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Forget Oktoberfest. Here’s why you should visit Cannstatter Volksfest instead

While the opening of Germany’s largest festival in Munich has been dominating the headlines over the past week, here’s a knees-up in Stuttgart which kicks off on Friday that’s smaller, cheaper and more laid back.

Forget Oktoberfest. Here's why you should visit Cannstatter Volksfest instead
A waitress carrying mugs of beer at the Canstatter Volksfest in 2005. Photo: DPA

The 172nd Cannstatter Volksfest – otherwise known as Stuttgart’s famous Wasen and Germany’s second largest funfair – launches on Friday and ends three weeks later on October 8th.

Similar to last year, around four million visitors are expected to attend the festival, many of them clad in traditional clothing such as Dirndls and Lederhosen. There’s no dress code though, so don’t stress out if you’d prefer to show up in the clothes you’re comfortable in.

Just like Munich’s Oktoberfest, large quantities of golden brew and gingerbread hearts will also be on offer along with roller coaster rides and lots of singing while standing atop beer hall benches.

But at the Wasen there will likely be more locals, the ambience will be cozier and the beer will be cheaper – what more could you want?

Inside a beer tent at the Canstatter Volksfest in 2011. Photo: DPA.

Whereas a typical Maß (a one-litre mug full of beer) will set you back nearly €11 at Oktoberfest, the same thing will cost you at least €0,50 cheaper at the Volksfest.

At Oktoberfest you’ll also need around 10 people to reserve a table in one of the beer tents. Meanwhile at the Wasen a minimum of about five people is necessary to make a table reservation. Not to mention there are still actually reservations available. Popular beer tents include Grandls, der Göckelesmaier, and der Wasenwirt.

New carnival rides have been added to the 2017 edition of the Wasen, too. One new ride called “The Flyer” whips passengers high up into the air at speeds of 70 kilometres per hour. Another new addition is “Apollo 13,” a ride that looks like a space shuttle and boosts passengers up to dizzying – and gut-wrenching – heights.

“Every year we want to offer our guests something new” while preserving the “charm and tradition” of the largest festival in southwestern Germany,” said event organizer Andreas Kroll.

This is probably why people just can’t get enough of it. Last year, the Cannstatter Volksfest welcomed one million visitors in its opening weekend alone – twice as many as the number of people who attended Oktoberfest 2016 in its first weekend.

All the more reason to get your booze on as well as your fill of south German culture now before the Volksfest gets as popular as Oktoberfest (fingers crossed it never does).

Further perks include two days during its 17-day run dedicated to families, with reduced prices in all areas of the festival. Also on the programme is a musical fireworks display in the evening on the Cannstatter Wasen’s last day to wrap things up.

With DPA

BEER

From ‘crisis beer’ to crowdfunding: How German small brewers are getting creative during the pandemic

Beer gardens are beginning to open up across Germany. Yet In order to make up for the losses they have faced over the past year, brewers have had to take matters into their own hands.

From ‘crisis beer’ to crowdfunding: How German small brewers are getting creative during the pandemic
The inside of the 'Kaiser Brewery'. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

Across Germany, brewers have been searching everywhere for inspiration during the coronavirus pandemic, from brewing ‘crisis beer’ to baking beer-infused bread, starting online businesses and even relying on crowdfunding.

This creativity has been a lifeline – the only way for some breweries to survive.

Standing next to a storage tank inside the Holzhauser Brewery, Dario Stieren – brewer extraordinaire and manager of the Munich Brew Mafia – takes a sip of his own freshly-brewed beer.

The months-long closure of restaurants and bars during the pandemic has hit the industry hard, and small breweries have really felt the impact. 

READ ALSO: Can Germany’s small breweries survive the coronavirus crisis?

Perhaps surprisingly, business is actually going better for the Munich Brew Mafia than before the pandemic, all thanks to the launch of their new line of beers named Impfstoff (vaccine) that they developed in response to the crisis. This novelty beer is available in ‘easy dosage’, ‘double dose’ and ‘overdose’. 

The brewers had not expected their ‘pandemic beer’ to fly off the shelves so quickly, but the first round of bottling sold out in just six hours. In June they will be bringing the fifth batch of their innovative creation to the market.

