Perhaps the first thing you’ll notice when you arrive at the beer tent is that it is not a pub. First, it is insanely hot, which is why choosing the right clothing is paramount. Second, you realize that you don’t actually know how to order a beer. It might seem strange, but a dead giveaway that you’re a tourist is by how you order. God forbid you order a pint – that is not a unit of measurement at Oktoberfest. The only unit of measurement here is a measure; a mass (which literally means “a measure”) is what you order. And don’t try to order a stein. The locals don’t even call it that.
Right then, you’ve managed to get yourself a drink. Should be fairly straightforward from here right? Wrong. You still have plenty of opportunity to disgrace the honour of your family in front of the locals. First of all – you will notice only one handle on the mass. That means that the beer is to be handled with one hand. Your upper-body strength will be tested, but before you surrender to the uncommon weight of your drink, take a quick glance at the server. See those 8 litres + the weight of all that glass being carried all at once? Exactly. Now hold it like a man.
Holding it with one hand, you toast by shouting “prost!” and clinking the bottom of the glass, not the top. That way you don’t spill the precious elixir. Also, remember the three finger rule. And by “remember” I don’t necessarily follow to the letter. Where the three finger rule must be heeded is in regards to the last three fingers of beer left in the glass. The general rule is – you throw those out because chances are it’s warm by the time you get to them. What you absolutely DO NOT do with the remaining warm beer is add new beer to it. Consolidating beer is seen as barbaric in Germany, you will be frowned upon vigorously.
You are now largely safe from embarrassment. You’ve done the research; you’ve earned the locals’ respect. You can go the extra mile and learn the Oktoberfest songs, but that is up to you and the kind of tent you choose. The songs are also a sort of drinking game, unsurprisingly, so you may learn them for the fun of it.
Cash is king at Oktoberfest, so it’s best to forget the credit card for the time being. And while you’re at the ATM, make sure to take out a lump sum. Prices will be high, outrageously even. You’ll pay €10 for a mass of beer. About €2 will be a deposit for the glass itself, which will be returned to you when you return the glass. That is one of the ways theft is disincentivized – whether you buy or steal, you pay anyway. Which brings me to the final point – don’t try to steal the glass. For the love of beer, you can actually buy it and leave with your dignity intact. Security at Oktoberfest has become exceedingly efficient at catching thieves, and you’ll have to pay a hefty fine for your transgression. So just buy it and bring it home and never drink from it because it is not the same without the magic of Oktoberfest.