O’zapft is!

The Development of the Beer Prices at the Oktoberfest – a Tableau Visualization and Analysis

Oktoberfest Impressionen - Photographer: sanfamedia.com (flickr.com)At this moment Munich’s mayor Christian Ude opens the 179th Oktoberfest in Munich with the traditional shout “O’zapft is” after tapping the first barrel of beer.

Prior to every Oktoberfest we have a reoccurring heated discussion on the beer price. And – except for the breweries and the tent hosts – we all agree that this year’s “drastic” rise of the beer price is inacceptable.

No one really takes this discussion too seriously, but we are having it every year.

So, today’s opening of the Oktoberfest is a good opportunity to have a closer look at the prices and the price development of beer at the Oktoberfest. This article provides an interactive Tableau visualization (beer prices since 2002), followed by an analysis of the price trend since 1952.

Beer Prices at the Oktoberfest – the Tableau Visualization

Here is my visualization of the prices and price trends of beer (and other beverages) in the big tents at the Oktoberfest from 2002 to 2012:

The Interactive Features of the Visualization

  1. Select a year from the drop down down at top right
  2. Hovering over the map shows a tooltip with the details for each tent: the brewery, the seats and the prices of the beverages in the selected year
  3. Clicking on a tent opens your web browser and takes you to a site with additional information on this tent (www.muenchen.de, in German).
  4. The band chart below the map visualizes the beer price trend since 2002 (one “Mass”, i.e. one liter beer in €). The band represents the range from minimum to maximum across all 14 large tents, the red line shows the price development of the selected tent (drop down above) and the black line is the average.

A brief aside: a “Spezi” is a soft drink mix of cola and lemonade…

That’s it.

Beer Price Development since 1952

The band shows that the price range has always been very narrow: somewhere between 10 and 30 € cent. The prices vary a little bit, but a beer costs more or less the same in all tents. If you look at the development over time, it seems as if there was a dramatic price increase: 33% (from € 7.00 to € 9.35) in only 11 years.

It sounds a lot, but is it really that much?

Let’s have a look at the big picture and the long time trend. Here is the average beer price at the Oktoberfest since 1952:

Average Oktoberfest Beer Price since 1952 - click to enlarge

An increase from 0.82 € to 9.32 €. Wow.

Let’s have a look at year on year changes in percent:

Year on year changes in % - click to enlarge

Only one year with a price decrease (1969), a couple of years where the price stayed constant and a few with a price increase of more than 10%, up to 15% in 1962 and 1977. The average yearly price increase is 4.2%.

Next view shows the price increase for each year compared to 1952 in percent:

Changes in % compared to 1952 - click to enlarge

Impressive 1,037% since 1952.

This is reason enough for complaining about the beer prices and the heated discussion, isn’t it?

No, it isn’t. There is one crucial factor missing in the analysis: the development of actual wages and the development of the cost of living.

Usually you would now compare the beer price trend to the development of the consumer price index. However, in order to embrace the “clearly and simply” approach, I decided to go a different way and created my own performance measure:

How long do you have to work for one beer at the Oktoberfest?

I.e. the average beer price divided by the average net income in Germany per hour, displayed as hours you have to work for one beer.

Here is the result:

Hours to work for one beer - click to enlarge

Now, this is a completely different view. In 1952 a German with an average income had to work 56 minutes for one beer. Today, it is only 38 minutes. Higher than the all time low of 21 minutes in 1976, but still way less than in the 1950s.


I admit, there are some inaccuracies in this analysis. I calculated the net wage per hour from the average yearly gross income using one fixed tax rate and a fixed number of working days and working hours per day. Tax rates and working time changed over the years and therefore the data isn’t absolutely accurate. However, I think it is close enough to show the big picture.

The Summary

It may or may not be a funny tradition for Bavarians to complain about the beer price at the Oktoberfest every year. However, it is totally unjustified. There was no considerable increase over the past 60 years. On the contrary.

There is nothing to complain about.


Many thanks go to Joe Mako who showed me how to create the band chart in Tableau using a Custom SQL statement and polygons in his comment on An Underrated Chart Type: The Band Chart. Thanks, Joe!

What’s next?

The past few months I have done some Excel VBA development projects and learned a few things I want to share with you in the upcoming articles. To all Tableau fans: I am also having a couple of Tableau ideas and posts in the pipeline, so please stay tuned.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *