By Jeff Maisey
If beer has a national — make that multi-national — holiday then surely it is Oktoberfest. Celebrations abound, including right here in Hampton Roads.
So how did it all begin?
Way back on October 12, 1810, King Ludwig I married Princess Terese of Sax-Hildburghausen in Munich, Germany. Citizens of the city were invited to celebrate the festivities, which included 15th-century-style horse racing. Held in the fields outside the gates of Munich, the celebration became an annual event with a parade, carnival booths, games, Bavarian dancing and music.
This year’s Oktoberfest celebration in Germany takes place from September 21 to October 6. At 12 noon, on September 22, the Mayor of Munich will tap the first keg of Oktoberfest 2018, and then the non-stop Oktoberfest beer drinking can begin. This marks the 185th Munich Oktoberfest.
Interestingly, only beer brewed within Munich city limits and conforming to the Reinheitsgebot can be served at the Munich Oktoberfest. The official Oktoberfest beers come from just six breweries: Spatenbrau, Paulaner, Hofbrau, Augustiner-Brau, Hacker-Pschorr Brau, and Lowenbrau.
In Hampton Roads, the most traditional way to celebrate Oktoberfest is by attending the Bier Garden’s Oktoberfest on October 6 outside the Ambassador Club in Portsmouth. A large tent with long, blue/white clothed tables provides ample seating for enjoying official Oktoberfest beers from Germany and traditional food served-up by the Osfolk family, who hail from the European nation.
There are games for children, a ceremonial keg tapping, and a large brass orchestra performing the traditional sounds of Bavaria. It’s not to be missed.
Where The Bier Garden’s celebration closes Oktoberfest, several local breweries are doing their part to get the party started on September 22.
Wasserhund Brewing Company and The Noblemen are collaborating on an Oktoberfest event on September 22, from noon to 6 PM, at Hunt Club Farms, in Virginia Beach, that’ll feature a German Dog Parade and music by The Deloreans, Dan smith German Band, and The Burpenfartzen Brothers.
Wasserhund is known for producing German-style beers. They even impressed Admiral Manfred Nielsen of the German navy, who also serves as Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Transformation at NATO’s only Norfolk American headquarters — in Norfolk. Admiral Nielsen said Wasserhund’s hefeweizen is as good as any brewed in Germany. Now that’s quite a complement.
In Norfolk, O’Connor Brewing Company is presenting O’Ctoberfest — a German beer, music and food festival — from noon to 10 PM on September 22 at its brewery. O’Connor will tap a ceremonial cask of its own brewing, plus feature an amazing group of German-style beers their brewers collaborated on. These include Alt Bier (with Bold Mariner), O’Ctober Fest Marzen (Coelacanth), Schwartzbier (Rip Rap Brewing), Weiss Bier (Gordon Biersch) as well as a Gose, Berliner Weisse and Kottbusser. Admission is free with live music from The Happy Dutchmen and Esoteric Ramblers. Traditional German food sold by Deutscher Imbiss.
Also on September 22, from noon to 9 PM, Smartmouth Brewing Company dons its lederhosen to pay homage to the traditional German festival with an epic celebration of beer and food.
“We will have our famous Princess Oktoberfest beer flowing along with our limited release of Free Thought Pale Ale,” informs its weekly newsletter. “We’ll also be joined by The Public House crafting up special German-style dishes for the day.”
Otzi Tattoo Agency will be on-hand to referee a traditional game of Hammerschlagen — nail driving.
St. George Brewing Company, in Hampton, prides itself on brewing traditional styles of beer from England, Czech Republic, and Germany. It’s Oktoberfest beer has long been a fan-favorite as it’s brewed with roasted malt and caramel flavors with mild hop bitterness — a true to style Marzen.