Beer Scout: Your guide to Asheville’s Oktoberfest

AUTUMN BREWS: “The costumes are always fun,” says Meghan Rogers, executive director of the Asheville Downtown Association. “You get everything from the traditional Oktoberfest dirndl lederhosen costume to the crazy, Asheville eclectic I’m-just-gonna-dress-up-to-dress-up costumes, which are always a lot of fun too.” Photo courtesy of Asheville Ale Trail

Fall has arrived. The leaves are changing, flannel shirts are making a triumphant return, tourists are flocking to the mountains en masse, pumpkin spice-flavored everything is here and — good news for beer drinkers — Oktoberfest is making its annual comeback.

On Saturday, Oct. 10, Asheville Oktoberfest marks its seventh year running with a new location, new games and a good, old-fashioned love of beer.

“The Downtown Association was founded in 1987,” says Meghan Rogers, executive director of the Asheville Downtown Association. “There was nothing going on downtown at the time. They had an event called Fall in the Fall — it wasn’t necessarily an Oktoberfest-style event, but it was a fall event, and we sort of took that model and location and started Oktoberfest as the beer scene in Asheville started to really blossom.”

Oktoberfest is a celebration of Asheville’s beer culture, aiming to highlight (with the exception of the inclusion of Spaten, a traditional German brew) local breweries, local food and local talent. Local polka-style band Lagerhosen will provide onstage entertainment throughout the festival as attendees participate in games of cornhole, mini-golf, a costume contest and, of course, ample beer tasting.

“The costumes are always fun,” Rogers says. “You get everything from the traditional Oktoberfest dirndl lederhosen costume to the crazy, Asheville eclectic I’m-just-gonna-dress-up-to-dress-up costumes, which are always a lot of fun too.”

Tickets cost $45 and include a stein for unlimited beer sampling.

“To an extent,” Rogers says. “We certainly want people to be safe and responsible. We have trained all of our volunteers who help us serve beer by the state standards in how to serve.

“Most people are very responsible,” she adds. “We certainly try to look out for those who maybe aren’t being responsible and maybe need to take a break.”

After spending two years on Coxe Avene, Oktoberfest is moving this year to a new location on Woodfin Street to allow for more space and easier navigation of the festival grounds.

“The Coxe Avenue move resulted in a desire to showcase the South Slope area,” Rogers says. “Two years ago, that made sense. Now there’s so much going on down there they almost don’t need an event that comes in and shuts down the street.”

Oktoberfest has sold out for five years running, but as more and more breweries pop up — each hosting their own events — it becomes more challenging to host something that really sets itself apart.

“There’s more competition nowadays when it comes to beer festivals,” Rogers says. “We have a very significant brewing culture in this community.”

Oktoberfest kicks off at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10, with a parade from the check-in area to the stage for the traditional tapping of the keg. Tickets are available at eventbrite.comRead on for previews from the individual brewers of some of the local beers to look for at Oktoberfest:

Catawba Brewing Co.

King Don’s Pumpkin Ale

This complex beer uses five separate barley styles, an artistic touch of hops, spices normally used in baking and fresh pumpkin.  The caramel, spice and pumpkin flavors meld into a wonderfully smooth, orange-hued beer that sports a luscious, creamy foam head. 5.5 percent ABV

Highland Brewing Co.

Clawhammer Oktoberfest

Lightly colored, but toasty, rich and full-bodied Märzen-style lager, brewed with traditional German malt and the finest noble hops. A spicy hop finish and aroma balance out the abundance of malt flavor. 5.8 percent ABV

Hi-Wire Brewing Co.

Zirkusfest Oktoberfest Lager

This traditional Märzen boasts all the flavors one wants in a rich Oktoberfest lager without the heavy finish. The use of Munich malt provides upfront biscuity and honey flavors that fade into a dry finish. 6.0 percent ABV

Asheville Brewing Co.

Drink the Bismarck!

An oak-aged, unfiltered Oktoberfest lager. Delicious malty goodness meets a touch of vanilla and hints of pepper in this tasty brew. 5.6 percent ABV

Lexington Avenue Brewery

Pumpkin Porter

We could not think of a more appropriate way to invite the season in than throwing nearly 100 pounds of pumpkin into this brew. A healthy portion of rye malt gives this beer a spicy dry mouthfeel, while the pumpkin mingles with notes of chocolate to coat your palate and linger not a moment too long. 5.4 percent ABV

One World Brewing

Berliner Weisse

Very light and mildly tart German wheat bier known as “Napoleon’s Champagne.”  3.4 percent ABV

Noble Cider

The Standard Bearer

The everyday, everybody cider. Whether you’re leading the way into battle or bringing up the rear, this is the cider for all. Our flagship cider is straight ahead, crisp and refreshing. The dry finish leaves you thirsty for more. 7.5 percent ABV

Oskar Blues Brewery

Ten Fidy Imperial Stout

A titanic, immensely viscous stout loaded with inimitable flavors of chocolate-covered caramel and coffee. Made with enormous amounts of two-row malt, chocolate malt, roasted barley, flaked oats and hops. 10.5 percent ABV

New Belgium Brewing Co.

Pumpkick Ale

Adding the unexpected kick of cranberry juice brightens this traditionally spiced seasonal ale. Pumpkick is brewed with plenty of pumpkin juice, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice — but it’s the cranberries and touch of lemongrass that send your taste buds sailing. 6.0 percent ABV

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Oktoberfest Festival Lager

Created in partnership with Brauhaus Riegele of Augsburg, an authentic Oktoberfest beer, true to the roots of the festival, that’s deep golden in color and rich with complex malt flavor from the use of traditional German Steffi barley. 6.0 percent ABV

French Broad Brewery

Zepptemberfest

A classic fest/Märzen recipe fermented with Kölsch yeast, yielding a bit more malt flavor and body than a traditaional lager beer. 5.3 percent ABV

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About Jesse Farthing
Jesse Farthing can be reached at beer@mountainx.com.

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