New York City just might throw the most authentic Oktoberfest celebration outside of Munich

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With everyone singing along to live Oompah music, Munich on the East River felt supremely authentic.
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Sarah Jacobs

Oktoberfest is the largest beer festival in the world.

Each year, around six million visitors descend on Munich to drink more than six million liters of beer over the course of three weeks.

But what a lot of foreigners don’t know about Oktoberfest, apart from the fact that it mostly takes place in September, is that it’s still a very cultural, very local celebration, with only 15% of attendees coming from outside of Germany.

A full 70% of visitors come from Bavaria, the southeastern German state where Munich is located.

Oktoberfest is emulated the world over, but its imitators are rarely authentic.

So when I, a seasoned Oktoberfest veteran and Munich native, saw that Zum Schneider, the New York restaurant that taught us how to pour beer like a German, was setting up an authentic beer tent for their own Oktoberfest, I decided to see how it compared to the real thing.


Zum Schneider set up a giant tent along the water to celebrate its annual “Munich on the East River,” which they say is the largest Oktoberfest celebration in New York City.

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Sarah Jacobs

Sylvester Schneider, owner of Zum Schneider restaurant and the man behind the event, took the stage with his band, Mösl Franzi and the Ja Ja Ja’s.

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Sarah Jacobs

The band played typical German Oktoberfest music. Initially, this weeded out the German revelers from the rest, but towards the end of the night everyone was singing, whether they knew the words or not.

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Sarah Jacobs

The only beer served at the real Oktoberfest are those made by Munich’s six breweries: Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu München, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, and Spaten-Franziskaner. While this one had some of those beers on tap, like Hofbräu Festbier and Paulaner Wiesn, some impostors, like Andechs, snuck in. We’ll let that slide.

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Sarah Jacobs

The food was also typically German — there was rotisserie chicken, bratwurst, obatzda, and giant pretzels. All of it was delicious.

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Sarah Jacobs

I can’t speak for this dude, but my waitress spoke German and had a typically efficient and no-nonsense attitude that made me feel right at home.

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Sarah Jacobs

Candy apples might seem odd to an outsider, but it’s a nod to the real Oktoberfest, which has hundreds of stalls selling candied fruit and apples.

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Sarah Jacobs

Gingerbread hearts that say “I love you” and “Greetings from Oktoberfest”in German are also an Oktoberfest mainstay.

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Sarah Jacobs

While the tent, which fit around 1,000 people, was only a fraction of the size of those found in Munich (which can fit up to 11,000), they were decked out in genuine German beer benches and raised VIP areas that are typical for the real festival.

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Sarah Jacobs

Beer was served in authentic liter masses and consumed in bulk.

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Sarah Jacobs

Despite Hurricane Joaquin wreaking havoc that night — it was rainy, cold, and miserable — hundreds of people showed up and clearly enjoyed themselves.

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Sarah Jacobs

There was dancing, both on tables and off.

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Sarah Jacobs

There was singing.

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Sarah Jacobs

And there was, of course, live oompah music.

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Sarah Jacobs

Everyone made an effort to dress the part, like these real, live Germans.

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Sarah Jacobs

I’ve never seen so many dirndl and lederhosen outside of Munich.

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The author (left), pictured with Sylvester Schneider.
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Sarah Jacobs

However, it was still easy to spot the non-German by their, uh, non-traditional garb. Real Germans would never wear a dirndl that hit above the knee, or one that was shiny and neon-colored. But it’s the thought that counts.

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Sarah Jacobs

You could also tell German from non-German by how they held their mass. This, for instance, is not how you hold it.

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Sarah Jacobs

This is how you hold a mass. Germans like to compare it to a handshake with the glass.

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Sarah Jacobs

And this is how you cheers correctly — with the bottom. And don’t ever forget to make eye contact! In Germany, not making eye contact means seven years of bad sex, and it’s taken very seriously.

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Sarah Jacobs

Waiters had their hands full. This was a good effort, though nothing compared to those in Munich, who carry around 10 masses per trip. The record, in case you’re wondering, is 27.

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Sarah Jacobs

All in all, this is as close to the real deal as you will get without buying a ticket to Munich.

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Sarah Jacobs