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Oktoberfest or a smaller less touristy beer Festival?

Since Oktoberfest was cancelled this year so were our plans to attend. We were looking forward to seeing the parades at the start of the festival and having the experience of the beer tents for at least a day or two. Now we're rethinking our plans to attend Oktoberfest altogether for a smaller less touristy beer festival. The trip will probably take place in 2022.

I would love some input about the smaller festivals such as Annafest in Forcheim the Kulmbach beer week or the festival in Straubling and even the small festival in Altaussee Kitag in Bad Aussee, Austria. I'm sure they all draw large crowds but they sound like they might be a great alternative to the crowds in Munich. Our friend that will be traveling with us really wants to attend an Oktoberfest of some sort or another.

I would love to hear from those who have been there and done it.
Thank you all in advance!

Happy New Year!!!

Posted by
1730 posts

Can’t remember where we were exactly, but while driving in SW Germany, we stumbled upon a small Oktoberfest celebration. There was music, beer and traditional food. We stopped and felt very welcome by the locals. It was a very memorable experience.

Posted by
5874 posts

The Cannstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart is often seen as the alternative to Octoberfest. It can rival Octoberfest on some days in attendance, but it seems much more local, tents are easier to get into, maybe what Octoberfest was years ago. It does take place roughly the time of Octoberfest.

I have not been to the Kulmbacher Bierfest, but Kulmbach is a nice town, the breweries are worth a trip anytime, but as I am sure you are aware, this would move your trip up to beginning of August. You will find that most Fests avoid conflicting with Oktoberfest, running before, a few after, the big one.

I lived there a number of year (11 years) and have visited off and on since. All of the festivals in the towns are fairly similar in atmosphere and always felt welcome and had fun, large or small. I have to say Oktoberfest was a little more "out there" but I was 22 the one time I went and we did venture into to the more "loud" tents with lots of younger people and tourists. It was fun (as a young person) but only something I would want to do once, even then. I have friends there now who go and enjoy it but finding lodging/ parking is quite a job. The other town festivals I attended (which are numerous) I enjoyed a lot and would enjoy them now in my 40's.

Posted by
2659 posts

Erfurt, Germany (about 2.5 hours by train from Frankfurt) hosts a much smaller scale Oktoberfest. A single, but quite lively, beer tent. A dozen or so food and drink kiosks. Family friendly rides and games. Even a small parade, for which you don't have to stake out a viewing space hours ahead - I arrived late and had a prime viewing location. All of this set in the very walkable Erfurt town center at the base of the cathedrals.

I am crowd averse and Erfurt was the perfect venue for me to get a taste of Oktoberfest!

(with thanks to the forum member who informed me about the Oktoberfest in Erfurt before I arrived there.)

Posted by
5512 posts

I lived in Augsburg, Germany for four years and did the big Munich Oktoberfest three times. Nothing else to compare.

The next largest fest in the Fall is in Stuttgart (at least it was in the late 80s). I went to that one as well. It was large and fun, but not the big one in Munich.

All over Bavaria from Spring to Fall, there are beer fests in cities and towns. We had about 4-5 in Augsburg every year. They are all good. One thing, don't try riding a carnival ride after drinking even one mass of beer.

Posted by
852 posts

I don't think I can point to one in particular, but take a look at small to mid-sized breweries in the areas you would like to visit for Fest. I’ve been to some larger like Erlanger Bergkirchweih that got so overcrowded and rowdy late that I won’t go again. I have also witnessed small family Dorf orientated brewery Fest turn into wild stand on the table, busloads after a few successful years. At least Oktoberfest Bier tents seem to be somewhat controlled. Unless you’re into a young rowdy crowd, can’t get to the toilet, can’t get another Bier, I’d tell you to avoid later Friday and Saturday night and stick with traditional music and family midday and Sunday. Just an example or two locally in my neahe and both have local breweries: Flex Schlammersdorf (Puttner) and Herbstfest in Friedenfels (Friedenfelser).

Edit: I wanted to add Bürgerfest, which are usually small one to three day local city Fest usually held during spring - summer. Search for Bürgerfest in the areas you plan to visit.

