Wed, 24 Sep 2003

'The keg is tapped' at Aryaduta Hotel

Maria Endah Hulupi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Oktoberfest, a 19th century royal wedding turned into a modern day folk festival, is being celebrated by German communities around the world.

And it wouldn't be Oktoberfest without a crowd of cheerful beer drinkers enjoying a continuous flow of beer, delicious yet rather heavy Bavarian food and traditional music.

It is said that the annual festival -- dubbed the world's largest such festival -- draws around six million visitors from around the globe with an estimated five million liters of beer being consumed.

The festival has its origins in the wedding celebration of Bavaria's Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on Oct. 12, 1810, held at the Theresienwiese (which literally means the field of Therese, which was so named to pay tribute to the Princess), in Munich, Bavaria, Germany. All citizens were invited to the gala event.

The event was originally celebrated with horse races and, to commemorate the royal wedding, an annual October festival was held every year, interrupted only by wars and cholera epidemics, sources said.

In later developments, an agricultural show was added, together with a carousel and a small beer stand. Several years later, the horse races were abandoned and the beer stands were replaced with beer tents. The agricultural show is also still held every three years.

In Germany, the festival begins with a parade of brewers and beer tent landlords to the Schottenhammel tent, the oldest private tent at the Oktoberfest. But the merriment officially starts when the famous phrase "O' Zapft Is" (the keg is tapped) is announced shortly after the first keg of beer is tapped by the Mayor of Munich.

Recently in Jakarta, at least 800 guests from big German companies in the capital also gathered to celebrate the annual festival in the Aryaduta Hotel Jakarta's Ballroom. Apart from Bavarian food and beer by the barrels, there was also live music performed by the Garmisch Partenkirchener Band from Bavaria.

"The festival is now held in September to avoid the icy cold and early snowfalls," the hotel's food and beverage director Roger Habermacher said of the event, which lasts for 16 days and ends on the first Sunday in October.

Clad in traditional Bavarian costumes, several girls in dirndls and boys in lederhosen distributed tall glasses and served beer (as well as other drinks, like juices and soft drinks) to guests.

It was the hotel's general manager Roger Lienhard who tapped the first keg and officially declared "O' Zapft Is".

The venue was specially decorated with banners bearing Bavaria's blue and white check motif and there were several rows of long wooden benches and chairs, arranged neatly before the stage where the Bavarian band entertained guests with their performance.

Dozens of food stands were set up right in front of the Ballroom, serving various dishes, like goulash soup, knodel (dumpling), haxen (roast pork), Bavarian cream, liver sausage, assorted Bavarian cheeses and weisswurst (veal sausage specially prepared for this occasion but also popular throughout the year).

"Bavarian people insist that this sausage be eaten before lunch time to ensure maximum quality and freshness of the product," Habermacher explained.

To provide guests with authentic Bavarian flavors during the event, the hotel imported most of the food items, such as sauerkraut, weisswurst, bratwurst and meat loaf directly from Bavaria, including the Erdinger beer which is also imported from Germany.

The 3-day Oktoberfest has been followed by a six-day-long German Food Festival, dubbed the Bavarian Schmankerln (or Bavarian Favorites), which ends this Saturday.

Unlike the Oktoberfest menu, which was a buffet with a variety of around 50 delicacies, the Schmankerln menu is based on an a la carte selection and is therefore smaller in scale.

"We will offer around 12 to 15 specialties varying from weisswurst to maultaschen (dumplings with spinach), and other specialties," Habermacher said.