In 1810, while Napoleon was driving his empire across Europe, and Beethoven was composing “Für Elise,” Bavarian royalty was inviting the citizens of Munich to a big wedding bash for the Crown Prince. And what a bash it was. Today, 204 years later, the party is still raging. Munich still breaks out the liederhosen yearly. About 7.5 million gallons of beer are consumed by around 6 million people, according to organizers. And millions more around the world join the party. Oktoberfest is different things to different people worldwide. For some, it’s a community-based celebration like Halloween—an excuse to get together with your neighborhood, with live music, food, and a fair-like atmosphere. For others, it’s more like a big New Year’s Eve social. But for nearly all, it’s a celebration of Fall and a great excuse to enjoy time with friends. And you don’t have to camp in Germany to enjoy it. Here’s how to make your next parking spot a mobile biergarten. That way, everyone camping around you can join in and feel a little Oktoberfest Freude.
Enjoy an Official Oktoberfest Beer
Only beers brewed by the six breweries in Munich can call themselves officially sanctioned Oktoberfest beers. The official brews tend to be higher gravity, usually 6 to 6.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), brewed with a mix of Pilsner, Vienna, and Munich malts. In Munich, they’ll call it a Märzenbier (a darker malty brew) or Festbier (a lighter, hoppier version). American breweries large and small put out Oktoberfest varietals for the season—which officially starts in September. American versions skew sweeter and lower gravity but typically use German ingredients. But—as much as we love Sam Adams Octoberfest—do yourself an authentic favor and find one of the six official brews: Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, and Spaten—with Hofbräu and Paulaner being the most common. To drink it the official way, you’ll need a stein, or humper, as they’re called in Munich.
Originally, a stein was made from earthenware or stone (hence the name), but now the humpers are often thick glass or pewter adorned with designs celebrating German lore, and holding either a half or full liter. Fortunately, you don’t have to fly to Munich to get the real thing, as the official Stein is available for purchase online. If you want to do it right (and why wouldn’t you?), do break out the lederhosen. The sturdy leather pants (literal translation would be leather trousers) are still worn by regular folks in Bavaria from time to time. These might be compared to overalls–regional clothing that originated as a functional item for mountain folks but has been co-opted for other purposes. Lastly, assuming your local alcohol restrictions allow it, enjoy your celebration outside in the spirit of the real Fest. More importantly, embrace the tradition of community engagement and invite a friend or 10 to join your mobile biergarten.
Beer-Braised Brats and Onions
Sure, brats are a little on the nose, but nothing says, “We love Germany” like a beer and sausage party. Braising typically makes for easier cleanup than frying, and this recipe requires only a few ingredients to crank out maximum flavor, which is always RV-friendly. The braising breaks down the sausage casing and the proteins in the sausage, leaving an easy-to-eat texture. And just like using wine reductions in cooking, the beer braise also adds an even easier-to-love complexity of flavor that will make any ol’ brat downright leker (delicious). Also like wine, cooking with beer removes all alcohol, so you won’t need to worry about pregnant or teetotaling guests. You might think of using beer in cooking like a soy sauce, which is another fermented product that adds umami by the bucketful, or even vinegar, which is almost inedible on its own. In other words, even if you don’t love the taste of beer, this recipe is still worth a try.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon salted butter
- One package of 6-8 raw brats
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon salt and pepper
- 3 medium sweet onions
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
- 12-ounce German Oktoberfest lager (or, cook with what you like to drink)
- 1 cup vegetable stock
German Potato Salad
Both meat and potatoes are hard-working, effective performers, just like the German people. So a classic Kartoffelsalat will round out your mini-Oktoberfest celebration perfectly. It’s one of my favorite side items because it’s so customizable to your own family’s particular tastes. A little more of this and a little less of that, and you can please almost all of the people all of the time. Plus, it gets RV bonus points for being makeable far in advance of your RV Oktoberfest Extravaganza. German potato salad is typically served warm, but the other great thing about cooking is that you get to do what you want. I want to serve mine cold, so I do, and no Germans have protested to me yet. Use Yukon gold-style potatoes to replicate the German potato varieties. Pick the highest-quality stock that you can find to use—since you’ll be using it straight up, your end product will be at the mercy of its quality
Scrub and boil potatoes with peels on in salted water until tender, typically 12 minutes. Avoid overboiling, so that potatoes are forkably soft but not falling apart. As soon as you can handle them, peel potatoes with a paring knife while still hot. (This allows for maximum absorption of flavor into the potatoes for the next step.) Then dice or slice, and place in a large bowl. Pour very warm bone broth over the potatoes, season with salt and pepper, and add finely minced yellow onion and vinegar. Stir until fully mixed, then cover and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes. For the full German experience, add oil, parsley, and bacon, mix, and serve warm, with an air
of superiority. Or refrigerate and serve. You’re der Küchenchef, after all! You should get to Tun whatever you Wallen.
- 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup finely minced yellow onion
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 3/4 cup high-quality bone broth stock—heated to very warm
- 3 tablespoons light vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar (or mayonnaise if you prefer)
- Medium-chopped parsley
- A healthy handful of leftover bacon crumbled