Just a hair over two centuries ago, the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen was celebrated with horse racing in the public fields outside Munich’s city gate. This was the first Oktoberfest, held on October 12, 1810. So popular were the festivities that they were repeated in 1811.
Interrupted only by occasional military conflict, Oktoberfest continued and evolved. Organizers eventually moved it to the milder month of September. By 1938, the horse racing phased out. But its traditions codified over time: lederhosen and dirndls, wurst and music, and Märzen lager produced by Munich’s six major brewers.
All of this is to say, Oktoberfest is a fine tradition and worthy of observance. Still, Munich is a long way away, and there is a lot of great beer to drink in the US. So, if you feel like hoisting a beer to celebrate Ludwig and Therese but can’t make it to the old country, here are some stateside events hosted by American craft breweries:
In 2017, Cincinnati will pack its streets with around half a million festival goers, when it hosts what has become the largest Oktoberfest celebration in America. Starting in 2015, the annual festival began showcasing the ever growing Cincinnati craft beer scene by dedicating sections for the taps of area breweries. For the past two years, Boston Beer CEO Jim Koch has brought rare batches of beer from host Samuel Adams for sampling, and in 2016 Samuel Adams created a Cincy-inspired beer, whose recipe was decided upon by Oktoberfest attendees. Expect more craft beer-centric fun for this year’s fest, in addition to the regular features, like the stein hoisting, barrel rolling and brat eating competitions. Perhaps the best part of being in Cincinnati for the event will be having the opportunity to visit some of the area’s more than 40 breweries.
If you’re looking for something true to the brewing traditions of the Alps, look no further than the Von Trapp Brewery. Yes, those Von Trapps. The famous singing family toured America in the 1940s and eventually settled in Vermont. There, they opened the Trapp Family Lodge. In 2010, the Lodge started brewing its own Austrian beers. Of course, this area of Vermont is well-trod territory for beer nerds in search delectable IPAs. Yet, hop heads should not sleep on the Von Trapp Bierhall. It was recently renovated with vaulted wood and locally crafted fixtures. With a cask tapping, the Inseldudler Band and a souvenir mug to boot, Oktoberfest in the picturesque hills of Stowe is unmissable.
Ski season may not have started by late September, but the sixth annual Oktoberfest in Longmont’s Roosevelt Park is a perfect excuse to visit Colorado. This family-friendly event features local arts and crafts, ponies and bouncy castles. And in addition to top-tier brews from the presenter, Left Hand Brewing, it features taps from multiple independent guest brewers. And to walk off those excess calories, you can hike the glorious sandstone Flatirons, only 30 minutes away by car.
This September, New Glarus’s downtown will transform with live music, wagon rides, chainsaw carving and a giant fondue pot. Of course, this town is inseparable from New Glarus Brewing, that storied purveyor of fruit-forward ales, which provides the refreshment. The festival raises funds for the New Glarus Youth Committee. If you’re in the mood for a little more European heritage, New Glarus also has a preserved 19th century Swiss settlement. Or if you feel like making the two-plus hour drive to Lambeau Field, the Packers are playing at home that Sunday.
Entering its 28th year, this festival is held at Harpoon’s Brewery’s South Boston location, where visitors can quaff the brewer’s seasonal Märzen, nosh on bratwurst, and watch keg bowling and Oompah bands. Moreover, the Seaport neighborhood is a model of urban revitalization. Before you settle into a session of amber lagers, take in a little history at the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum and experience the critically-lauded Institute of Contemporary Art. Both are within walking distance.
Every year, Revolution Brewing takes over their block of Milwaukee Avenue for a bacchanal of grilled meats, cover bands, and crisp, refreshing beers. Last year’s music lineup included She’s Crafty, an all-female Beastie Boys tribute that by itself was worth the price of admission. Moreover, if you want to take in some more entertainment nearby, check out the Steppenwolf Theatre. Only a few stops away on the L, this famous company produced major works by Sam Shepard and Tracy Letts, among others.
Funky Buddha goes all out for this annual event, with carnival rides, traditional dancing, and strudel-eating contests. The original Oktoberfest’s horseracing, though, is replaced with a dachshund dash. All the while, celebrants can enjoy esoteric beers of one of Florida’s most acclaimed brewers. October in the Ft. Lauderdale area is still lovely and warm, and the celebration at Jaco Pastorius Park is only a few miles from the beach.
Oktoberfest with an Italian twist. Tucked amid Hudson Valley autumn foliage, Captain Lawrence’s taproom is a stone’s throw from such historic Westchester treasures as Kykuit Manor (Nelson Rockefeller’s estate) and the Old Dutch Church (where Washington Irving is buried). Between pours of flavorful, eclectic beers, visitors can enjoy neapolitan pies from the brick-oven of The Cookery, served alongside more de rigueur German fare. A short train ride from Midtown, this is an easy bucolic trek for New Yorkers and tourists alike.
Now in its second year, this Sonoma County music festival features unfiltered lagers in wood barrels, puckery sours and hoppy delights. Combine that with appropriately funky live jams, and you have a solid alternative Oktoberfest. This year, The Motet is headlining and the brewer lineup includes Barrel Brothers, HenHouse Brewing and Bear Republic. Plus, Funkendank takes place in some of the world’s best wine country. So, you can follow the festival up with a Sunday winery visit.