Oktoberfest by the numbers
October 10th, 2011
10:00 AM ET
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What is it about big events involving food and drink that end with media reports telling us how much was actually consumed during the event? It’s the sort of information that people "eat up."

For example, every year in the United States, we’re fed the news about who ate the most hot dogs in the annual Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island. This year’s winner, Joey ‘Jaws’ Chestnut, ate his way through 62 hot dogs - and buns - in the allotted time of only 10 minutes. That’s over six hot dogs a minute! In the women’s division, the champ chomped her way through 40 hot dogs.

Last week, as every year, we were treated to another annual tradition - something I’d like to call “Oktoberfest by the numbers.” It’s when we get to digest all sorts of fascinating statistics following the end of the world’s largest beer festival, which also happens to serve a lot of food.

In numbers even the Guinness World Records would be proud of, a record 6.9 million people attended the 201st anniversary of Munich’s Wiesn. That’s about half a million more than 2010. And I can guarantee it included a lot of tourists from Italy, the United States, Britain and Australia - not to mention all the Germans dressed in Lederhosen and Dirndls.

The number most people are curious about, though, is how many beers all those people actually drank. It was another record: about 7.5 million of those giant one-liter Oktoberfest mugs. That’s equivalent to about 12.3 million English pints, or roughly 22 million 12-ounce bottles of beer.

Some of you might be scratching your heads right now - I know I was. Nearly seven million people were at the world’s biggest beer fest and only drank 7.5 million liters of beer? Dare I say that seems low?

For the Germans, there was something altogether different that caused the head scratching. For the first time ever, the cost for a Maß of beer topped 9 euros, or 12 dollars. The price of non-alcoholic beverages was also up. It cost seven euros just for a liter of water. The parity of price between beer and other non-beer drinks always made me laugh when I lived in Munich. If they cost about the same, isn’t it always better to just drink Bier?

Next on the menu: the food. All kinds of Bavarian specialties come to mind when I think of what’s on a Speisekarte, or menu, at Oktoberfest. From the giant Brez'n (pretzel), and slices of Emmentaler cheese that have been perfectly salted and peppered, to the Wurstsalat, Weißwurst, Bratwurst and Currywurst.

There’s also the traditional Munich favorites of Schweinsbraten - pork roast - served with potato dumplings, and Schweinshaxn, a roast pork knuckle that’s craved by those with bigger appetites. Leberknödelsuppe is a soup with liver dumplings, while a Bierradi is a giant white radish that has been thinly sliced into a spiral and salted ever so gently. Obatzda? That’s a Bavarian cheese specialty made by mixing Camembert, paprika, butter, salt and pepper, and best enjoyed as a spread on Brez'n.

One of most popular entrées is the Wiesn-Hendl - half a chicken, which has been carefully roasted rotisserie-style with only salt, butter and parsley. I read a report in a Munich newspaper that said more than 100,000 of these sold during the 17-day fest.

Yet another gastronomic Wiesn hit is the Ochsenbraten, or roast ox, which is served only at the Spaten Ochsenbraterei Festzelt - a beer tent that seats 5,020 people inside, 1,560 in the Biergarten and takes 10 weeks to build. What makes it so special is that each ox is roasted whole on a spit in the tent. And the cooking time for each is about six to seven hours. Now, multiply that by the sizable herd consumed at this year’s Wiesn - 118 - which was one more than last year.

I tend to leave my favorites for last, and so it is for this monstrous Munich meal. It’s called a Steckerlfisch, which translates to fish on a stick. But it’s far more delicious than it sounds. Whole, gutted mackerel or trout are threaded onto a long skewer that is cooked at an angle over a long charcoal fire pit. Like the Wiesn-Hendl, these, too, are brushed with butter or a special marinade as they are rotated slowly over the fire. Take it from me, there is no better way to enjoy a mackerel.

