Munich’s mayor and keg tapping may seem like a tale as old as time, but did you know the Oktoberfest tradition we discussed in A Parade, O’ Zapft Is & Prost is not actually a custom of Munich’s Oktoberfest?
From 1810 to 1949, no cries of “O’zapft is!” hit the ears of thirsty festers. There was no mallet or mayor to usher in the town’s most-anticipated beer festival. Sad, right?
In 1950 everything changed thanks to the then mayor, Thomas Wimmer.
It was customary for the mayor to lead the parade of restaurateurs each Oktoberfest, but Wimmer was a very busy guy. During the start of 1950’s party, he was caught up at an electronics fair in town. To get to the fairgrounds, also known as the Wiesn, he cut some corners and took the shortest route.
This is where the story gets good.
Rumor has it that in order to catch up to the festivities Wimmer took the shortest route to the fairgrounds, also known as the Wiesn, heading straight for the Schottenhamel’s family tent. (Fun fact: The Schottenhamel is now the largest tent at Oktoberfest, boasting more than 10,000 seats!)
He actually ran into the Schottenhamel family en route to their tent, and they kindly offered him a lift in their carriage. Legend states that in return for the ride he was jokingly requested to tap the first keg of Oktoberfestbier.
True or not, we know this for certain: minutes later Wimmer was finally in the Schottenhamel, Bürgermeister mallet in hand. 17 strokes later he pushed the tap into the barrel and declared “O’zapft is!” (Still not sure what this means? Find out here.)
The people of Munich were so thrilled with this spirited display that he was asked to do the very same thing the next year. He passed this tradition onto his successors and it is now a vital part of the Oktoberfest experience. You can’t get a sip of brew without it!
Think 17 attempts sounds like a lot? Tapping a keg may look easy, but it is a bit of an art form. See how some of your favorite celebrities have fared during this time-honored tradition in the video below.