The Moellers and the Zouleks fly in a six-man band directly from Munich for their Oktoberfest festivities. Photo: Supplied
It's at this time of year that many a drinker's thoughts turn to beer. Not just because the weather is warming up, but because of a unique festival that originally had very little to do with beer at all.
Oktoberfest was born in Germany in 1810 as a wedding feast. On October 12th of that year, Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen.
Munich citizens were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate. The fields were subsequently renamed Theresienwiese (Theresa's Fields) to honour the crown princess, (although the locals have since abbreviated the name to "Wiesn").
Revellers enjoy beers and pork knuckle. Photo: Supplied
Such a good time was had by all that it was decided to repeat the week-long festival the following year. Over time it was moved forward to include September, when the weather was more clement.
By the end of the century, the festivities had grown to include beer stands, which were upgraded in 1896 to become the first beer tents and halls, set up by enterprising landlords with the backing of the breweries.
Today at Oktoberfest in Munich, which runs from September 21 to October 6 and is still held at the Wiesn, there are 14 beer tents in which more than 6 million litres of beer will be consumed by thirsty patrons.
Gradually, the festival has spread all over the world, carried in the hearts of German migrants as far as Namibia, Brazil and indeed, Brisbane.
Begun by two German families, the Moellers and the Zouleks in 2008, Oktoberfest in Brisbane is one of the biggest in Australia, and according to one of the organisers, Louise Moeller the logistics are complicated.
"The difficulty lies in being dedicated to keeping it as authentic and traditional as possible. We fly in a six-man band directly from Munich, with some of their members finishing playing at Munich's Oktoberfest and literally jumping in the plane two days later to play at our Oktoberfest on the first two weekends," Moeller says.
Inside the 3000-square-metre festival tent, the Moellers and Zouleks have paid careful attention to detail. They've imported the same benches and tables as at Munich's Oktoberfest, have had three metre diameter wreaths hand-crafted in Australia and have imported a massive panorama alpine village tent feature wall.
And while Queensland liquor-licensing laws prevent Moeller from disclosing exactly how much beer is consumed, anecdotal evidence suggests a substantial amount is downed by thirsty patrons over the two weekends of Oktoberfest.
Both old and new world play a part: the lager and wheat beer is made exclusively for the event by Tucher Brewery in Nuremberg with a local outfit, the award-winning Burleigh Brewery on the Gold Coast, making a special "Dunkelbier" (dark beer) according to the German Purity Laws of 1516.
These state beer can only be made from water, barley and hops, although after its discovery, yeast became the fourth legal ingredient. Replica glasses are used too, although due to fun-busting Queensland liquor regulations, they are 500ml rather than the traditional litre and made from plastic rather than glass.
Keeping with tradition, the "Anzapfen", the traditional Oktoberfest opening ceremony, proceeds exactly as it does in Munich, with the lord mayor ceremoniously tapping the first keg and presenting it to the head of state.
"This year we're excited to welcome both Graham Quirk, the lord mayor of Brisbane, and Queensland's Premier, Campbell Newman, to fulfil these important roles in kicking off the festival," Moeller says.
It's not all about the beer though; food lovers will find authentic German sausages, while pork lovers with hearty appetites can tuck into the festival signature dish of pork knuckle. There are also sweets such as Black Forest cake and apple strudel.
It all seems far away from Oktoberfest's beginnings as a Bavarian wedding feast, but with a large German population in Brisbane it's a celebration of their culture.
"Oktoberfest Brisbane is simply a wonderful German Festival for young and old, and a unique opportunity to celebrate all things Germans and experience 'little Germany' – no flight needed," says Louise Moeller.
Where to celebrate Oktoberfest in Brisbane
Brisbane Oktoberfest RNA Showgrounds, oktoberfestbrisbane.com.au
Brisbane German Club, Woolloongabba, brisbanegermanclub.com
Bavarian Beer Cafe, CBD, bavarianbiercafe.com
German Sausage Hut (Burnett Lane, CBD), germansausagehut.com.au
King Ludwigs, Maleny, kingludwigs.com.au
Three of the best German beers
goodfood.com.au asked beer educator Matt Kirkegaard to recommend the three best German styles to try if you're heading to an Oktoberfest celebration or even want to experience a bit of a German gemutlich (warm and friendly) vibe at home.
A cloudy wheat beer, this is a great beer for non-beer drinkers to be introduced to as it isn't intensely flavoured or bitter but still has genuine flavour.
It often has aromas of banana, bubblegum and clove. With its traditional low-hop character it has inspired a range of craft brewers to do hoppier versions of it.
Drink with: German sausage, such as weisswurst, as well as seafood such as prawns and scallops and goats cheese.
RAUCHBIER (SMOKED BEER)
Smoked beers are seeing a resurgence of interest in modern craft brewing, but today it's a deliberate methodology rather than the side-effect of drying malts over a wood fire from the early days, which in turn infused a smokiness into the beer.
With industrialisation, malting became a cleaner process and the smokiness dropped out of most beers, but some breweries (and distilleries) kept it alive, including the Franconian town of Bamberg. Smoked beers are an increasing trend in modern craft brewing, culminating in beers such as Rex Attitude from New Zealand's Yeastie Boys Brewery, which has made a 100 per cent peated malt beer.
Drink with: Pork, like the Oktoberfest favourite, pork knuckle.
MARZEN (MARCH BEER)
In the Middle Ages before yeast was properly understood, brewing was very difficult over the summer months and so German brewers would brew large batches in March and store them (lager them) in cool caves for drinking over summer. Once they could brew again (in late September), the remaining beer was consumed in celebrations that would eventually transform into Oktoberfest. Marzen beers are lagers but traditionally tend to be a little darker and stronger than modern lagers.
Drink with: Traditional spicy German brats, although the maltiness goes really well with many spicy foods as well as with red meats. Perfect for a barbecue.