Oktoberfest Now Has Its Culture War. It Isn’t About the Beer. - Kanebridge News
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Oktoberfest Now Has Its Culture War. It Isn’t About the Beer.

Traditionalists criticise moves to modernise the Munich celebration as ‘woke’

Tue, Sep 19, 2023 8:42amGrey Clock 4 min

MUNICH—Oktoberfest is usually all about the beer. This year, it is about chicken.

A decision by the Paulaner festival tent to serve all-organic hens at its marquee venue is stoking a debate between advocates of a sustainable Oktoberfest against traditionalists wary of a “Woke Wiesn”—a play on the short form of the name of the Bavarian celebration.

“It’s an experiment,” said Arabella Schörghuber, who runs the Paulaner Festzelt. “It’s more expensive, but the quality is higher. We want to make sure that the animal has a good life. We’ll see what happens.”

On Saturday, she helped hand out the first beers from the middle of the giant festival tent after thousands of people counted down to the tapping of the first keg. Waiters each toting a dozen glasses with a liter of beer wove through the crowds as huge rotisserie ovens cooked hens in a side kitchen, five on each spit.

Andrea Koerner, 56 years old, comes to Oktoberfest each year and usually orders the chicken, the most popular festival food. Not this time. When she saw that an organic half hen cost 20.50 euros, the equivalent of $22, about 50% more than the nonorganic hens, she opted for pretzels and a cheese spread instead.

“We don’t know the taste because it costs too much to try,” Koerner said.

Other guests said the chicken was good and worth the price. “I don’t care at all,” said Jake Williams, a 32-year-old guest. “I guess it is good if people care about the chickens.”

The price hike is among other inflation-related markups. The cost of a liter—or “mass”—of beer in most big tents increased this year by 6% to €14.50, according to a survey done by the city. That is after prices rose sharply last year following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Oktoberfest was canceled in 2020 and 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The menu shift follows a pressure campaign by a coalition of groups, demanding that the Bavarian festival of hearty food and enormous beers should turn into a vehicle promoting organic farming.

The activists held a public exhibition in the city’s central square showing a carousel of imitation bloody chicken heads to denounce industrial slaughtering. The group secured a meeting between activists, officials and Oktoberfest tent owners in the spring.

“There’s already a lot going on. But my perspective is from an organic local farming business, and there’s not enough,” said Susanne Kiehl, a board member of the Munich Food Council.

She and Anja Berger, an Oktoberfest official and a Green Party member, said the changes are important to meet the city’s goal of becoming climate-neutral by 2035.

In other matters, Berger’s party this year also secured four free water fountains on the festival grounds.

During a tour of the grounds last week, Mayor Dieter Reiter admired the new taps and joked of what might come next. “A free beer fountain!” he said. “I just haven’t found anyone who will do it yet.”

Activists have sought gastronomic mandates at the festival, but the city has not imposed them. An association of Munich’s innkeepers have pushed back at such rules, saying people should be allowed to live—and eat—as they see fit. “I don’t think anyone really wants a planned economy in which a small group decides what is good for the people and what is not,” said Thomas Geppert, head of the Bavarian Hotel and Restaurant Association.

Schörghuber, who is a vegetarian, said she received a mixed reaction to her chicken initiative from the other tents, with some concerned that they would be pressured to follow suit.

For many visitors, locals and overseas tourists, Oktoberfest is a freewheeling carnival—a chance to let loose and drink (often to excess) beer served by waitresses clad in revealing Dirndl dresses. Many guests also don the traditional Bavarian outfits and tie the ribbon of their aprons on a different side to indicate whether they are single or taken.

“It must stay a traditional volksfest, because otherwise it wouldn’t be attractive,” said Clemens Baumgärtner, an official who oversees the festival and a member of the conservative CSU. “If you talk about being woke on the other 340 days a year, nobody really listens to that. But if you talk about being woke on the Oktoberfest, you get lots of media attention.”

The first Oktoberfest was celebrated in 1810 to commemorate a royal marriage and build support for the budding Bavarian monarchy. It was so popular that it became an annual tradition, adding agricultural displays, vaudeville shows and eventually thrill rides. Despite its name, the festival now mostly takes place in September. Around seven million people are expected to visit the Theresienwiese grounds in Munich during an 18-day run that started Saturday.

“Wiesn will have to change as it has changed always over the decades,” said Lukas Bulka, who started working at an Oktoberfest tent as a teenager and now runs the city’s Beer and Oktoberfest Museum.

The festival already uses electricity generated from renewable sources, Baumgärtner said, and single-use dishes and utensils are banned.

An association of the 15 largest festival tents—which have seats for about 100,000 people—committed to becoming climate-neutral by 2028, mostly through projects that offset their energy use. Four tents, including the Paulaner venue, already meet the targets and built systems to recycle some wastewater.

But when it comes to farming practices, it isn’t feasible to rely on only organic hops and barley for the roughly seven million litres of beer that will be consumed, Schörghuber said. Hofbräu, one of the six Oktoberfest breweries, estimated that the production and transportation of festival beer in 2019 created 66 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Munich has an organic brewery, Haderner, but it doesn’t have one of the coveted slots at the festival.