The pandemic has definitely not all been smooth-sailing for the Brew Mafia; the three brewers who produced the crisis beer have had to become much more flexible and creative over the pandemic, and each of them has had to work a separate job alongside the brewing.

‘We have to stand together’

The opening of beer gardens around Germany is undoubtedly an important step forward, but the Association of Private Brewers in Germany does not think that this alone can lift the brewers out of the difficulties brought by the pandemic. 

The Nuremberg Schanzenbräu brewery is a prime example of innovation under trying times. In a normal year, every weekend between the end of May and the start of September would be a celebration, for which the Schanzenbräu brewers would provide beer on draught. 

Last year the summer party season was basically non-existent, explains Stefan Stretz, the managing director of the brewery, and this year is not looking much better. 

Between 25 and 30 percent of the beers sold by Schanzenbräu come from the tap. Since the start of the Covid-19 crisis Stretz, like most brewers, has been trying to sell more and more bottles of beers. “The market is now pretty cut-throat”, says Stretz. 

READ ALSO: Why German beer day is celebrated on April 23rd

Along with his fellow brewers, Stretz developed and brewed a Zusammen Halbe beer. “The idea behind the beer is that, in a time of crisis, we have to stand together”. A full 40,000 bottles of the beer were produced, and most of these were snapped up pretty quickly.

Stretz will not reveal the extent of the losses suffered by his brewery during the pandemic, but he says there is no way the company’s new ventures can fully compensate. What the beer did do was bring attention to the brewery, which is hugely valuable given the competitiveness of the brewing industry in Germany. 

Somewhat surprisingly, some brewers are actually doing well in the crisis. The Störtebeker brewery in Stralsund has seen a rise in sales.

“With this rise we have been able to compensate for the losses caused by the closure of the restaurant industry”, says the brewery’s spokesperson Elisa Raus. Offering their products online has also played a part in the brewery’s increased sales, and helped to win over new customers. 

Like many other brewers, Christoph Kumpf, manager of the Kaiser Brewery in Geislingen, Baden-Württemberg, faced another problem dealt by the pandemic.

“The persistent lockdown of the restaurant industry meant that a lot of our draught beer was approaching its sell-by date”.

In order to avoid having to pour it all down the drain, Kumpf had to get creative, using the beer to make gin, installing a ‘beer drive-thru’ in front of the brewery and selling any remaining product to local bakers.  

‘Beer-saver bread’

Six bakeries in the region are now producing ‘beer-saver bread’, for which they replace the water in the dough with beer. According to Kumpf, 1,500 liters of draught beer have been used so far to make over 3,000 loaves of bread.

An employee of the Kiene bakery holds a Bierretter bread in her hands. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

Through these forward-thinking approaches, the brewery has at least been earning back the cost of producing the beer. Other breweries across the country have come up with similar ideas and you can now be on the lookout for Altbierbrot (old beer bread) in Düsseldorf. 

Kumpf is pleased with the success of his campaign, but he stresses that his brewery cannot survive without restaurant sales and private events. “The support from the state has been a real lifeline, no doubt, but the crisis has simply lasted too long”. 

A further problem of the pandemic is that breweries have no money to invest in their futures. The Viechtach community brewery in the Bavarian forest had to launch a crowdfunding campaign to counter this, from which they raised €500,000 within a week, according to the brewery’s manager Markus Grüsser. 

Grüsser, who comes from the Cologne area, took over the brewery at the end of 2018, at which time the business had an investment backlog of fifteen years.

He now wants to use the money raised by crowdfunding to invest in new refrigeration systems and increase the brewery’s social media presence. 

According to the German Association of Brewers, effective media campaigns like those in Nuremberg and Viechtach can help to alleviate the damage for their own individual brewing companies, but are not representative of the situation facing the majority of breweries. 

“What we are talking about here are a few exceptions”, says Holger Eichele, the association’s spokesperson.

The union’s surveys have shown that the future of one in four brewing companies in Germany is under threat. 

READ ALSO: ‘We thought we’d be closed for a month’: How Berlin’s bars are surviving the coronavirus shutdown

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