Germany: Oktoberfest breweries accused of accessory to fraud

Oktoberfest, the largest public beer festival in the world which will end this Sunday after 16 days, could change fundamentally if a local court follows the ideas of a Bavarian beer tent operator. Walter Hödl, who operated for 19 years a beer tent at the local beer festival in Bad Füssing, Bavaria, sued the Munich breweries because of "accessory to repeated, deliberate and continuing fraud".

The 68-year old argues that the breweries force the consumer to order a beer stein of one liter of beer and deliberatley accept that most consumers will not totally empty the glass, either because of the large volume or because it takes too long to empty the glass and the rest of the beer is lukewarm and stale.

Indeed, one of the curiosities of the Oktoberfest which astonishes most first-time visitors is the fact that the minimum quantity of beer to be ordered is one liter if consumed in one of the large official beer tents. Even low or no-alcohol alternatives like Radler, a beer-lemonade mix, or water is only served in the famous 1 liter dimpled beer glasses.

Hödl is pleading for new steins with several calibration marks at 0.5, 0.75 and 1.0 liter which give consumers the choice to order also smaller quantities of beer and other drinks. If once introduced, consumers would rather drink more than less beer according to his own experience. When he introduced steins with a volume of 0.75 liters at the local beer festival in Bad Füssing in 1995, he reputedly sold 25 percent more beer. At that time, steins with more than one calibration mark where not allowed in Geramny but this has changed according to new legislation in the European Union.

Breweries and tent operators are skeptical about the proposal. However, Christian Schottenhamel, speaker of the Oktoberfest tent operators is open to a change: "I'm always grateful for tips on how to increase my beer sales. I should contact the gentleman after the Oktoberfest."

When this year's Oktoberfest will close its doors tonight, 6.3 million visitors will have consumed about 73,000 hl of beer. While the number of guests was the same as the year before, the partly rainy and cold weather caused people to drink about 2,000 hl of beer less than last year.

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