Why I Love Oktoberfest
I truly believe that there is a seasonal drinker in all of us. Oktoberfest season is my favorite signal that Fall has arrived. The beers, foods, and music associated with this German beer tradition is good for the soul. Having never been to Oktoberfest in Munich, I can only imagine how much fun having thousands of revelers under a big top tent for a beer festival would be. Whether one has been to beer fest Mecca in Germany or not, one can still find a euphoric enjoyment in all the trappings of the spirit of Oktoberfest.
The number of different Oktoberfest events that happen in and around the state of Minnesota is almost overwhelming. The Germanic roots run deep in our Minnesota rolling hills and prairies. As a result, you really can’t go too far without running into some kind of weekend festival centered around polka and beer. With the vibrant craft beer scene we are lucky enough to have in our Land of 10,000 Lakes, it seems like more and more breweries are strapping on the lederhosen to put on a festival.
Minnesotans Love A Reason To Party
Born and raised Minnesotans have a reputation for being stoic and reserved. However, once that polka band starts oompah-ing, the revelry is akin to a werewolf during a full moon. Let’s be honest, Minnesotans seldom have much to celebrate. Most of our professional sports teams are perpetually awful, the weather resembles a good day in Siberia 8 months out of the year, and half of the people you know think ketchup is spicy.
When the middle of September hits, so does the reality that winter is right around the corner and the opportunities to celebrate outdoors are dwindling. The siren call of German sausage and clinking of of steins stirs me to eat, drink, and be merry. Between the food, the beer, and the people, Oktoberfest is the perfect confluence of all my favorite things.
The Foods of Oktoberfest
When the evenings are crisp, there is nothing better than comforting and familia carbohydrates to sooth the soul. Over the years, I have enjoyed learning about many different Eastern German delicacies that are often featured alongside the beers of Oktoberfest. Sauerbraten, schnitzel, pretzels, brats, braised red cabbage, meter after meter of sausage-weisswurst, bratwurst, knockwurst, and bockwurst-and everything in between. All of these foods taste, smell, and look better during Oktoberfest. Just like your favorite Christmas cookie isn’t as good in July, I feel like these foods are best enjoyed in the fall.
I have a hard and fast rule that the only time I will indulge, with reckless abandon, in a pretzel the size of a conversion van steering wheel is during Oktoberfest. The bigger the better. Give me beer cheese dipping sauce, all the mustards, and those magical larger that normal salt granules on there. If the pretzel is done right, you have a wonderful and easy to break apart crust that gives way to a soft and steaming inside that stops just short of being doughy. This is often the first thing I go for because it will provide a perfect base for the impending onslaught of beers that follow.
What is the German Word for Meat Sweats?
Before my enlightenment that happened when someone clued me in to Kramarczuk’s Sausage Company, I would grab Johnsonville’s Beer & Brats sausages and call it a day. However, after visiting the Kramarczuk’s meat counter for the first time, I will always make that my first stop for my sausage needs. Now, you might feel the need to rush, but I assure you that whomever is helping you is glad to answer any questions you have about what the different sausages taste like. They also have little flags by each one to indicate the country of origin. This also doubles as am imaginary “know your flag” trivia game to play in your head while you wait. Most of their sausages are already cooked so all you have to do is give them the kiss of the grill to head them up.
To bun or not to bun, that is the question. Depending on the type of sausage, you can probably skip the bun. In fact, if you are a carb-counting person, just think of skipping the bun as one more beer you won’t have to feel guilty about. Kramarczuk’s also has a stellar selection of condiments to choose from. A Weisswurst is such a mild flavor and smooth texture, that a bun takes away from all of these elements. Conversely, a bratwurst definitely benefits from a bun that can support the sauerkraut and mustard that should be on there.
Is there a wrong way to eat a sausage? Probably not. You do you. In fact, as long as you are sipping a wonderful German beer alongside it, I don’t really care what method you choose to consume your tube meat.
My Favorite MN Oktoberfest Beers
There are some amazing Oktoberfest options peppering the countryside in our great state of Minnesota. From New Prague to Alexandria, we have an abundance of wonderfully malty and crisp options that span the continuum of Märzen and Festbier. Whatever you do, remember that this season is so short, and you need to stock up early. However, these beers remain viable drinking options well after the tents come down and the lederhosen is hermetically sealed up for next year.
Disclaimer: A lot of these offerings come out in packaged product earlier than Oktoberfest starts. However, most of these beers are available on draft at the taprooms. If you are like me, you enjoy drinking beers at the source anyway, so go forth and seek them out!
