The Oktoberfest 2020 was cancelled. The 187th Munich Oktoberfest is planned to begin on September 18th 2021.

How much of Netflix’ new series Oktoberfest - Beer & Blood is actually true?

“Oktoberfest – Beer & Blood” is a TV series produced by Germany’s large organization of public-service broadcasters, ARD. Internationally, it is set to premiere on Netflix on October 1st in nine languages.

Saying that the series is based on true events certainly is a far stretch. It’s rather loosely inspired by some true events. Therefore, none of the main characters has the name of a real person.

The main plot, however, is actually based on some historic events. Even though an Oktoberfest host by the name of Curt Prank never existed, the Oktoberfest literature tells us about Georg Lang.

“Schurl” Lang was in innkeeper who gained some fame in his Franconian home town of Nuremberg. With his tremendous success also grew his self-confidence. Although impossible for a non-local, he wanted to set up a tent at the Oktoberfest – the largest that ever existed.

Georg „Schurl“ Lang wearing a dress coat. Photo from the collection of the Munich city archive.
Georg „Schurl“ Lang wearing a dress coat. Photo from the collection of the Munich city archive.

To acquire a license to run a tent at the Oktoberfest, 19th-century landlords had to buy a lot in an auction from the city of Munich. Those lots constrained the size of the huts the landlords could set up.

Things started to change in 1895 when the crossbow shooters guild “Winzerer Fähndl” was allowed to design a larger “beer castle” and Schottenhamel followed one year later with his “Schützenwirt”.

Although these new tents were larger and architecturally very ambitious, they shooters tents that weren’t integrated in the central ring of shacks but rather located off the beaten track. Therefore, they didn’t yet cause a revolution of the design of beer tents and the lots would still restrict the size of the central pubs.

So, a large beer tent built by a Nuremberger who was planning to have it run by a manager had a total of three reasons not to be realized – and yet, the financially strong Georg Lang did it. He paid five local innkeepers to serve as his undercover agents and bid for five adjacent lots.

Additionally, he miraculously turned Munich’s municipal authorities into his fan club. Despite the obvious bypassing of the regulations, only one single magistrate voted against Lang’s licensing for the Oktoberfest 1898.

His “1st Bavarian Giant Hall” featured a remarkable 6000 seats and 120 people – both numbers so impressive that they were advertised on posters. But it wasn’t only for its dimensions that Lang’s tent would influence the Bavarian beer tent culture for the decades to come.

Lang later replaced the Münchnerkindl brewery with the Augustiner brewery and followed the beer castle trend. Photo by Pettendorfer, Münchner Stadtarchiv.
Lang later replaced the Münchnerkindl brewery with the Augustiner brewery and followed the beer castle trend. Photo by Pettendorfer, Münchner Stadtarchiv.

From 10 am on, the new tent featured “large free concerts” of the 30-man orchestra that was dressed in alpine costumes and abstained from collecting money from visitors. Its popularity lead to a decrease in the number of tents that lacked an orchestra to only three in just two years.

To make sure the new building would be the liveliest ever seen, Lang additionally introduced songbooks. 50 000 of them, containing “the newest melodies” were distributed for free to encourage visitors to sing along. As the orchestras had no singers due to the lack of microphones or loudspeakers, this was a game-changer.

Unfortunately, songbooks disappeared in the second half of the 20th century, but one major premiere still exists today. One of the first book's songs was one that anyone can sing along at least with the second Maß: Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit.