The original Bavarian beer fest, with its drinking challenges and dirndl-clad, stein-toting fräuleins, nowadays draws around 6 million visitors to Munich every year. For the last three decades, Brazil's southern states of Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina – strongholds for the country's German immigrants – have been celebrating their own mini Oktoberfests, with Blumenau being the best known. Never one to miss out on the action for long, São Paulo is this year launching its first ever Oktoberfest – in November.
We have to admit to feeling a little bit sceptical at the level of conviviality that might be possible inside the rather drab convention centre at Anhembi. The venue is being transformed into a faux 19th-century Bavarian village, complete with VIP areas, 4 bars, 2 restaurants and an Oktoberfest shop to buy official merchandise, all for a cool admission price of R$120, which gets you one mug of beer. But if it's anything like the Blumenau festivities, you can expect family-friendly activities during the day, with food, live music, traditional costumes and folk dancing, and more raucous jollity in the evening. DJs and beer keeping the party going until 5am on Friday and Saturday night.
Traditionally, the Oktoberfest beer – märzenbier ('March beer' – so called because historically it was made in the spring and aged until autumn), is a medium-bodied brew with caramelised malt flavour and mild bitterness. But tradition has given way to commercial ambition and the innocuous Brahma will be the official Oktoberfest beer, with InBev's other brands Bohemia and Stella Artois the only other brews on sale. To soak up the suds, fill up on German sausages, lebkuchen ginger bread and imported German pretzels.