Raise a Glass for Oktoberfest
The annual Oktoberfest in Munich doesn't start until Saturday, but brewers in D.C. seem to want to get an early start on the celebration. Six brewpubs are unveiling their seasonal Oktoberfest beers over the next few days at parties featuring cut-price drafts, food and oompah music. And that's just the tip of the Oktoberfest iceberg; a number of festivals are on the immediate horizon.
All three branches of the Gordon Biersch chain are launching their beers on consecutive days. First up is Rockville, where there will be a party on the building's rooftop with a DJ and a silent auction that benefits Special Olympics. Doors open at 6, and you'll pay $12 for a hefty 33.8-ounce mug of fresh beer.
It's a two-fer at the Rock Bottom Brewery in Bethesda. Brewer Geoff Lively is showing off his Rocktoberfest, a traditional Märzen-style lager as you'd find in Germany, as well as a darker Alt beer. I'm particularly looking forward to the latter, as Lively won a bronze medal at the 2008 World Beer Cup in the German-Style Brown Ale/Düsseldorf-Style Altbier category. The tapping begins at 7, and beers are $2 a pint for the first hour.
Gordon Biersch in Tysons Corner is going the traditional route at tonight's Festbier tapping, with an oompah band as well as a traditional alpenhorn player. (They'll be alternating sets from 6 p.m. on.) The evening includes a light buffet and the ceremonial tapping of a wooden keg of beer on the bar. (Hint: Sneak up front during the tapping and you can usually get a taste for free.)
Gallery Place is the place to be if you're in the mood for a German beer bar crawl. District Chophouse's tapping party begins at 6 and includes a small band playing German music and a special menu. (In the past, the food hasn't been cheap, but Barrett Lauer's beer has been darn good.) Two blocks away, the D.C. Gordon Biersch taps its own Festbier with passed hors d'oeuvres, music and the traditional wooden keg. A satellite bar will be set up in the back of the room to help alleviate crowds.
Over at the Ballston Rock Bottom Brewery, brewer Chris Rafferty offers up his own take on Rocktoberfest. (Recipes vary at different branches of the chain.) The taps open at 7, and beers are $2 for the first hour.
Other Oktoberfest Events
Next weekend is when the taps really start flowing and competition for your beer-soaked dollar bills heats up.
The Northern Virginia BeerFest brings some of the finest microbreweries in the Old Dominion together with some of America's best small brewers for two days of music and food at Bull Run Regional Park. (If you don't have a designated driver, I strongly suggest PartyDC.com's ticket-and-round-trip-bus package.)
Rustico's annual OctoBEERfest block party has become one of my favorite annual events -- after only one visit -- with a deep selection of 20 seasonal beers from the U.S. and Germany on tap, food from Rustico and its sister restaurants and performances by local bands. (I can take or leave the bands, but the beer selection is seriously good and much more interesting than at many larger festivals.)
New on the scene is Das Best Oktoberfest, which finds 75 beers, oompah bands, tasting seminars and German food at the new National Harbor complex. Admission is steep, at $20, though the VIP pass offers unlimited beer and a traditional German meal for $50. (Not included: The boat ride from Old Town Alexandria, which costs $14 round trip.
Less beer-centric options include the family-friendly Frederick's Oktoberfest and the Barracks Row Oktoberfest, which features a car show, "Iron Chef"-style competition with military chefs and a petting zoo. Yes, there are "beer gardens" on Eighth Street SE, but they're akin to large restaurant patios.
Browse our calendar for even more upcoming Oktoberfest events.
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