As loyal readers know, I am a huge fan of Munich’s Oktoberfest.
This epic annual party is a true bucket list, once in a lifetime experience. Or in my case, several times in a lifetime – I just can’t stop going.
As I reported last year, 2010 was the 200th birthday of the fall harvest festival, which has morphed over two centuries into the biggest excuse in the world to drink excessive quantities of beer (nearly 7 million 1-liter steins annually!), dance, party and consume vast amounts of wiener schnitzel, unrecognizable pork products, bratwurst, and innumerable other sausages (more than 200,000 wursts just within the Oktoberfest fairgrounds). And it is a once a year excuse for well-endowed women to don traditional Bavarian dirndl dresses that are, to put it mildly, quite flattering (check out my pictures and posts).
But here’s the catch: in recent years Munich’s 16-day Oktoberfest (which despite its name always begins in mid-September) has gotten uber-popular, with over 6 million attendees every year, and grown steadily, with last year’s bicentennial shattering all previous records. Police even had to curtail admission to the 100-acre site.
As a result it has gotten much more difficult to attend and enjoy Oktoberfest. The catch is that in order to drink beer, enjoy the music, and have a good time, you NEED to have a seat or table inside one of the 14 massive beer tents, but there are a lot more attendees than spots. Like season tickets to the Yankees, tables are booked by the same people each year, and it is very difficult to reserve spots if you are not a Municher, so most foreigners (not just Americans but from every country on earth) show up full of hope, only to stand outside and not be allowed into the massive tent beer halls. Even if you get in, many still roam the aisles looking for a seat they cannot find, and are not allowed to order.
So here’s the thing: the best way to do Oktoberfest is as a VIP. Now the best way to do almost anything is as a VIP, so that is not exactly shocking, but in this case, there is almost no other way. Most tents are owned by one of Munch’s six breweries or a related company, and each as a VIP section with lots of reserved tables with better service, a special tent entrance, and in short, a VIP experience that removes all the hassle.
Just how do you become an Oktoberfest VIP?
Well you can be in the beer business and buy a lot of beer. So if you are the CEO of Chili’s, or own the largest beer distributor in California, you’re in!
If not, there is still one option.
Authentescapes is a high-end luxury travel agency that specializes in putting together one of a kind VIP trips that offer a unique form of experiential travel. All of its itineraries, which are tropically offered just once a year, tie together special events, first rate lodging, and behind the scenes access, with special guest experts to lead and educate participants. For example, they have a wine trip to Tuscany that includes a private pig roast with former Police front man Sting at his over the top villa, a trip to the famed Palio horse race in Italy’s Sienna escorted by Salvatore Ferragamo, and the Ultimate Oktoberfest Trip to which this post alludes.
“Zythology: Celebrate the Beers of Europe,” as it is called, is a 9-day beer centric trip co-hosted by the King of Beers himself, Anheuser Busch brewmaster George Reisch, the guy responsible for making more beer than anyone on earth, along with renowned celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi of the eponymous Roy’s restaurant collection, who handles the food. The trip starts in Brussels with VIP visits to the highly regarded Stella Artois and Leffe breweries, culminating wit a gourmet multi-course Leffe beer pairing dinner arranged by Chef Yamaguchi. Next the group heads to Amsterdam and legendary Westvleteren Brewery, inside the Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus, whose beer has been regularly rated the best on earth (sort of the Pine Valley of brews!). After a brief tourism stop in Cologne, each member of the party is handed the keys to a Porsche (really!), and a GPS, and drives themselves on the famed Autobahn to Munich, hands the car in, and enjoys a private tour of the Spaten Brewery. For Oktoberfest, the group hits opening weekend, the absolute best part of the festival, with VIP access to watch the downtown grand opening parade, after which the Mayor ceremoniously taps the first keg and the party is official ON! Two nights of VIP admission to the Spaten and Lowenbrau tents follow. In comparison, on your own it is tough just to get a hotel room in the city.
Okay, so its costs $8,000 a person. But for beer, and Oktoberfest, it really does not get any better than this. It is like using one of those really high end golf tour operators to buy a spectator package to the Master’s. I guess that’s why I call it the Ultimate Oktoberfest Trip.