7 Things Every Man Should Know About Oktoberfest

For one thing, it starts in September.

You know about the sausages. And the beer. (So much beer!) But how much do you really know about Oktoberfest? From goat-hair hats to 12-gun salutes, The Complete Beer Course author Joshua M. Bernstein provides the most essential Oktoberfest knowledge for every man—namely, how to tell your German friends that you need to take a leak.

In love, there’s drunkenness.

Munich’s festival of sausages, suds, and buxom, dirndl-clad fräuleins was born in 1810 to commemorate the killer wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig I of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. Next time your girlfriend complains about your Oktoberfest drunkenness, just tell her that it’s because you love her.

Don’t trust your calendar.

Oktoberfest actually starts in September, running for a stretch of 16 beer-soaked days (this year, the dates are September 21 through October 6). Moreover, if you jet to Munich and ask for directions to Oktoberfest, locals might look at you like you’re a pretzel necklace–clad loser: Locally, the celebration is colloquially known as “die Wiesn,” the informal name of the fest’s fairgrounds—Theresienwiese.

Get your goat on.

During the 16 days of Oktoberfest, it’s customary for men to wear short-brimmed Bavarian hats known as Tirolerhüte, which contain a tuft of goat hair. Don’t cheap out and buy imitation tresses. The more tufts of goat hair in your hat, the wealthier you’re considered to be.

Pack your gun.

Munich’s Oktoberfest kicks off every year with a 12-gun salute, followed by the city’s mayor tapping the first keg of Oktoberfest beer and proclaiming, “O’zapft ist!”—“It is tapped!” The first beer is served to Bavaria’s minister-president, and then the revelry begins. The American equivalent? Imagine Joe Biden or Barack Obama pounding a beer and then firing a shotgun into the air.

No beer here.

When Oktoberfest started, no alcohol was sold at the celebration, which makes as much sense as attending a football or baseball game without a beer. Soon after, authorities smartened up and began selling beer, leading to the rise of the massive beer halls for which Germany is now famous.

Bet on the ponies.

Screw the oom-pah bands and chicken dancing. Originally, Oktoberfest was all about horse racing, a tradition that had ended by 1960. To revive the departed ritual, head to your local track and, channelling your inner Charles Bukowski, bet big on the ponies.

Let it out.

Unless you decide to wear an adult diaper (so snug!), you’ll eventually have to hit the bathroom. Next time nature calls, use the German term bieseln—that is, to take a leak.

Photos by Dennis Rowe/ Getty Images | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013