Copper Trail Brewing Oletoberfest
Of the beers I have tried from Copper Trail Brewing, their malty offerings tend to be where they shine. A reddish amber delight that really hits the roasty/caramel malt sweet spot. I know that their Oletoberfest has already come and gone for the year, but this is definitely worth heading into the taproom for a mug or two.
Spilled Grain Brewhouse
Spilled Grain Brewhouse in Annandale, Minnesota, has been knocking out classic beers styles for years. Their Oktoberfest beer is one that I think really flies under the radar. It absolutely baffles me how Jacob, their Head Brewer, can get so much satisfying malt depth into a beer while still keeping it crisp and easy drinking. I know that he lagers this beer for a long while-the way it should be done. Their Oktoberfest event is taking place on Saturday, Oct. 2nd if you really want to get the full-on experience, but the beer is already on tap at the brewery if you can’t wait til then.
Of all the Utepils beers I pine for-and that list is long-the Receptional festbier is my favorite seasonal. It is so perfect in every way, shape, and form. It usually disappears off the shelves quick, so you might still be able to find it. However, your best bet is heading to the beer hall to have it on draft. I finally was able to enjoy their Oktoberfest party on Friday, Sept. 24th. The band, beers, and ambiance of the roaring fire made for a wonderful Friday night.
Always a staple in my beer fridge, I go through at least a case of Summit’s Oktoberfest every year. Thankfully, their ratskeller is back open, and you can have it on tap at the source again. A balanced Marzën-style Oktoberfest, this is a Minnesota classic. I don’t believe fall would even happen without this beer.
An oldie but a goodie. This beer is a 12 ounce reminder of why tradition is important. Schell’s Oktoberfest was one of the first local iterations of this style that I fell in love with in the early 2000s. It is balanced, with the perfect amount of caramel malt flavor. Their Oktoberfest party is in a few weeks down in New Ulm on Saturday, Oct. 9th
Giesenbräu Brau Brau Brau Festbier
Giesenbräu’s Oktoberfest celebration is an absolute blast and it happens Oct. 1st-3rd. Their festbier is the perfect beer to enjoy copiously as you let the sounds and smells of their biergarten enchant your senses. I am not going to tell you how to live your life, but you probably want to go on Saturday when Prchal’s brat truck is there.
Lupulin Märzen-style Oktoberfest & Festbier
Lupulin brews some of the most consistent and delicious lagers. Lupulin’s Oktoberfest is no exception to this rule. A Märzen-style lager that looks really sexy in a liter stein is a malt-lovers paradise. Pro-tip: If you are in the taproom and are lucky enough to see their festbier on tap, try them side-by-side. The Oktoberfest has a nice bit of caramel in it while avoiding being too sweet.
Tin Whiskers Funkenfest
Yes, Tin Whiskers releases beers at a pace that is hard to keep up with. Amidst all of their offerings that lean into hops, Funkenfest is definitely a shining example of why you cannot sleep on their malty stuff. Between this and their pumpkin ale, I think that Tin Whiskers has my favorite combo of fall seasonals.
Unmapped Flannel Roots
Talk about a malty crusher, Unmapped Brewing’s Flannel Roots is a wonderful example of why this style is not just a beer to drink for a seemingly random 4 weekends in fall. This is a beer for the entirety of fall because it pairs well with bonfires, walking through crunchy fall leaves, and chilly evenings on a patio. Deftly brewed with a hint of caramel, this beer finishes with a hint of roast that is balanced. Their Flannel Roots Festival takes place on Saturday, October 16th, so make sure you have that on your social calendar.
Waldmann Brewery Oktoberfest & Festbier
Not at all surprising, Waldmann Brewery has both a Märzen and a festbier. They are both wonderful. I suggest enjoying them on a crisp fall afternoon in their biergarten. Waldman also has a wonderful assortment of German foods to go along with the lovely beers.
Surely, you probably have already had your fair share of Oktoberfest beers and brats. This is a wonderful time of year. It signals a changing of the season and a transition from the lighter hoppy beers of summer to make way for the malty and comforting beers of fall. If you have a favorite Oktoberfest beer that you think I should try, leave it in the comments. I am off to go let out my lederhosen in preparation for next weekend. Prost!
Dan Beaubien has been involved with Beerploma since 2014 although his passion for craft beer dates back to 2006 when he started traveling for beer. Dan mostly covers craft beer events, festivals, brewery openings/releases, and beer reviews. Dan has a soft spot in his heart for authentic British Style ales, IPAs, and all things barrel-aged. If you have any questions or comments about this article feel free to email Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org .