Bergkirchweih: The Erlangen Beer Festival
The Erlangen Beer Festival, Bergkirchweih, is an annual event that starts at 5pm on the Thursday preceding Pentecost and continues for the following 12 days. First held in 1755, the festival draws around one million visitors a year, making it the third largest Bavarian fair, behind Munich's Oktoberfest and Straubing's Gäubodenvolksfest.
The festival itself takes place in the Bergkirchweih area, which is in the northern most part of Erlangen – a city in Bavaria, Germany. Though the area houses the largest open air beer garden in all of Europe, with seating for more than 11,000 visitors, it is relatively unknown to tourists from outside the state of Bavaria.
During the first day of the festival, the town's mayor hosts an opening ceremony from a beer cellar. A different beer cellar is featured during each year's festival, with thousands of people gathering for the "Anstich". Anstich is the German word for "tapping", referencing the tapping of the first barrel. Those in attendance during the Anstich have a chance of receiving one of the free beers poured from the first barrel.
Along with the numerous beer cellars that are owned by the local breweries, the festival comes complete with several booths and rides, including the largest portable Ferris wheel in Europe, which acts as the unofficial landmark of the fair. A wide variety of Franconian food is also available, including everything from bratwurst to giant pretzels.
On the 12th and final day of the Erlangen Beer Festival, the last barrel of beer is buried at the location chosen for the following year's opening ceremonies.