Nothing signals that the summer heat has finally broken and the beauty of fall is right around the corner quite like the coming of Oktoberfest season. Discover some great places to celebrate this harvest time tradition in Oklahoma!
Walking out onto the Oktoberfest grounds, enjoy the light snap in the air as the oompah music gently wafts by. Grab a Märzen, or Oktoberfest style beer, and raise your stein to autumn. As you do, notice how the light, coppery lager subtly mirrors fall’s amber hues. Grab a seat at one of the Bavarian royal blue and white checkered tablecloths and chow down on some delicious festival fare, spätzle, pretzels, wurst or schnitzel.
On a beautiful October day just over two hundred years ago, Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The city-wide wedding party was held just outside Munich in a field named Thereseinwiese, or Theresa’s Fields, in honor of the bride. It was such a great party, everyone decided to do it again the next year, then the next and the next. With the exception of a few wars and a cholera outbreak, the celebration has continued to the present, getting bigger each year.
Embracing the bounty of harvest and the season’s shift from summer heat to the cool of fall, traditionally Oktoberfest is held during that magical window from mid-September through the first weekend in October when the temperatures crisp down and the days start getting just a bit shorter. While you may not be able to get to the Wiesn, or festival grounds, for the big Oktoberfest in Munich, there are several options worth celebrating right here in Oklahoma.
Wet your Oktoberfest whistle at the Choctaw Oktoberfest. Beginning earlier than most traditional celebrations on Labor Day Weekend, this celebration is the perfect way to kick off the season. About a month after the Choctaw celebration ends, head to the Tulsa fairgrounds for the Linde Oktoberfest. Voted one of the top ten Oktoberfests in the United States, this Bavarian celebration is not to be missed. In addition to all the traditional foods, music and excellent beer selection, enjoy a variety of drinking games, such as beer pong and keg races. Like its big brother in Munich, this family friendly festival includes carnival rides, a Ferris wheel and JugendZelt or children’s tent, providing hours of entertainment for the little guys. The Linde Festival also features a crowd pleasing race celebrating one of Germany’s tiniest exports, the Dachshund Dash. Although beer is one of the central tenets of Oktoberfest, Linde offers a tent specializing in German wines and liqueurs for those wanting something else to drink.
Called Märzen or March beers, Oktoberfest beers were brewed in early spring before the onset of summer’s heat. Usually amber in color with a medium five to six percent alcohol content, Oktoberfest brews are lagers, defined by hops mellowed from aging and a full malt character. Conveniently, these Märzen beers reached their peak after storage for about half a year, just in time for Oktoberfest. Beer casks at the time were made of wood, perfectly seasoned, treasured and reused from year to year. As the grain from harvest came in to the breweries, Oktoberfest gave a great reason to empty some casks, making room for next year’s brewing.
Of course you should try some of the traditional Bavarian offerings at Oktoberfest: Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, Ayinger, Spaten and Hoffbrau, to name a few, but don’t miss out on some really great Oklahoma brews as well. The Oktoberfest Brew from Marshall Brewing Company has an exceptionally smooth flavor profile. This deep copper lager features noble German hops and a nice malty finish. Mustang Brewery’s fest offering, Harvest Lager is a delicious, session style brew made from six different European barleys and two German hops. Anthem Brewing Company partnered up with local blog The Lost Ogle to craft their entry for fest season, Ogletoberfest. COOP brewing company’s seasonal offering, COOP Oktoberfest blends up strong malt characteristics with Bavarian hops. Restaurant and brewery Royal Bavaria in Moore offers an Oktoberfest beer, available in-house and kegged. Rounding out the list of Oklahoma brewers, Choc Brewing Company offers up their mellow Choctoberfest Vienna Lager.
Continue the celebration all Oktoberfest season long by hitting up a few statewide festivals.
The first weekend in October, downtown Enid becomes schnitzel central for the city’s First Friday Oktoberfest. Also held the first weekend in October, head to the Marland Mansion in Ponca City for their Oktoberfest celebration. Enjoy Bavarian festivities all weekend long as the mansion becomes a miniature Wiesn or festival ground.
For when you can’t make it out to an Oktoberfest, or just to need to scratch that lager itch, there are several Oklahoma restaurants specializing in German cuisine, some of them even holding micro celebrations for the holiday. In Waynoka, check out Café Bahnhof. With its authentic menu, exclusive German tap selection and beer garden, this restaurant brings a piece of the Old World to Oklahoma’s northwest Red Carpet Country. Mutti’s German restaurant in Lawton flies the flag of German cuisine over southwestern Oklahoma with schnitzel, spätzle and rich brown gravy. In addition to hosting the Choctaw Oktoberfest, Old Germany and Turek’s Tavern keep the Oktoberfest spirit alive year round in their rustic Choctaw restaurant.
Royal Bavaria in Moore features its own house brewed Oktoberfest beer, which can and should be enjoyed in their beautiful and spacious three season beer garden. You can also enjoy suds from Royal Bavaria at Das Boot Camp, the brewery’s outpost in downtown Norman.
In Tulsa, celebrate Oktoberfest at Margaret’s German Restaurant & Deli, enjoy house made German specialties at Siegi’s Sausage Factory or down a few liters of the finest Oktoberfest brews at Fassler Hall, with both Tulsa and Oklahoma City locations. Along with Fassler Hall, enjoy an authentic meal and celebrate the Oktoberfest spirit in Oklahoma City at Ingrid’s Kitchen or Castle Falls.
Wherever you decide to celebrate, be sure and lift your glass and shout a hearty “Prost!” to the Crown Prince and his bride for kicking off a fantastic party over two centuries ago.