Posted by
888 posts

I would recommend a Frühlingsfest (Spring fest) as an alternative to Oktoberfest. Munich's is usually the 2 weeks at end of April/beginning of May. It is like a mini-Oktberfest but without the crowds and tourists.


Posted by
75 posts

Oktoberfest is not what it used to be. Now it doesn't show you local customs and a way of life. It is full of foreign tourists, many of them teenagers from USA who want to get drunk. And that is what you see, especially on the main location Theresienwiese, enormous crowds (you can barely walk), overcharged fast food, dozens of drunk people stumbling and vomiting, many on the ground. Basically you can see how local people live and enjoy life in any beerhall in Munich or say Englischer garten. During the Oktoberfest most of that changes, not in a good way, it gets crowdier, prices skyrocket, everything becomes touristy and artificial.

Posted by
708 posts

As a former resident of Erlangen Germany, I would like to suggest that the negative comment above about the Erlangen Bergkircheweihe could apply to any German Beer Festival... If you go on a weekend evening. It is packed by Germans.... a rowdy bunch when drinking... but relatively few tourists... and the Franconian beer is different (and of course better) than that from Munich.

If you want to "Live like a Local" as Rick Steves commonly suggests - you can really enjoy the Berche, as it is known locally.

I have been to many local county fairs in the US and the Berche is no busier (although more alcohol soaked) than most county fairs.

Have fun.

Posted by
8127 posts

Every city and town will have multiple festivals in Spring, Summer or Fall. If you go to the website of the city, it will tell you when and what kind of festival it will be. Could be a wine fest, harvest fest, medieval fest, Easter market, new wine fest, fish fest, etc. All of these towns have their own FB pages if not multiple FB pages, often in English for the expats that live there. You can find more information about upcoming festivals there too. Join a page and then ask all the questions you want about that city or town. What do they recommend for festivals, what are their favorites and why?

Posted by
2 posts

I enjoyed the Nuremberg Altstadtfest which is held in early September. Went there about a week before the Munich Oktoberfest in 2018. Really enjoyed the atmosphere, the food and the smaller crowds in Nuremberg. Good vibe to the event and mostly responsible adults attending, particularly during the weeknights.

I did attend Oktoberfest on the same trip in 2018 and agree with geovagriffith that this one is not to be missed. It's touristy. It's crowded. Younger people attending probably drink a bit too much. But it's certainly worth it when the kegs tap at 12:00 on Saturday. Great experience.

Our group did stay in Augsburg which was a great city to visit and took the regional train to Munich. 43 euros for 4 travelers (2018 prices) for the Bayern ticket. Good also on U/S-bahn, buses and trams which is helpful getting around Munich.

Who knows if there will be any beer festivals this year? I really missed the festivals and concerts last year. I hope that this year they will already start holding events. Last year, right before the outbreak of the pandemic, I bought one of the Best Lightweight tents because my friends and I were going hiking in the mountains. I was looking forward to this trip because this would be my first trip like this but the pandemic changed my plans. I hope that this year all my planned plans will come true and I sincerely wish you the same!

Posted by
2196 posts

Belgium doesn't have Oktoberfest ... but it does have plenty of Beer Festivals throughout the year. Google "Belgian Beer Festivals" and you'll get more options. For example, we went to a fun beer festival in Mechelen last year. I've been to Oktoberfest a few times, but enjoy the smaller, local beer festivals. Here are just a few:

'Bruges Beer Festival
The Brugse Autonome Bierproevers (BAB, or Bruges Autonomous Beer-tasters) is the local branch of the beer consumer association Zythos. Every year, in early February, it is responsible for the organisation of the successful BAB Brugs Bierfestival in the Beurshalle exhibition centre.Brugse Autonome Bierproevers Astridlaan 37
Assebroek, West Flanders, Belgium
T: +32 (0) 050 / 363 203

Belgian Beer Weekend
The Belgian Beer Weekend (Belgisch Bierweekend) is held every year during the first weekend of September, in the prestigious setting of the Grand Marché in Brussels. It is staged by the National Federation of Belgian Brewers, an organisation counting over 70 members – including most of the country's large and medium-sized breweries.Grand Place 10
B-1000 Brussels, Belgium
T: +32 (0) 2 / 511 49 87

