This year is the 200th anniversary of Oktoberfest, but you don’t need to go to Munich to experience the famous Bavarian beer festival. Instead, you could head to Sydney, Australia at the opposite side of the world.
Sydney - or Munich? At this Oktoberfest, its hard to tell
Australians tend to enjoy drinking. They especially like beer in large quantities. So it's no wonder they embrace that greatest celebration of beer: Oktoberfest.
The guests seem to enjoy it - no matter what continent they're on
In Australia's largest city, Sydney, a number of “Oktoberfest” celebrations are held across town. They take place at German breweries, German restaurants, a university campus and pretty much anywhere people are looking for an excuse to imbibe and be merry.
The first venue to kick off the festivities this year was the Loewenbraeu Keller, a Bavarian brewery and restaurant in an area known as the Rocks, which is one of the oldest parts of the city and not far from Sydney's famous opera house.
The Oktoberfest here at the Loewenbraeu began the same weekend as the real event in Munich and the festivities also began in the traditional way, with a keg tapping and a subsequent "beer shower" for those standing nearby.
A delicious meal, if you can finish it
The room is a smaller version of the famous Oktoberfest beer tents. There are drapes in Bavarian blue and white hanging around the room and long wooden tables at which the guests eat and drink their fill. The waiters and waitresses – most of whom are German or German-speaking – serve the guests with a smile while wearing dirndls and lederhosen, the traditional Bavarian dresses and leather pants.
There are traditional Bavarian beers imported from Germany on offer. Loewenbraeu is available, as well as Spaten, Hofbraeu and others. Few guests are able to conquer the mountain of food served up by the kitchen: schnitzel, pork knuckle, sausages, bread dumplings and sauerkraut.
The Bavarians' representative
Reinhard Wurtz, the general manager of the Loewenbraeu, has been living in Australia for ten years. Although originally from Lake Constance, he says he feels Bavarian after serving in the army there and identifying with the culture.
"I think I'm the right representative for the Bavarians," Reinhard says.
He's certainly getting into the Bavarian spirit during Oktoberfest, dressed in Lederhosen and singing along when the live "oompah" band strikes up a tune.
Loewenbraeu recreates Munich's beer tents
Reinhard is proud of the authenticity of the Loewenbraeu's Oktoberfest, claiming the brewery is the most authentic Bavarian beer house outside of Bavaria.
He's even about to head back to Munich for this year's Oktoberfest to make sure he stays in touch with how it's done at home.
"You have to get ideas when you're away for a long time," he says.
Beer matters to Australians
Most of the guests at the Loewenbraeu Oktoberfest are local Sydneysiders, keen to enjoy some Bavarian culture.
One woman says she's always wanted to go to the real Oktoberfest, but has never had the chance. This is the next best thing, she says.
Revelry starts with a traditional keg-tapping
Others have been to Munich and are happy to relive the memories.
But at least one visitor, known in this article as Paul – but who also gave his name as Steve and Peter when asked – is more honest about his reasons for attending.
"The reason we're out tonight is mainly because beer is very important to Australians," says Paul, or Steve, or Peter.
"It's also about good looking girls, but mainly it's about the boys and having a few beers."
Author: Clare Atkinson
Editor: Jennifer Abramsohn