Saturday was a peculiar day for the residents of St Andrews; the annual sight of swarms of students pretending to be Bavarian drew many a confused glance from locals, and given that this was my first Oktoberfest, I was more used to giving said glances than receiving them. However, for this one day I set aside my British roots and wrestled into a pair of Lederhosen (surprisingly comfortable).
I’d heard tales of the Germanic beer-swilling antics in Kinkell. Oktoberfest treads a fine line between beerhall merriment and failing to remember that you spent the best part of your day in a replica beerhall. As a note to my future self, I’d like to say, ‘maybe go easy on the breakfast pre-drinking next time’, if for no other reason than to fit an extra pretzel and stein of beer in. However, the main reason is that Oktoberfest is an event you’ll want to remember. It’s more than just another event at Kinkell, requiring a hefty number of tequila shots to be enjoyed. The entire venue, was bustling with excitement. Everyone fully committed to the theme in Dirndls and Lederhosen, hoisting around the famous steins of beer. The committee had succeeded in their aim to bring the energy and fun of the true Oktoberfest in Munich, into a more intimate setting in St.Andrews.
I was impressed by the scale of the event, and the hard work which had gone into the planning of such an affair, especially with such a small committee. The buses were punctual and efficient, and, having disembarked, we were greeted by the aroma of sizzling bratwurst and the delighted screams of students being whisked up and down on the vertical ride. Within, the Byre was festively decorated with bunting and the traditional blue and white flags. The size of the bars meant that queues were short, and the inclusion of a stand distributing free water bottles was a genius move, for which hundreds of revellers were undoubtedly extremely grateful. The beer, Paulaner, was reasonably priced, and it goes without saying that it was a welcome change from the pints of Tennent’s and Carling with which many of us are all-too familiar! Those not ready to commit to a full 2 pints, could opt for the Radler: half lemonade and half beer. I may have given into this option….just once, in my defence Oktoberfest is a very long day of beer.
Not only were there traditional Bavarian grilled delicacies, there was a stall dedicated to patisserie as well, with delicious German pastries and baked goods filling many a growling stomach. Yet the food was not limited solely to German gastronomy; the recently-opened restaurant, Giorgio’s, provided Italian fare to those who craved it (which was everyone, I expect. I must have eaten my bodyweight in paninis). Entertainment was provided by a Bavarian band, and despite the number of attendees, there was still plenty of space for dancing and relaxing. The dance floor was packed with spinning couples and the clinking of glasses. I did at times have to keep pinching myself to remember that I was in Scotland.
When catching up with one of the committee members, (over a beer, what else). I had to ask him that inevitable question, why host Oktoberfest in March? The reply I got was one of the best quotations I have heard in a long time: ‘why not? I love Oktoberfest! I wish everyday was Oktoberfest!’ To avoid sounding overly cheesy, it was one of the most joyful events I have been to at Kinkell, at no other event had I heard such raucous laughing. The icing on the cake, was the knowledge that the majority of the proceeds incurred from the sales of beer would be contributed to the Oktoberfest charity, Tayside Centre for Cancer and Leukaemia. A local charity, with a centre in Dundee, close to the hearts of many on the committee.
Like most students in St. Andrews I had been wary of the Oktoberfest reputation. Yet, after witnessing the impressive importation of the best bits of the real Oktoberfest, my fears were silenced. It was an excellently executed and enjoyable day, and has me already plotting a pilgrimage to Munich in October.
Photos courtesy of LightBox Photography.