After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID pandemic, Germany’s world-famous beer festival reopened. Beer prices at the event are approximately 15% higher than in 2019.
Early Saturday morning, revelers in traditional Bavarian attire raced through Munich to secure a spot at the first Oktoberfest in two years.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Germany’s famed beer festival was halted for two years.
It is the largest folk festival in the world. Oktoberfest has been canceled 26 times in its 200-year history, mostly due to World Wars I and II, but also twice due to cholera outbreaks.
Munich Mayor Didier Reiter began this year’s ceremony with three hammer strikes and the insertion of the first keg tap, followed by the traditional cry of “O’zapft is (it’s tapped).”
Reiter then presented the first tankard to Markus Söder, the regional government’s head.
Visitors from all over Germany and the world can enjoy the Munich Oktoberfest’s heavy beer mugs, fat-dripping sausages, and pretzels the size of dinner plates until October 3.
The beer industry is under pressure
Oktoberfest generates approximately €1.2 billion ($1.2 billion) in revenue, owing to the cult status of beer in Germany.
However, the beer industry in Germany is under pressure due to a number of economic challenges.
The German Brewers’ Federation DBB appealed for assistance on Friday in the face of skyrocketing energy prices and supply chain disruptions.
“The government has to respond,” DBB said. “Without prompt state intervention and assistance, hundreds of businesses in the German beverage sector will close and thousands will lose their jobs.”
The pressure is also affecting Oktoberfest attendees, with a 1-liter (2-pint) mug of beer costing between €12.60 and €13.80 — a 15% increase over 2019.
‘New phase’ of COVID
The last time Oktoberfest was held in 2019, 6.3 million people attended.
The 187th festival will take place this year with no COVID restrictions. Face masks are not necessary.
Söder told the daily Münchner Merkur newspaper earlier Saturday that COVID cases were likely to rise after Oktoberfest.
But, “at the same time, thankfully, we aren’t measuring an undue strain on hospitals anywhere,” the politician of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) said.
“That speaks to the fact that we are in a new phase of [the coronavirus pandemic],” Söder said. He added that authorities would try to protect vulnerable people but would not prevent celebrations.