The origins or Oktoberfest can be traced all the way back to October of 1810, when Prince Ludwig of Bavaria married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. A huge party was thrown for all of Bavaria, and the German people discovered they enjoyed drinking beer, dancing, and eating sausages even more than they already did. By the turn of the century, the festival had grown and breweries started getting involved, replacing beer stands with beer tents and giving birth to the modern concept of Oktoberfest. Nowadays, Munich hosts the largest Oktoberfest celebration in the world, serving millions of gallons of beer to over six million visitors every year. But you don’t have to travel to Europe to enjoy Oktoberfest, as there are plenty of ways to celebrate stateside. Here are five of the best Oktoberfest celebrations in America going on through the end of October.
Oktoberfest NYC at Watermark Bar
Watermark Bar is located at the end of Pier 15 at South Street Seaport, with a spectacular view of Brooklyn just across the East River. The Oktoberfest celebration here takes place over four consecutive weekends, from September 21 through October 14. You can drink gallons of beer imported from Munich, eat giant pretzels and bratwurst, play games like cornhole and ping-pong, and show off your endurance (even after a few beers) in a stein holding contest.
La Crosse Oktoberfest
La Crosse’s Oktoberfest celebration began in 1961 and has grown over the decades. This year it takes place from September 27th to the 30th, with events like the tapping of the golden keg, a two-mile-long Maple Leaf Parade, and a nighttime torchlight parade and celebration. And of course, there's plenty of beer, food, and lederhosen for everyone to enjoy as well at events like a craft beer night, German dinner, and most enticing, a “Lederhosen luncheon.”
The town of Fredericksburg, Texas, just outside of Austin, is celebrating 38 years of Oktoberfest from October 5th to the 7th. Fredericksburg, founded by German immigrants in 1846, is a slice of Germany in Texas Hill Country—don’t be surprised if cowboy hats are matched with lederhosen here. There's endless entertainment to choose from, including German oompah bands, numerous types of beer on tap, and snacks like sausage, potato pancakes, and funnel cakes. The Shiner brewmaster from Spoetzl Brewery will be there as well for a meet-and-greet.
Oktoberfest Chicago at St. Alphonsus
Chicago’s Oktoberfest takes place from September 28th to the 30th in the city’s West Lakeview neighborhood. Celebrate here with beer, brats, and live music, as well as two craft beer nights featuring over 40 different types of suds from the best small breweries in the country. Attendees will receive a pretzel necklace to munch on as they sample. This is also a family friendly event, with a Kinderfest on Saturday and Sunday afternoons that will include face painting, music, and crafts.
Alpine Village Oktoberfest
Since 1968, Alpine Village in Torrance has been a bastion of German food, drink, and culture in Southern California. This year marks half a century of Oktoberfest celebrations, and the festivities are taking place right now through October 27. Every weekend you will find domestic and imported beer on tap, a full German lunch and dinner menu, and a 12-piece oompah band flown in from Germany for the occasion. While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the excellent sausage market so you can bring home some authentic currywurst, weisswurst, or landjager.
There are many excellent Oktoberfest beers to enjoy from Germany, but American breweries have gotten in on the action as well. According to Anne Becerra, beverage director at New York City’s beer mecca, Treadwell Park, Oktoberfest beer is brewed in the Marzen style. “The name Marzen comes from the month of March, which is typically when these beers were brewed,” she said. “The typical profile of a Marzen/Oktoberfest is a strong, malt-forward lager with a pronounced yet elegant sweetness, a full body, and a crisp, refreshing finish.” Although a true Oktoberfest beer is brewed in Munich, there are various beers brewed in the Oktoberfest style that pay tribute to the original.
American Oktoberfest Beers You Should Drink Now
Surly Brewing Surlyfest
Surly Brewing, a Minneapolis brewery, is fiercely independent and committed to brewing beer for the people of America’s North—the “hearty folk with distinct sensibilities and accents to match.” Case in point is Surlyfest, a dry-hopped lager that is Surly’s own take on an Oktoberfest-style beer. Look for an earthy, biscuit-like flavor, according to the brewery, something that intentionally veers from tradition.
Two Brothers Brewing Company Atom Smasher
Two Brothers, an Illinois-based brewery founded by two brothers (the name makes this clear), has been making beer since the mid-‘90s. Atom Smasher is the brewery’s Oktoberfest-style lager. It’s modeled after the Marzen style of beer and aged in oak foudres, large wooden vats typically used to age wine in France, which gives it subtle oaky notes underneath its traditional malty sweetness.
This is a special Oktoberfest-style beer that is Texas through and through, made in collaboration between Spoetzl Brewery (the brewery that makes Shiner) and Balcones Distilling. The beer is brewed with malt imported from Munich before aging for a time in ex-Balcones single malt barrels, further adding to the complexity and malty character of the lager. This is a limited-edition beer that will be available beginning October 1.
California’s Sudwerk Brewing Co. is solely focused on brewing German-style lagers, so it makes sense that they would have a good Oktoberfest beer in their lineup. The Marzen is actually part of the core group of beers, not a seasonal release, so you can drink this one all year round. It’s an amber lager that’s a bit sweeter than Sudwerk’s other releases and goes well with any pork product in tube form that you can think of.
This German lager from Chicago’s Goose Island is brewed in the Marzen style with Hallertau hops. The brewery describes it as having notes of toffee and burnt sugar with a bit of malty sweetness and earthy bitterness. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable Oktoberfest beer that rivals anything you’d get direct from Germany.