So I know a lot of readers of the blog have kids, I’ve had a fair few emails regarding the kid friendliness of beer festivals in Germany. The concerns of suitability for pushchairs, loud music, drunk people, availability of shade and appropriateness of taking your kid to a bier festival have all popped up one way or another. As have the questions from non drinkers (and non beer drinkers), are there non alcoholic drinks available? is it ok NOT to drink beer?
Festivals in Germany are generally regarded as family friendly, even Oktoberfest! And whilst your little darlings won’t be sampling the beer they can still enjoy a new tradition, it’s kind of like going to a funfair. Kids in Tracht are adorable, buy them a gingerbread heart, some roasted almonds, some candy floss and they’ll be sugared up for pellet guns, duck hooking and the carousel.
Most festivals will have family days, there will be plenty of people with pushchairs and kids everywhere then. During this time the rides may be discounted and there may be special offers on. The rides themselves can range from pony rides to vintage swings to massive modern theme park type rides. There is usually a ferris wheel, always my favourite and safe, although it may not be as new fangled as some in your home country.
Some shade is usually available but make sure to bring sunscreen, the queues for food can be long and hot.
Most events will have a decent sound system but most are not so small that you have to be very near it, if you want to be there all day enjoying the music close up maybe ear protection for a little ones might be an idea.
Whilst children are welcome at beer festivals, the atmosphere after 6 or 7pm is different and more adult and can get crowded. Whilst babies or little ones can be carried and entertained, older kids would probably be bored.
Bringing snacks and drinks with you for your kids is not frowned upon, though finding somewhere to heat up baby food will be a challenge.
People get drunk at beer festivals whatever the time of day is, it’s the same the world over. It is fairly easy to find a quieter area at a beer fest where you are more likely to have a family friendly experience.
The legal age for purchasing beer (and wine) in Germany is 16, the legal age for spirits is 18 (though at 14 a child is allowed to with the permission and in the presence of a legal guardian).
Non beer drinkers
Most bier festivals will also have some wine options, don’t expect a wide selection and do be aware that you might get a half litre of wine. A Weinschorle (a spritzer) is usually a good option, Suß (sweet) with lemonade or sauer (sour) with sparkling water, although you may not get a choice.
You can go to a beer festival and not drink beer, it’s not a big deal. Your non alcoholic options will generally be sparkling, so water, Apfelschorle, coke etc non sparkling options can be more limited.
Non alcoholic Weizen (wheat beer) is available more readily than it’s non wheaty non alcoholic rival, you will pay the same for this as you will for the alcoholic version but most brands taste just as good if not better in non alcoholic form, Maisels, Paulaner and Schneider are my personal favourites.
And to the lovely pregnant lady who emailed me concerned that she would look out of place, I’m sure you aren’t the only one who has worried about this. I’ve seen pregnant ladies dancing on tables before now and in my experience there are plenty of heaving busts on view anyway to provide a decent distraction and the atmosphere is generally friendly and relaxed, always have a buddy to help you down off that table, and that’s my advice to anyone at a beer fest it’s just more fun that way.
Also toilets (for pregnant ladies, parents, kids, everyone!) at festivals will usually set you back 50cents a go (kids usually go free), I don’t mind paying for a toilet that is clean, ever, and some beer festivals I’ve been to have had the cleanest toilets, much cleaner than some restaurants. As with every toilet ever, the ladies lines can be long, always go before you’re desperate.
Edited 18/08/20 First published on The Erlangen Expat 26/04/14