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Oktoberfest Continues

Well, it’s Thursday morning and as I sit at my desk, getting ready for another day at work, I can’t help thinking about last night’s Oktoberfest festival at the Toronado.

All over the United States, bars are throwing Octoberfest Celebrations. For most of these bars, the “Celebration” consists of a night of $1.50 Budweisers and 1/2 price Jagermeister shots. Sometimes you get free munchies. But Oktoberfest at the Toronado is a completely different beast.

Let’s take a quick look at Oktoberfest in Munich. There, Oktoberfest is a celebration of the release of that year’s batch of Marzen Bier. You see, in Germany, they have a number of seasonal beers. In the summer, the breweries release their Weiss (or Wheat) beers. Hefe-Weissen (or Kristall-Weisen) beer is light and refreshing… the perfect drink for the hot summer months. In the winter, they release the Dopple Bock beers, heavy, dark and full of enough alcohol to keep you warm as you walk [read: stumble] home. The Marzen Bier is the traditional harvest-time beer. Oktoberfest celebrates the harvest… and what better way to celebrate the harvest than with a liter of fresh, sweet beer!

Munich’s Oktoberfest celebration consists of the large breweries setting up beer gardens, large tents that seat thousands of people. People sit down and hear live music, eat large amounts of sausages and pretzels… oh, and they drink beer by the liter sized stein. It’s a celebration of life.

Unfortunately, aside from a few cities (like Fredericksburg, TX)… most American towns can’t support this type of grand festival. American urban design usually doesn’t allow for this sort of central park, and those which do have regulations against public drinking.

However, Spaten selects a number of large bars all around the country and sets up mini-Oktoberfests. The usual places are large bars, like the Winking Lizard in Cleveland (one of my favorite bars), which can seat upwards of five hundred people. They bring the beer, drop off a gross (144) of free 1/2 liter glasses, put up some posters and leave. The bar then sets up whatever promotion or special it wants.

At the Toronado, Spaten takes the celebration very seriously. A number of Spaten executives (including members from both Spaten USA and Spaten Germany) come in ahead of time, bringing wall hangings and posters. They work with David (the owner) to set up an Oktoberfest which is as traditional as can be expected in the Lower Haight district of San Francisco. Like they have for the last three years (and probably longer, but I have only been to the last three Oktoberfests at the Toronado), they bring that year’s commemorative half liter glasses and many kegs of fresh Spaten Oktoberfest (Marzen) Bier. They also bring in an Ommpah Band to play traditional German drinking songs and this year they arranged for free Rosamunde sausage with every 1/2 liter of Spaten purchased.

Sigh. Now it’s Thursday and the celebration is over… but the Oktoberfest will still be on tap for a few days more. So, it looks like I will have to make another trip to the Toronado before the week is done.


Posted in The Barfly Chronicles.

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