It’s time to dust off your lederhosen, iron your dirndls and get your taste buds ready for sauerkraut, strudel, bierwurst and schnitzel.
Many people don’t realize that Oktoberfest starts before October is actually here, but Saturday, Sept. 17, will mark the start of Oktoberfest 2016. The festival celebrates all things Bavarian, including the traditional beer festival known as the “Wiesen,” where lots and lots of Oktoberfest or “Festbier” is consumed. In 2013, approximately 6.7 million liters of beer were served according to Spiegel Online, a German news publication that is part of Der Spiegel.
The original Oktoberfest celebrated the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese. Märzen, an amber style beer, was served at the celebration. Historically, this style was brewed in March (the name comes from “March beer”) so that it would be ready to serve during Oktoberfest.
During Oktoberfest, beer from only six Munich breweries is served in the beer tents: Augustiner (Munich’s oldest brewery, founded in 1328), Hacker Pschorr (founded in 1417), Hofbräu (founded in 1589), Löwenbräu, Spaten brewery (founded in 1397) and Paulaner, which has been brewed since 1634 and is the newest of the Munich breweries.
Here in the U.S., many craft brewers have been duplicating this style, including many breweries not far from Michiana — Upland Brewing Company, Bell’s Brewery and Great Lakes Brewing Company to name a few. I found these brands and more at Chalet Party Shoppe and have been tasting them over several days. I’m not sure what Oktoberfest weather is like in Germany (upper 60s with a chance of rain through the weekend. – Ed.), but here the weather has been great for outdoor drinking.
My experience is that German beers are lighter in mouth feel and the U.S. versions are fuller bodied. Maybe it’s sentimental because it was my first Oktoberfest, but the Paulaner was my favorite tasting import. Bell’s Oktoberfest was my favorite domestic, which is available in bottles for the first time in five years.
I found four of the six Munich breweries available at local bottle shops. Paulaner Märzen, which was originally served in the Oktoberfest tents, has since been replaced by Paulaner Oktoberfest Wiesn at the festival. The family-operated Hacker-Festzelt (Hacker-Pschorr festival tent) is quite likely the most iconic of all Oktoberfest tents. Between the idyllic murals of everyday Bavarian life, the sky-blue ceiling speckled with white clouds, and the beer and delicious Bavarian dishes, the Hacker-Festzelt places locals and visitors alike in Bavarian Heaven.
Goshen Brewing Company will kick off the Oktoberfest celebration with their 2nd annual bike parade at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 17. The easy, 5-mile bike parade is family friendly and will begin at the brewery, wind through Goshen and return to the brewery, where Mayor Jeremy Stutsman will tap the first keg of 2016 Oktoberfest Brew. Costumes and bike decorations are encouraged for the bike cruise. Check out the Goshen Brewing Company website for more information on German beer and food specials, music and special events during the two-week Oktoberfest celebration.
Miles Lab in Elkhart will be featuring Oktobefest food and drink from Sept. 17 to Oct. 3. Currently they are running the schnitzel sandwich as their sandwich of the month. They will have Oktoberfest beers from Upland Brewing, Bell’s, Great Lakes and Paulaner, and they will have Schlafly Pumpkin Ale and Southern Tier Warlock as well.
I’m sure there will be plenty more events throughout Michiana to celebrate Oktoberfest. I’m still searching for an event that will feature a traditional German polka band, so if you know of any let me know.