The Best Oktoberfest Celebrations in the U.S.

Oktoberfest is one of the world’s most famous celebrations. Most people focus on the drinking aspect, but this Bavarian party is a folk festival and carnival as much as an excuse to hoist a few beer steins. The most famous version of Oktoberfest is in Munich, where 5 to 7 million people attend the 16- to 18-day event, including visiting the Hippodrom (pictured). Going to Munich in autumn is not always possible, and even if a trip to Central Europe is financially doable, you might want to celebrate a little closer to home.

Luckily, Munich isn’t the only place to do it. A number of places have authentic celebrations, especially towns founded by German immigrants. While American versions of Oktoberfest don’t draw as many revelers, you’ll be able to find good beer, authentic food, enthusiastic polka bands and, most importantly, a celebratory atmosphere.

Thirsty Thursday: New Beers Actually Worth Drinking This Fall That Aren’t Pumpkin

We have a long-standing dislike for pumpkin beers. Well, the good news for pumpkin haters is the majority of drinkers are starting to agree, as seen by a huge cut in production of the spiced mess of a drink. This free shelf space means more real estate for the beers we do want to drink. Don’t know what to hunt out this season? Here are 8 new beers to drink this fall, and there isn’t a pumpkin among them.

Deschutes Hopzeit Autumn IPA

This is a bit of a weird one. Deschutes, brewers of such fine beers as The Abyss, Black Butte Porter, and Fresh Squeezed IPA, have given us a new autumnal style. They took the sweet, malty goodness of a traditional Märzen and combined it with the hoppiness of an IPA. The result is Hopzeit Autumn IPA. And you know what? We kinda dig it. It packs that toffee backbone and brings in just enough pine and grapefruit to make it unique.

Hi-Wire Pink Drink

If you need a refreshing taste of summer to remind you of beach days, Hi-Wire brewing has just the thing. Pink Drink is a tart wheat ale that’s brewed with raspberries and lemongrass. Yes, it’s pink. Yes, it’s delicious. Long a taproom favorite, the colorful brew was just canned for the first time and we’d recommend getting it.

The Alchemist Harvest Ale

Since opening their new facility, The Alchemist has amped up the variety of beers you can purchase if you visit. (You used to only be able to Heady Topper at the old facility.) If you hurry up, you can snag their latest, Harvest Ale. The beer highlights the Vermont barley used in its creation. Those malts are complimented by German hops that impart an earthiness to the brew. It just tastes like fall.

Sixpoint Tesla

Tesla is Sixpoint’s new hoppy lager, and like the man it’s named after, it’s pretty smart. Crisp, clean lagers hopped with American varieties are usually a mess, but Sixpoint pulls off a beautiful balancing act, allowing the juicy hops to shine without taking away from the refreshingly crisp lager profile. Oh, and at 7.1% ABV, this isn’t your easy-drinking lager you knock back a 6-pack of.

Flat12 Bierworks Pinko!Russian Imperial Stout

These cans were released in late summer but deserve a place on this list. First, because a RIS isn’t exactly a summertime brew. Second, because these cans are awesome. Flat12 Bierworks, out of Jefferson, Indiana, packaged their Russian Imperial Stout, Pinko!, in 8 oz. cans. Listen, some nights we’ll go with a tallboy of a heavy stout when we want to get a little nuts, but normally an 8-ouncer would be ideal. If you can still track down some cans, do so.

Stone 02.02.02 Vertical Epic Ale

To celebrate their 20th anniversary, Stone is releasing a handful of fan favorites that haven’t been seen in a while. Cue: 02.02.02 Vertical Epic Ale. Easily one of the most interesting beers the brewery has ever released, the Belgian-Style Strong Ale was originally released in 2002 as the first in what would become an 11-part vertical. Each year the beer was released again and, if you were diligent, you could then drink them all in 2012 to see how they differed. It was fun, but that fun ended a few years back. Now you can taste what all the hoopla was about with a special release of the prized beverage.

Good People Urban Farmer

There’s never a wrong time for a good saison. Sure they were originally intended to quench the thirst of hardworking farm hands during hot summer days, but the earthy brew also helps usher in a holiday season full of amped up spice. This fall make your saison of choice the latest offering from the good people at Good People. Urban Farmer blends notes of grapefruit and pineapple with the classic orange zest and yeast traditionally at the forefront of a good saison.

Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest

Last year, Sierra Nevada knocked it out of the park with their Oktoberfest beer. It was, simply put, the best American-made Oktoberfest we’ve ever had. This year, despite changing up the German brewery they collaborated with, they’ve done it again. This time they worked with Mahrs Bräu, a Bamberg-based brewery that has been around in one form or another since the 1600s. This year’s batch has a nice spiciness to it that plays well with the classic malt-forward body of a traditional Oktoberfest. Prost!

German Oktoberfest Celebrations Around The World

The largest Oktoberfest outside of Germany is in the twin cities of Kitchener & Waterloo in Ontario/Canada (1,000,000 visitors), Blumenau/Brazil (700,000+), Cincinnati, Ohio/USA (500,000+ visitors), and Denver, Colorado/USA (450,000+ visitors). In addition to North America, many other countries have their own Oktoberfest events:

Argentina

The National Beer Festival (Fiesta Nacional de la Cerveza) is Argentina’s version of the German Oktoberfest. It has taken place every October since 1963 in Villa General Belgrano, Córdoba. The party emerged by the hand of the first German immigrants. This festival attracts thousands of tourists for 2 consecutive weekends.