Brassigaume was set up under the initiative of Brasserie de Rulles, local traders and entrepreneurs from the Ardennes and the Gaume region in Southern Belgium. This beer festival takes place in the first half of October, in the village of Marbehan, 20km away from Aarlen (Arlon).
Rue des Prés 11
B-6724 Marbehan, Belgium
T: +32 (0) 63 41 18 38

Bierpassie Weekend - Antwerpen
The Bierpassie Weekend traditionally takes place in a tent camp, set up at the Groenplaats, in the heart of Antwerp. The festival is held at the end of June. It is the number one rendezvous for the more established, medium-sized and large Belgian breweries.
Bierpassie Magazine
T: +32 (0) 03 / 645 72 47

Kerstbierfestival, Christmas Beer Festival Essen
The village of Essen – to the north of Antwerp and close to the Dutch border – has put its name on the beer-festival map with its annual Christmas outing. 
Objectieve Bierproevers Essense Regio (O.B.E.R.)

Modeste Bierfestival Antwerpen
The De Koninck brewery hosts the annual Modeste Bierfestival, on-site in Antwerp in early October.
Boomgaardstraat 17
B-2018 Antwerp, Belgium

North Sea Beer Festival
More than 200 Belgian beers from around 30 breweries, from the classics to limited editions... 
Zeeheldenplein 8400
Oostende, Belgium

Poperinge Beer FestivaL
During the two-day festival - In October -25 brewers will present and pour a selection of their finest beers.Oostlaan 18 - bus A2, 8970 Poperinge
+32 (0)57 36 08 93 - +32 (0)494 32 68 60

Weekend of Special Beers, Sohier
Set in the small, sleepy village of Sohier, there were about 30 beers available - held in February

Zythos Bier Festival
The Zythos Beer Festival (ZBF) is staged every year in the Brabanthal exhibition hall, in the city of Leuven. The festival takes place each year at the end of April 
Weg naar As 9, Bus 10
3600 Genk, Belgium

Posted by
1202 posts

Closer to home - we used to have a big time at Summerfest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA when I was younger. It's not strictly a beer fest but we sure drank a lot of it while there listening to all the music!

Posted by
5512 posts

We lived in Augsburg, Germany, 50 miles west of Munich for four years.
We did the big Oktoberfest in Munich three times, nothing like it. Go there if you can.

In Bavaria there is probably a fest going on almost every weekend during late Spring, Summer or early Fall, but nothing like the big one. We did the one in Stuttgart once, it was supposed to be the second biggest. It was nice, but not like Munich. Also, try to see the parade at the beginning of the fest.

Posted by
56 posts

The first day of Oktoberfest is great with the parade and the crowd. After watching the parade and enjoying the day, I would go during the week or Sunday when the fest first opens. It is very loud and packed with people but you never forget the first time you experience it. Another option that I enjoy is in March at the Starkbierzeit in Munich. This is held during Lent and only a few Munich breweries participate. Thinking only locals would appear, I last went in 2018. I met college guys from Maryland on Spring Break, a couple from CA and did see lots of locals. The fest is held indoors as it is cold in Munich in March but the music was great, never saw guitars in an oompah band, but then I haven't been to Munich's Oktoberfest since '86. Germany has local festivals throughout the summer, so you should be able to find one no matter where you go. And with the internet, so much information is available.


Posted by
199 posts

The Volksfest in Freising is what many locals call the warmup for Oktoberfest. It's a smaller, less crowded version of the Wiesn without the tourists.

Posted by
323 posts

mislavzoranic pretty much hits the nail on the head. Go if you must so that you can draw your own conclusions but there are plenty of smaller and more gemutlich opportunities to party and drink beers without all of the insane and crazy crowds. Wherever you go in Germany locals enjoy food, drink and dance. These smaller fests provide you with an opportunity to share a table and possibly shake a leg with the locals. That said, there is no need to try and ferret out fests to have fun. Germans like to go out for a meal and a few beers. If you show up at any local beer hall and politely engage you should have a great time. If you show proper technique and an appreciation for protocol you will fit right in... Proper protocol? When you order up eine Maß pull down about half of it with you first drink. You may nurse it from there. Do the same with your next one.