Every big-city mayor has a few key responsibilities, like making sure trash gets picked up properly, keeping the buses running on time and paying cops and firefighters.

The mayor of Munich, Germany, has one more big job: tapping the ceremonial first keg at Oktoberfest.

The annual festival celebrating Bavarian culture, carnival rides and liter-sized glasses of beer is currently underway in Munich, and runs through Oct. 5.

As always, this year's festival began with the mayor taking a wooden hammer, driving a metal tap into the first barrel and declaring live on television "O'Zapft is," or "it is tapped!"

The question facing every mayor is this: how many hammer blows will it take to successfully tap the keg?

"It is not most important mayoral job, but it is the most watched," says Christoph Deumling, a host with the Bavarian public radio and TV broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk. Deumling has broadcast live from the Oktoberfest opening ceremonies for 24 years, and watched the tapping up close for the previous 10 years.

The apocalypse could strike Munich, Deumling jokes, "but if the mayor can tap the keg with two or three blows, than everything is OK."

For the last two decades, Munich's mayor has been Christian Ude, who has become a bit of an expert. He's managed to consistently tap the keg with just two blows.

The consistency made the whole event "extremely boring," says Deumling.

It wasn't always so easy. According to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Munich's mayor in 1950, Thomas Wimmer, took 17 attempts before he could successfully tap the keg.

But four months ago, Dieter Reiter entered office as Munich's new mayor, and as Oktoberfest approached, the excitement and tension began to rise.

"[Reiter] knew that if he needed more than, I don't know, five or six blows, it would have been a disgrace," says Deumling.

In the days leading up to Oktoberfest, the local TZ newspaper reported that Reiter had begun a secret training regimen to prepare.

Deumling says that three days before the opening ceremonies, the mayor even tapped 40 kegs in preparation.

In the end, Reiter managed his first tapping with four blows, or three-and-a-half, depending on whom you ask. (Three solid hammer blows, and one more for safety.)

Deumling's verdict?

"Very clever."

Reiter managed a respectable number, but still left himself some room for improvement next year.

Plus, in the end, the beer still flowed on time.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.



Ready for a drink? Well, we're going to take you to Munich. It's that time of year again.


UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) Ein Prosit, ein Prosit der Gemuetlichkeit. Ein Prosit, ein Prosit der Gemuetlichkeit.

RATH: That's right, meine Freund - Oktoberfest, a city-wide festival that makes Burning Man look like a house party. The city is now a week into the celebration of Bavarian traditions, Lederhosen and overflowing mugs of beer. Millions flock to Munich for the annual festival. The chatter ahead of this year's fest was especially focused on the performance of Munich's new mayor, Dieter Reiter. You see, it's the mayor's job to officially open the ceremonies by tapping the first barrel of beer.


DIETER REITER: (Speaking German) Es sind noch neun, acht, sieben, sechs...

RATH: The previous mayor was Christian Ude. By the time he'd left office, he could get the beer flowing with just two swings of the hammer.


CHRISTIAN UDE: (Speaking German) O'zapft is. Auf eine friedliche Wiesn 2006.

RATH: It's a major point of pride among mayors. How many hammer blows does it take to tap the keg? We called up Christoph Deumling in Munich. He's a host with the Bavarian public broadcaster. And he's broadcast live at the keg tapping 10 times.

CHRISTOPH DEUMLING: (Speaking German) Es ist nicht die wichtigste Amtshandlung, aber es ist die am meisten beachtete Amtshandlung.

RATH: He says this is not the most important job for a Munich mayor, but it is the most watched.

DEUMLING: (Speaking German) So da kann links und rechts die Welt untergehen, wenn der...

RATH: Even if the world ends, he says, so long as the mayor can tap the keg in two or three blows, everything's OK. And with consistently two blows to tap the keg, Mayor Christian Ude set a pretty high bar. But the moment lost some excitement.

DEUMLING: (Speaking German) Es war jetzt gerade in gewisser Weise schon ein bisschen langweilig - extremely boring.

RATH: Which brings us to this year and Munich's brand-new mayor Dieter Reiter. Deumling says the tension was high. Mayor Reiter took up a rigorous training regimen, tapping 40 kegs in a row to prepare.

DEUMLING: (Speaking German) Er wusste wenn er mehr...

RATH: Deumling says if the mayor needed more than five or six hammer blows, it would've been a disgrace.


RATH: In the end...

REITER: (Speaking German) Drei, zwei, eins.




REITER: (Speaking German) Alles drauf. O'zapft is. Auf eine friedliche Wiesn.

RATH: If you couldn't quite make that out, that was four hammer blows - or three and a half, depending on who you asked. Not bad for a first timer. Christoph Deumling says that at least he left himself some room for improvement next time. And in the end, the beer still flowed on time.

(SOUNDBITE OF BAVARIAN MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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