Schörghuber said she focused on chicken because it is so sought after—the city estimated that around 500,000 chickens were consumed at Oktoberfest in 2019—and a change was feasible. She found a farm in Austria that raised the organic birds for this year’s festival and spent a year speaking with her cooking staff about what changes were needed to grill what are larger than conventional hens.

Kiehl said that while her group was happy with the Paulaner tent’s chicken change, it would be more difficult to convince the public that the brewers should be forced to tweak their recipes.

“That’s not an easy point in Munich,” she said. “That’s almost like religion.”


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To Find Winning Stocks, Investors Often Focus on the Laggards. They Shouldn’t.
By KEN SHREVE 12/06/2024

These stocks are getting hit for a reason. Instead, focus on stocks that show ‘relative strength.’ Here’s how.

Wed, Jun 12, 2024 4 min

A lot of investors get stock-picking wrong before they even get started: Instead of targeting the top-performing stocks in the market, they focus on the laggards—widely known companies that look as if they are on sale after a period of stock-price weakness.

But these weak performers usually are going down for good reasons, such as for deteriorating sales and earnings, market-share losses or mutual-fund managers who are unwinding positions.

Decades of Investor’s Business Daily research shows these aren’t the stocks that tend to become stock-market leaders. The stocks that reward investors with handsome gains for months or years are more often  already  the strongest price performers, usually because of outstanding earnings and sales growth and increasing fund ownership.

Of course, many investors already chase performance and pour money into winning stocks. So how can a discerning investor find the winning stocks that have more room to run?

Enter “relative strength”—the notion that strength begets more strength. Relative strength measures stocks’ recent performance relative to the overall market. Investing in stocks with high relative strength means going with the winners, rather than picking stocks in hopes of a rebound. Why bet on a last-place team when you can wager on the leader?

One of the easiest ways to identify the strongest price performers is with IBD’s Relative Strength Rating. Ranked on a scale of 1-99, a stock with an RS rating of 99 has outperformed 99% of all stocks based on 12-month price performance.

How to use the metric

To capitalise on relative strength, an investor’s search should be focused on stocks with RS ratings of at least 80.

But beware: While the goal is to buy stocks that are performing better than the overall market, stocks with the highest RS ratings aren’t  always  the best to buy. No doubt, some stocks extend rallies for years. But others will be too far into their price run-up and ready to start a longer-term price decline.

Thus, there is a limit to chasing performance. To avoid this pitfall, investors should focus on stocks that have strong relative strength but have seen a moderate price decline and are just coming out of weeks or months of trading within a limited range. This range will vary by stock, but IBD research shows that most good trading patterns can show declines of up to one-third.

Here, a relative strength line on a chart may be helpful for confirming an RS rating’s buy signal. Offered on some stock-charting tools, including IBD’s, the line is a way to visualise relative strength by comparing a stock’s price performance relative to the movement of the S&P 500 or other benchmark.

When the line is sloping upward, it means the stock is outperforming the benchmark. When it is sloping downward, the stock is lagging behind the benchmark. One reason the RS line is helpful is that the line can rise even when a stock price is falling, meaning its value is falling at a slower pace than the benchmark.

A case study

The value of relative strength could be seen in Google parent Alphabet in January 2020, when its RS rating was 89 before it started a 10-month run when the stock rose 64%. Meta Platforms ’ RS rating was 96 before the Facebook parent hit new highs in March 2023 and ran up 65% in four months. Abercrombie & Fitch , one of 2023’s best-performing stocks, had a 94 rating before it soared 342% in nine months starting in June 2023.

Those stocks weren’t flukes. In a study of the biggest stock-market winners from the early 1950s through 2008, the average RS rating of the best performers before they began their major price runs was 87.

To see relative strength in action, consider Nvidia . The chip stock was an established leader, having shot up 365% from its October 2022 low to its high of $504.48 in late August 2023.

But then it spent the next four months rangebound—giving up some ground, then gaining some back. Through this period, shares held between $392.30 and the August peak, declining no more than 22% from top to bottom.

On Jan. 8, Nvidia broke out of its trading range to new highs. The previous session, Nvidia’s RS rating was 97. And that week, the stock’s relative strength line hit new highs. The catalyst: Investors cheered the company’s update on its latest advancements in artificial intelligence.

Nvidia then rose 16% on Feb. 22 after the company said earnings for the January-ended quarter soared 486% year over year to $5.16 a share. Revenue more than tripled to $22.1 billion. It also significantly raised its earnings and revenue guidance for the quarter that was to end in April. In all, Nvidia climbed 89% from Jan. 5 to its March 7 close.

And the stock has continued to run up, surging past $1,000 a share in late May after the company exceeded that guidance for the April-ended quarter and delivered record revenue of $26 billion and record net profit of $14.88 billion.

Ken Shreve  is a senior markets writer at Investor’s Business Daily. Follow him on X  @IBD_KShreve  for more stock-market analysis and insights, or contact him at  ken.shreve@investors.com .