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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Very merry Oktoberfest

The beer-driven German fe.stival has caught on in Singapore with locals going for celebrations in clubs and pubs
The Straits Times - September 28, 2012
By: Rachel Chan
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Very merry Oktoberfest Party people: Oompah band High Notes and Bavarian-costumed girls during Clarke Quay's 2010 Oktoberfest and partygoers at the Oktoberfest celebrations at Acid Bar (above) this year. -- PHOTO: ACID BAR

The biggest Oktoberfest party in town at the Swiss Club may be over, but you can still celebrate the Bavarian festival at a number of other places.

Traditionally celebrated in Munich, Germany, from the third weekend in September to the first weekend of October, Oktoberfest has caught on among Singaporeans.

At least six food and beverage establishments Life!Weekend spoke to report that the number of Singaporeans who come for Oktoberfest has gone up over the years.

The Swiss Club's general manager Heinz Iten said that more than 10,000 visitors thronged the most

recent Swiss Club celebrations. Its first Oktoberfest celebration, started 13 years ago, was attended by about 800 people. Mr Iten, 57, explained that its Oktoberfest celebrations, which have become an institution over the years, were held earlier this year from Sept 12 to 16 to accommodate guests: "We are guided by the F1 date as this is the time when most corporate guests are in town for the big event."

Oktoberfest events, however, are still going strong at other F&B outlets, which report an increase in beer sales and attendances over the years.

At German brewery Paulaner Brauhaus, for example, the management has seen attendance go up from 4,809 people in 2010 to 5,505 last year.

So it is not surprising that more businesses are jumping on the bandwagon this year to offer German beer, pork knuckle and sausages - the de facto offerings of Oktoberfest.

Mr Ryan Sonson, 41, executive chef of The Sentosa, A Beaufort Hotel, was inspired to start an Oktoberfest menu at the hotel this year after attending a Swiss Club event. He said: "While many of the

attendees were expatriates, I was surprised to see a good number of Singaporeans. I have also noticed that Oktoberfest events organised by German restaurants have always been well-received."

He expects that Singaporeans will make up 20 to 25 per cent of the customers for his festive menu.

Hotel Fort Canning and OverEasy at One Fullerton are organising Oktoberfest celebrations for the first time. Both will offer Erdinger beer and their barmaids will dress in dirndls - a traditional Bavarian dress - and barkeepers in lederhosen, or leather breeches.

Flight steward Jason Tan, 39, who attended Alley Bar's Erdinger beer appreciation session on Tuesday, said: "We don't really get a chance to go to Munich for the original festival, so these events are good as they allow you to have a feel of what Oktoberfest is like. It's as close as you can get without travelling."

Some places, such as Clarke Quay and Paulaner Brauhaus, will have live band performances, with some gigs playing traditional Bavarian tunes.

Oktoberfest is said to have begun with the royal wedding between the Bavarian Crown Prince and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen in 1810. Citizens of the Bavarian capital of Munich were invited to celebrate with lots of beer and a horse-racing event. Over the years, the activities have changed, but feasting, drinking and dancing are mainstays.

Mr Frankie Yeo, 54, a businessman in the F&B industry who used to be a chef specialising in German cuisine, is a huge fan of Oktoberfest. For the past 14 years, he has attended Oktoberfest celebrations clad in traditional Bavarian garb: lederhosen, a white embroidered shirt and a hat with a goose feather. He attends the original festival in Germany every other year and goes to the Swiss Club every year.

He says: "A real Oktoberfest has got to have authentic German food, ambience, people dressed in traditional Bavarian costume and live music. There has to be dancing on the tables. It's a really fun place where you drink, eat and be merry."

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