If you haven’t had your fill of Oktoberfest numbers yet, here’s a few more I’ve prepared for dessert (apple strudel would probably taste better though):

60 - Oktoberfest-related mobile apps that were available for download
14 - Giant Bier tents Munich breweries erect every year at Oktoberfest
8,70 to 9,20€ - Cost of a liter of Bier in the various tents this year
226,000 - Oktoberfest mugs recovered from souvenir-seekers
4,750 - The number of items at Oktoberfest’s lost-and-found; this included jackets, sweaters, purses, backpacks, watches, wallets (usually empty), wedding bands, ID cards, mobile phones, hats, a can of deodorant, keys (including for hotel rooms), watches and bank cards. Among the oddest finds? Dozens and dozens of pairs of glasses (how did they find their way home?), a license plate from a car, fur-lined handcuffs, a pair of crutches, a Viking helmet with horns ... and one denture.
Countless - Number of times John Denver's "Take Me Home Country Roads" has been played

Previously - "Oktoberfest beercation: confessions of a first-time beer taster" and "For German bier, it's all the glass"

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Filed under: Bite • Holidays • Oktoberfest

soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. LuvLakeLife

    Who need the Alps when your in the Texas Hill Country? The high energy Austrian Hohberg Buam Band OPENS many Oktoberfest world wide. They are going to be performing lakeside on Lake L.B.J. in my tiny town of
    Sunrise Beach, TX : Sunday, Nov. 6th, 2011
    weather forecast for this event: Sun and Clouds 78°Lo 64° > Oktoberfest on the Lake!!! Luv it!

    This will be a GREAT Oktoberfest event!

    November 3, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
  2. Bobby G

    Ja Wohl!

    October 11, 2011 at 6:11 am |
  3. Harry

    I'm sorry I couldn't go this year :(

    October 10, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  4. BobZemko

    Ich will nur grosse Bier und Madchen mit grosse Ohren !!!!

    October 10, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • John

      Nehmen Sie Ihr Bier in der Dose?

      October 11, 2011 at 12:17 pm |

    Of all places in Anaheim Ca ( i think Anaheim is some type of german name ) they have the Phoenix Club next to
    the Honda Center ( Mighty Ducks NHL ) and boy do they throw a Octoberfest party like no other, as they serve
    Liquor as well... lots of single chicks just waiting to party.

    October 10, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  6. palintwit

    I never had any intention of running for president anyway. Chumps.

    October 10, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
  7. Wildone

    I was stationed in Hanau in the army in 1968-'71 and went to Oktoberfest in 1970. I don't remember much now (of course I didn't remember much a week later!), but I do remember a gentleman who sat next to me who had a glass eye. When he had to go to the toilet he dropped the eye in his bier and said that he was "keeping an eye on his trink" while he was gone.

    October 10, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • Gina

      Your post made me laugh out loud, lol.

      October 10, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • TomN

      I was stationed in Nuremburg and Worms, Germany 71-73 and dropped in to the '71 Oktoberfest where I saw that guy in the Hofbrau tent. Not only did you not want to touch the bier glass, but you had steel yourself for the facial view (not that it was ugly but something not usually seen on the streets).

      October 11, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  8. Sound Guy

    Check out also the original sounds by typing "sound effects from the oktoberfest" in the itunes store! you can hear the original atmosphere inside the famous beer tents, with the crowds toasting and singing, the bugle bands playing and so on.

    October 10, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  9. David M

    There is no better party in the world. And the best entertainment is watching all the drunk Italians, Americans, and Brits. Everyone should experience Oktoberfest at least once. Then you can say you have been to the mother of all parties!

    October 10, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  10. chris

    The beer tents are a blast for first timers, hence very popular for tourists. it starts slowly, after the first beer people warm up, during the 2nd will start singing and dancing on the table. everybody becomes your friend and you're having the best time of your life. most people never finish the 3rd beer. if you stay late, you might experience accidents, fights, benches start flying. the next day is hell, headache, tiredness and you take it easy. you tell yourself "ahh, let's go one more time, just for pig nkuckles and one beer". then you start meeting nice people, you warm up and do it all over again...

    October 10, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  11. Nick

    Steckerlfisch RULES!!!!

    October 10, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  12. Multi-Tasking @ Work

    sounds like a Blast...makes me think of the Griswold's in European Vacation, lol

    October 10, 2011 at 11:26 am |
  13. Matt

    Went there a few weeks back and had a blast. The smell that will not escape me is the roasted nut stands that are throughout the grounds of the festival. The other oddity about the tents, The sound of Alabamas "Hey, Hey Baby! I wanna know if you'll be my girl" Would I do it again if asked? In a heartbeat!

    October 10, 2011 at 10:53 am |

    I Love a few cold ones after work ;-))))) lol

    October 10, 2011 at 10:27 am |
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