Word of the Week: O'zapft is!
Enlarge image Munich Mayor Christian Ude taps the first barrel of beer at the 2003 Oktoberfest. (© picture-alliance / dpa) If you’ve ever been to Oktoberfest, there’s a good chance you’ve heard Germans joyfully shout out the phrase O’zapft is! to signal the start of festivities in the beer tents.
If you pay close attention, you’ll notice that this phrase is usually called out immediately after a keg of beer is tapped. The phrase is a Bavarian version of Es ist angezapft, which literally means “it is tapped.”
Over the years, this Bavarian abbreviation has become so popular that Germans from all 16 states recognize and use it at Oktoberfest, even if they don’t understand the dialect. But even though you might hear jubilant partygoers exclaim O’zapft is! more than once, the first official use of this phrase is traditionally the most important.
Every year, prominent German leaders and celebrities gather at the Wiesn for the opening ceremony of Oktoberfest. Since 1950, the mayor of Munich has been in charge of tapping the first beer keg at exactly 12 noon in the Schottenhamel tent on the first Saturday of the festival. Hundreds of costumed Germans crowd around the mayor, watching him open the first keg with a large wooden hammer, which pushes the tap into the keg.
Enlarge image German actress Nina Bott taps a keg of beer. (© picture alliance / rtn - radio t) After the beer starts flowing, the mayor yells out O’zapft is! and firecrackers are set off at the statue of Bavaria to inform Oktoberfest stand owners that they can start serving their beer.
Mayor Christian Ude tapped the first Oktoberfest keg on Sept. 21 – as he has done for many years. Following tradition, he then handed the first glass of beer to Bavarian Governor Horst Seehofer.
Mayor Ude currently holds the record for tapping the Oktoberfest keg with the least number of “whams”. This year, he once again upheld his record of two such hits, but in previous years, it sometimes took him three blows to open the keg. In comparison: former Munich Mayor Thomas Wimmer (1948-1960), who started the tradition, took 19 hammer blows to open the first official barrel of beer at the 1950 Oktoberfest.
Enlarge image German Actress Nina Bott taps a barrel of beer while wearing a traditional German dirndl. (© picture alliance / Geisler-Fotop) But many barrels need tapping, and if you missed this year’s opening ceremony, you will undoubtedly still hear use of the phrase O’zapft is! when other kegs are tapped. From Munich to Cincinnati, this Bavarian phrase echoes throughout the world for two weeks each fall.