IT’S time for beer, bratwurst and Bavarian music as the annual German Beer Fest returns to the Meca in Swindon on Saturday, September 23.

Dust off your Dirndl dresses and spruce up your lederhosen in readiness for the fifth incarnation of the town’s own ‘Oktoberfest’, at the venue in Regent Circus.

Around 500 people are expected to attend the event, where the bar staff will be dressed in traditional festival costumes to serve beer to revellers.

“We keep it traditional and close to the German festival,” said organiser Philip Marsh, chief executive of Beerfest UK. “German beer, Oompah music and sausages.”

The Meca will be decked out with long tables which, he said, create a wonderful atmosphere when it is all set up. Doors open at 5pm and close at 11pm.

Oompah band the Alpine Stompers will play a set of thigh-slapping, foot-stamping traditional tunes with brass instrument and drums, encouraging plenty of audience participation in the songs and dances.

The entertainments programme also includes a DJ with dance music and a performance by professional singer Mike Appleton, whose speciality is Michael Bublé-style ballads.

The Meca will be serving traditional Bavarian food which, of course, means plenty of bratwurst – the famous sausages of Germany.

All important, the beers will be genuine German brews – with lashings of Bitburger Pilsner as well as the Benediktiner wheat beer, based on the recipe created at the ancient Benedictine monastery in Bavaria, and brewed at Licher Privatbrauerei. Wine and soft drinks will also be available.

In true Bavarian style, the beer will be served in one-litre glasses and brought to your table by the costumed staff.

Mr Marsh said the Swindon event was always well attended.

“We get a good mix of people, from 18-year-olds to people in their 60s, and probably about a third are women so it’s certainly not all men. People come with their partners, or in groups.

“Many people come dressed up in all the regalia. And Swindon people like to party! I have been getting to know the local habits across the South West and Wales at the beerfests and Swindon always has a good mix of people, and they really come to enjoy themselves. They drink hard but also behave well.”

The Oktoberfest in Munich, the oldest and most famous beer festival, began long ago when Crown Prince Ludwig, who later became King Ludwig I, married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. The people of Munich enjoyed festivities on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the royal wedding.

The tradition persisted – and now the annual Oktoberfest is the largest festival in the world, with around six million people attending.

Many people wear the traditional costume, with short lederhosen, a white or chequered shirt, wool socks, hat and sturdy boots for the men, and the laced-bodice Dirndl dress with a blouse and apron for the women.

Eight years ago, Mr Marsh began setting up German-style beer festivals in Wales and the south of England, running up to seven events a year.

“People in the UK like their beer,” he said. “Over the years international beers have grown in availability and popularity. We get parties coming along, and hen dos and stag dos.”

Mr Marsh is the lynchpin of the event, with a core of key staff to ensure the events run smoothly. Around 20 local people will also be employed for the night.

Tickets cost £12 online or £15 on the door. Tickets are available online at