd were drinking this flavoursome brew, as much as I tried to convince random folk to give it a go.

The biggest drawback was the glassware, or lack of it; beer was either served in a plastic cup or (for an extra $10) a plastic Stein. I understand that having glassware at a huge event isn’t practical (and let’s face it, with drunken fools around it can be very unsafe) but it was a shame nonetheless.

The food was nicer than what you would expect from a typical carnival or fair. I had the Debreciner and the Schnitzel Burger, and both were very tasty. There were also lovely ladies walking around the beer hall selling gingerbread hearts and PRETZELS…I had about 5 (it’s hard to make a bad pretzel).

Overall it was a fun night. It wasn’t as traditional as it could have been, but it also wasn’t the Bogan piss-fest that it had the potential to become. A happy and well behaved crowd, coupled with “authentic” German beer and food makes a fun and festive evening. Prost!

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