Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Imported Tradition Of The Oktoberfest

Much as I seek through this particular column to focus on Mallorcan culture, traditions and what have you, it has to be acknowledged that the cultural calendar is not exclusively Mallorcan. There are traditions which can't accurately be referred to as traditions because of their recency, but they are traditions through import, those which owe nothing to Mallorcan culture. And one such is the Oktoberfest. From the middle of September to the middle of October, the island is awash with beer, and this is beer of almost exclusively Germanic origin, promoted to tourist and resident alike through the inevitably clichéd images of large steins of lager, a mädchen in her dirndl and an orgy of Oktoberfest typography, some of which is more likely to be Old English. But let's not worry too much about font accuracy and correctness. It is the last thing that the punter is interested in. He (or indeed she) only has eyes for an enormous glass of foaming liquid.

Today in Can Picafort they'll be downing the last of the Paulaner at the first Oktoberfest to have been held in this resort of kleines Deutschland. It has been, I think I'm right in saying, one of a series of movable beerfest taken to the more remote parts of the island, i.e. those which aren't Playa de Palma or Calvia. Cala Millor had it, and now Can Picafort has had it. But it has been an Oktoberfest which is small beer when set against the über-fest of Arenal's Megapark and indeed Palma and Santa Ponsa's beery love-ins.

The Oktoberfest in its Mallorcan guise is more than simply an event to which the travelling German, missing out on the real thing in Munich, can attend and drown his sorries at not being in Munich. It is a means of prolonging the season and adding dynamism to tourism and promoting a particular resort. This at least is what Joan Monjo, the delegate for Can Picafort at Santa Margalida council, had to say about his beerfest. And it may well be all of these things, assuming it doesn't move somewhere else next year.

This imported cultural tradition does seem to go down quite well with the natives. When the Santa Ponsa fest used to be held in the not so kleines Deutschland of Peguera, it was reckoned that at least 60% of the drinkers were Spanish. But Peguera had represented something of a cultural shock. There was a priceless piece in the local press which explained with something approximating alarm that beer is not served in quantities less than half a litre. The Spaniard, reared on the thimble of the caña, was exposed to the massive attack of the German "mass", and he drank deep and repeatedly, liberated from the junior measure.

This autumnal beer bombardment does have to be seen in a wider context of the Mallorcan beer tradition, such as it is, and, to be honest, it isn't much of a tradition, save for the fact that a great deal of beer is consumed. There hasn't been a brewery of any great size on the island for over fifteen years. The old Damm brewery, which had originally been the Rosa Blanca many, many years before, closed in 1998. But in more recent times, there has been the rise of the microbrewery and the artisan beer. So celebrated has the artisan beer become that, starting on Friday next week, the Alcudia fair will be giving such beer a great deal of prominence. The fair will open at 6.30pm on Friday evening, and there will be a dedicated sub-fair for artisan beers. Moreover, as the fair progresses, there will be a sort of workshop to demonstrate how to make artisan beers, which all sounds a bit like the long-held British obsession with homebrewing and the potential for terribly messy accidents when there is a minor explosion. And as if this wasn't enough, there will also be visits to the Beer Lovers microbrewery, conveniently located next to the town hall.

The microbrewery has encroached into territory dominated by European corporates like Heineken. It certainly did so during Beer Palma, a Maifest of beer devotion back in May with nary a dirndl in sight. This was more of an indigenous beer occasion to which the corporates were invited guests. But the local beers are unlikely to be making their presence felt in the Oktoberfests. Uprooted from Munich the fest has been but woe betide, for the German stickler, that the beer fails to pass the Reinheitsgebot purity test. Weizen, helles and dunkel. The lederhosen will be there in spirit if not the actual wearing. "Ein Prosit, ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit." And try translating that it into Mallorquín or Catalan or Castellano.

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