Munich-based beer lovers have celebrated Oktoberfest for more than two centuries. The brewcentric festival has evolved into a multiweek smorgasbord of hearty German food and drink attended by millions. The fest is emulated by cities around the world, especially those with a stout brewing culture — and Asheville is no exception. In my opinion, Oktoberfest is one of Germany’s biggest gifts to the rest of the world (along with the Christmas tree).
Asheville’s first crack at the vaunted German tradition took place in 2009. This year’s festival, organized by the Asheville Downtown Association, takes over Wall Street on Saturday, Oct. 8. While it’s no million-man-strong event, Asheville’s Oktoberfest is likely to attract nearly 2,000. Plenty of dirndl- and lederhosen-clad folks will pack the streets to hoist their mugs to the bellowing of accordions, take part in a multitude of Oktoberfest-themed games and eat sausages and other festival-appropriate fare.
Beer has become synonymous with Oktoberfest, mainly because there’s no such thing as a German party without the beverage. At the Asheville Downtown Association’s celebration, six local breweries will offer their wares: Asheville Brewing Company, Craggie Brewing, French Broad Brewing Company, Green Man Brewery, Highland Brewing and Pisgah Brewing. Special Oktoberfest brews will include: Green Man’s new The Fall Guy, French Broad’s Zepptemberfest, and Highland’s Clawhammer Oktoberfest. Because beer education is hot, there will be tasting cards describing what you’re drinking.
Oktoberfest, says event organizer Adrian Vassallo, offers more than quaffing in the streets. “Our goal is to have a good mix of fun and beer,” he says. “We want people to come out and have a hysterical time.”
To ramp up the hysteria, traditional oompah band The Stratton Mountain Boys will return to the stage to play Polka and, I’m sure, at least a couple renditions of The Chicken Dance.
Plus there will be games. Each participating brewery will field a team of four to entertain you with games such as keg-rolling, a Lederhosen race (think 3-legged race with panty hose), and a game titled “Oh, Gnome You Didn’t,” which consists of tossing pretzels onto a Large Gnome (guess that’s the Germanic answer to cornhole).
Anyone can participate in the festival-wide costume contest, the Stein Hoistenbech (a strength competition), or the Bavarian cream pie eating contest. The winners of this year’s costume contest will receive two tickets to Anthony Bourdain’s appearance at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium on Saturday, Nov. 5. Last year’s bratwurst-eating contest was deemed too gross by local vegetarians, according to Vassallo, so it was changed to Bavarian cream pie (because face planting into whipped crème isn’t gross at all).
But carnivores will still be able to eat all the stuffed meat they want. Cucina 24, Jack of the Wood, and The Market Place will be selling traditional German fare at the fest. Beulah’s Bavarian Pretzels served up with local favorite Lusty Monk Mustard will also be available (not the pretzels that end up wrapped around a gnome).
The fest starts at noon with the traditional ceremonial keg tapping. This year’s tapper will be Trevor Reis, Asheville’s first Beer Master competition winner. After that, there will be a game held approximately every ½ hour until the event wraps up at 6 p.m.
As of last week, more than 1,000 of the 1,800 tickets available had been sold. Vassallo says he expects a sell-out, so if you’re into Bavarian bawdiness, visit ashevilledowntown.org to purchase tickets. They’re $25 per person in advance and $35 the day of the event (if available).
Vassallo says that most downtown restaurants were packed with Oktoberfest revelers after the festival. He also adds that there will be plenty of Porta-potties at the events. While Aegir may be the ancient Norse God of beer, we all know the 21st century beer god is porcelain.