Eighth annual Asheville Oktoberfest boasts more breweries, new location

The Stratton Mountain Boys play their traditional alphorns. Photo courtesy of Asheville Downtown Association

The Asheville Downtown Association will host its eighth annual Oktoberfest in Pack Square Park Saturday, Oct. 8, from 1-6 p.m. The festival has become a fall staple in Asheville, and this year’s move to the heart of downtown is a response to the continued growth in its popularity with locals and tourists alike.

The first Asheville Oktoberfest, which was held on Wall Street, was conceived to fill two needs: to promote the then-nascent local craft beer scene and to provide Asheville with the only Oktoberfest in the area. Although similar festivals have popped up in the ensuing years, and local breweries certainly don’t need the exposure to the extent they once did, public interest in the event remains strong.

Oktoberfest quickly outgrew its original Wall Street home, and then similarly surpassed the capacity of its subsequent Coxe Avenue and Woodfin Street locations. This year’s move to Pack Square will accommodate not only more guests but also more breweries, meaning shorter beer lines and new options for attendees.

“We’re really excited to move to Pack Square because it really is the prettiest venue in downtown Asheville,” says Meghan Rogers, Asheville Downtown Association executive director, citing the park’s picturesque views of Asheville City Hall, the courthouse and the rest of downtown.

Like its Munich-based inspiration, Asheville’s Oktoberfest has always been rooted in beer culture. This year, at least 26 breweries will be participating with more expected — the greatest number ever hosted at the festival — including national and regional breweries in addition to local stalwarts. Festival fixtures such as Highland Brewing Co., Green Man Brewery and Pisgah Brewing Co. will all be returning, but this time they’ll be joined by national notables Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., New Belgium Brewing Co. and Lagunitas Brewing Co.

New regional brewers will also be featured, including Blue Ghost Brewing Co. of Hendersonville, Fletcher-based Whistle Hop Brewing Co., Lazy Hiker Brewing from Franklin and breweries from further afield such as Charlotte’s Unknown Brewing Co. and Pisgah co-founder Jason Caughman’s new Charleston, S.C., operation, Lo-Fi Brewing.

Breweries can bring up to four beers each, with an emphasis on fall seasonal and traditional märzens. “We want to mix traditional Bavarian styles with that funky Asheville vibe,” notes Rogers.

There will also be plenty to engage nonbeer drinkers, including cider from Bold Rock Hard Cider and Noble Cider, wine from Chateau Ste. Michelle, food trucks serving German-inspired dishes and traditional German music from the Stratton Mountain Boys. This year’s event will also see the return of the return of the official Oktoberfest games, in which teams can compete in a pretzel toss, a keg roll, and the Samuel Adams National Stein Hoisting Contest, a first for Asheville.

Preliminaries in the stein hoist will be held throughout the day, with the top six competitors vying for a prize near the end of the festival. Participants whose times rank among the best in the country can be invited to compete in Las Vegas, where winners will earn a trip to the Munich Oktoberfest.

Tickets for the 2016 Asheville Oktoberfest are available now at the downtown association’s website. The $40 ticket will get you admission, a commemorative tasting mug and unlimited samples of beer, wine and cider. Designated driver tickets are available for $10, and tickets for children age 7 and older are available, although families are encouraged to leave the kids at home (kids younger than 7 will be admitted free of charge). No dogs are allowed.

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