Australia

In Australia, the universities are notorious in their celebrations of Oktoberfest, and as students graduate and move on, this has rolled over into pubs and restaurants in the university areas. The Harmonie German Club, Canberra, holds an Oktoberfest over a 3-day period every year. The festival is currently in its 45th year, and attracts a large number of visitors.

Brazil

In Brazil, several southern cities, populated by Germans in the 19th and 20th centuries, have their own Oktoberfest, with the biggest one in Blumenau, celebrated annually since 1984. There are 18 days of music, dance and food, commemorating ancestors that came from Germany. In 10 days in 1984, 102,000 people (more than 30% of Blumenau’s population) attended, now it’s more than 700,000. Festivals are also being held in Santa Cruz do Sul and Igrejinha, Rio Grande do Sul, and Rolândia, Paraná.

Canada

In Canada there is an annual 9-day celebration spread over 18 Festhallen in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. It attracts over 1,000,000 visitors annually. While its best-known draws are the beer-based celebrations, other cultural and entertainment attractions also fill the week. The most well-known is the parade held on Thanksgiving Day; as the only major parade on Canadian Thanksgiving, it’s televised nationally. (Coincidentally, the closing day of the Bavarian Oktoberfest also lands on the German equivalent of Thanksgiving, Erntedankfest.) The twin cities and surrounding area have a long history of German roots; Kitchener was formerly named Berlin. A large portion of the population identify as being of German heritage, many still speak German. A common phrase at the celebrations is Gemütlichkeit. The word is even programmed into bus route displays, so during Oktoberfest it will show the route and Gemütlichkeit, or Willkommen. Another celebration is held in Sherbrooke, Quebec at the beginning of October. The 1-night event is held by Sherbrooke’s University engineering students’ association and gathers around 5,000 people.

Chile

In Chile beer fests are celebrated in Valdivia, Puerto Octay, Puerto Varas, Frutillar, Llanquihue, and Malloco.

Colombia

In Colombia it is sponsored by Bavaria Brewery. A series of concerts and events are held along different cities, with special emphasis in those with German background like Bucaramanga.

Germany

The Oktoberfest Hannover is a fair which takes place every year at the end of September/beginning of October. It usually lasts 16 days and features 160 rides and inns, 2 large beer tents seating more than a 1000 people each, and numerous stands offering refreshments. With more than 1 million visitors each year, it is the 2nd-largest Oktoberfest in the world.

Hong Kong

The Oktoberfest was started here in 1991. It is celebrated in late Oct and early Nov (local dry season) and is hosted by the Marco Polo Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui, just next to the Star Ferry pier. The hotel sets up a traditional tent with long wooden tables and benches with capacity for 1,500 to create an Oktoberfest atmosphere. The German Band Die Notenhobler from Ulm entertains the approx. 85% Chinese audience. Their program starts at 19:30 every night and comprises 3 parts: traditional German music, games and competitions, party music. The hotel caters traditional Southern German foods, such as pork knuckle, sausages with sauerkraut, and apple strudel or milk-cream strudel together with beer (past sponsors were Löwenbräu, Veltins, Jever, Löwenbräu). It’s a popular destination for private functions and staff parties of large corporations as well.

India

In Bangalore, Kingfisher beer established The Great Indian October Fest in 2005.

Ireland

In Cork, the Francisan Well Brewery has an Oktoberfest festival whose dates parallel those of the festival in Munich. Downes Pub in Waterford have been celebrating annually since 2002 and their celebration culminates in an evening in October that features German beer-drinking music from the City of Waterford Brass as well as a wide selection of imported German beer. Oktoberfest is celebrated in University College Dublin each year with a Bavarian-themed festival taking place in the Pit next to the Forum bar on campus.

Mexico

In Mexico, there are several cities celebrating this event, which has grown in popularity over the 19th and 20th centuries. The best known Oktoberfest takes place in the southern part of Mexico City, at the Club Alemán in the borough of Xochimilco. The German and German-Mexican community is a regular, but the event is attended by residents of many backgrounds. The celebration is in most traditional German fashion, with the Mexican fiesta kick. Typical German food and keg beer are available. A hand craft market and amusement rides are also set up.

Palestinian Territories

An Oktoberfest celebration is held in the West Bank town of Taybeh, home to the only Palestinian brewery (Taybeh Brewery). The first Taybeh Oktoberfest was held in 2005.

Romania

In Romania, the Oktoberfest has been organized in Brasov (Kronstadt in German), Transylvania since 2009, in early Sept by the Deutsche Wirtschaftsklub, in association with local authorities. Traditional German and Romanian beers, foods, and music can be found in each edition.

United States

German-Americans are the country’s largest self-reported ancestral group. Correspondingly, there are hundreds of large and small Oktoberfest celebrations held annually throughout the country, the largest being in Cincinnati, Ohio. Known for its large German immigrant population, Pennsylvania and its historic Pennsylvania Dutch (actually Pennsylvania Deutsch but Americans say Dutch and hence, mix us up with Dutch people from the Netherlands…) population are well known to have Oktoberfest celebrations during the months of Sept and Oct. These celebrations became increasingly popular among the general population in the later half of the 20th century with the rise of microbreweries, and with the opening of authentic German brew houses such as Hofbrauhaus in Pittsburgh, PA and Las Vegas, NV.