Making Oktoberfest a local party
For most beer lovers, a trip to Munich is like a trip to the big game. Oktoberfest is the holy grail of beer festivals! Unfortunately with rising energy costs, the closest most will get is watching BeerFest at home. It doesn’t need to be that way and in my neighborhood we brought Oktoberfest a bit closer to home.
A few years back, two years before I moved into the neighborhood, a couple neighbors decided to hold their own Oktoberfest. One of the neighbors was a homebrewer, and the rest of the neighbors were willing beer drinkers. This was all they needed to start a tradition. Now six years later, the neighborhood Oktoberfest has a couple hundred attendees, a plethora of beer on tap, food, games, and a spiffy jumpy castle for the kids. One neighbor plans the festival and the rest of us chip in and help. So what do you need for your own Oktoberfest?
Get a bunch of your closest friends
Seems obvious, but you need a supply friends to celebrate with. The best group is neighbors. Sure the downtown Oktoberfest of your metropolitan city might be fun, but celebrations are always better with a group of people you know. There are several hundred people in my neighborhood and the numbers are still growing.
The best part about holding the celebration in your neighborhood is no one drives home. It is an important consideration. You don’t want to serve everyone massive amounts of beer and then tell them to drive home 20 miles. Local is the new “cool”, and partying with your neighbors helps establish a great sense of community.
The hood is a great place to hang
We have a park in the center of our neighborhood where previous Oktoberfests were held. Unfortunately inclement weather and inconvenient distances to restrooms dictated we move our festival to the neighborhood community center. Many newer subdivisions have a community center. If you live in a neighborhood with a community center, I’d recommend hosting your Oktoberfest there.
If you have lots of kids in your group (it’s a law to have at least one under six here), you’ll need to consider ways to corral the kids. This is another reason our community center works. The center has a fence built all around it. This is just something for you to keep in mind when looking for a location.
A tent is a great idea if you expect lots of sun or possible rain. In Colorado, we expect both every ten minutes. A tent with tables makes a great place to eat and socialize, and provides protection from the elements.
Let the games begin!
While for most of us drinking beer all day is entertainment enough, others need more to keep entertained (I know, I thought that was weird too). For games, we usually have pretzel tosses, musical chairs, and other games. Some of the games come complete with prizes. This encourages even the shyest people to join in the fun.
Oom Pa Pa Music!
You can’t have an Oktoberfest without Oom Pa Pa music. It’s a moral imperative. Usually we have a boom box playing a CD on repeat, but as the party grows we hope to have a live band in the future.
Something for the kids
Unless you want your kids whining to go home every 10 minutes, you need a distraction – a really big distraction. Our method of distraction is a big jumpy castle . You can rent these for a hundred bucks. It’s like a big inflatable baby sitter.
Lots of Beer! (and food)
And oh yeah, you need beer. The best part about our Oktoberfest is most of the beer is homebrew. This adds a personal touch to the festival, much like the real festival in Germany. The first few years a different homebrewer provided the beer, but he moved away and I’ve stepped in his place.
Oktoberfest is the day I look forward to every year. In fact I am usually asking the planner about the festival in July. If you are making homebrew foryour celebration, you will want to start planning in July too. It takes a few months to make this much beer.
This year we had a Munich Dunkel, Vanilla Porter, Mandarin Orange Hefeweizen , Märzen , Blonde Ale, and Hard Cider – 30 gallons in all. The idea was to provide a little something for everyone. We even had homemade Root Beer for the kids. At the end of the party, we had a bit of Root Beer left. Lots of thirsty people!
As for the food, the party organizers bought sauerkraut, brats and hot dogs. Everyone else was encouraged to bring a side dish or a dessert. To make sure we didn’t get a stack of store bought cookies, we divided the responsibilities by last name. A through M brought desserts and N through Z brought side dishes. It works out great!
Eins, zwei, G’suffa!
Hopefully this gives you a few ideas to get started. Our local version of Oktoberfest started with a couple of guys hanging out with a few beers. Start small, invite everyone close, and eventually the party grows. The whole point behind the local version is to celebrate with friends in your community . Who knows, in a few years Oktoberfest might be the biggest local celebration in the world!
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Credits and Links
I live in Denver, Colorado. This blog is everything about beer, wine, cider, mead and other spirits.
I am a avid homebrewer and winemaker. I’ve been making my own beer and wine for many years. I started making beer when I was in college (mostly because the drinking age in the United States is 21). My first few beers were horrible. The beers are much better now, and I often supply my neighborhood with free beer! It is a great hobby!