Photos by David Mulvihill

Brewers Mash 2018, (l-r) Kyle Giannuzzi (Brewery X), Brian Rauso (Green Cheek), Rick Smets (Stereo), Brian Hendon and Bryan Giesen (Docent).

Oktoberfest-ive

Southern California is gearing up for Oktoberfest season. Numerous traditional Oktoberfest festivals and related and kind-of-related celebrations dot the map this time of year. Many choices are available for the traditionally inclined and those just out to enjoy a great beer. 

 History Brief

Oktoberfest, which is held in Munich, Germany every year, is reportedly the world’s largest festival. Currently held over a 16-day period (Sept 21- Oct 6 this year), it began in 1810 as a celebration of the October 12th marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to the Saxon-Hildburghausen Princess Therese. The people of Munich were invited to take part in the five day festivities. Anniversary festivals followed and the annual fete grew larger and longer, eventually morphing into Oktoberfest. Sizeable brewery-sponsored beer tents are filled to capacity during the fest run. Add to them traditional music, attendees sporting German lederhosen and dirndls and traditional foods that include spit-roasted chicken, würstl, brezen, schweinebraten, schweinshaxe, steckerlfisch and käsespätzle to make the setting and experience complete.

Over time, similar festivals have popped up all over the world.

Today

In Los Angeles and Orange County, more-traditional Oktoberfests have been held for years at the Phoenix Club in Anaheim (Sept 20-Oct 27), Old World in Huntington Beach (Sept 8-Nov 3) and Alpine Village in Torrance (Oct 4-Oct 27). Wirsthaus Los Angeles has an Oktoberfest run on Fridays and Saturdays, Sept 21 through the end of October.

San Diego area Oktoberfest events include Oktoberfest El Cajon (Sept 27- Oct 6), Encinitas Oktoberfest (Sept 29), La Mesa Oktoberfest (Oct 4-6) and Ocean Beach Oktoberfest (Oct 12-13).

Mountain Destinations include the Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest (Weekends, Sep 7 to Nov 2) and Lake Arrowhead Oktoberfest (Weekends - Sep 14 to Oct 27).

Craft Beer Centered

While those listed above generally focus on Oktoberfest beers from Germany, many local craft brewers are also getting into the act, holding their own festivities and/or brewing Oktoberfest beers. 

(l-r) Former Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait and Anaheim owners/brewers Barbara and Greg Gerovac.

Anaheim Oktoberfest

Anaheim Brewery released its Anaheim Oktoberfest Lager on August 8. For this malt forward 6.5% ABV Märzen-style beer, owners/brewers Greg and Barbara Gerovac use a recipe patterned after a 100-year-old recipe that was found inside an old leather notebook at Munich’s Paulaner Brewery by a former boss of Greg’s during his apprenticeship there. 

Anaheim’s Oktoberfest celebration takes place over two Saturdays in October (5th and 12th). In addition to the featured beer, there are traditional dancers, live music (the German-American Band) and Sausages, etc., from the Viking Truck.  

Oktobeerfest 

Stereo Brewing Company Oktobeerfest is happening September 20-21, coinciding with its Oktoberfest Lager release. Striving for stylistic perfection, owner/brewer Rick Smets shared that this year’s Vienna-style Oktoberfest Lager was brewed with over 90% Vienna malts and will be a bit lighter than last year’s version. Germany’s #1 Food Truck will be onsite to serve the German- and Mediterranean-inspired fare that has made it popular. Fest garb is encouraged. Expect German-themed drinking music and lots of Rastal steins filled with Oktoberfest Lager.

OC Brewers Mash 2019

The annual OC Brewers Guild Brewers Mash will take place on the evening of October 19, once again within the serene surroundings of the Fullerton Arboretum. While definitely Halloween focused, many member brewers bring their annually brewed Oktoberfest beer to dispense at the party. This reporter looks forward to having some of the aforementioned beers and any others that will be flowing during the event. Last year’s mash also included Oktoberfest beers from GameCraft, Unsung, Cismontane and Hoparazzi. The Guild encourages host breweries and attending guests to dress in costume and decorate their serving booths in Halloween-related themes. Prizes will be awarded.

Figtoberfest 

Figtoberfest 2019 takes place on September 28 at Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. headquarters in Buellton and at Fig’s various taprooms. It’s a day Figueroa Mountain devotes to German-style craft beers made by its brewers. The celebration in Buellton will feature Figtoberfest German-style lager, as well as other specialties brews, German food, games, music and costume contest. In addition to Figtoberfest, Fig Mtn. taproom locations will dispense a variety of German-style beers.

Hoptoberfest 

Hoptoberfest 2019 happens October 25-26 at Pizza Port San Clemente. Now in its 11th year, this markedly different (hop-filled) take on Oktoberfest is a must-attend for hop enthusiasts. Taps will be flowing with Pizza Port and guest brewery IPAs, IPLs, hoppy ales and fresh hop creations. In past years Pizza Port co-owner Vince Marsaglia has been in attendance to lend a hand with preparing delectable non-pizza fare on Port SC’s rooftop annex. Hoptoberfest typically presents as a great opportunity for trying a large variety of seasonal fresh hop beers. Last year’s festivities included nine fresh hop ales brewed at the various Pizza Port locations, plus 10 additional fresh hop beers from brewers in San Diego, Orange & L.A. Counties, Northern California and Colorado. 

Eat, Drink, and Be Scary 

Boo Ha Ha a Haunted Oktobeerfest is scheduled for October 25-26 (two nights of boos, brews, live entertainment and spooky activities). This new event, a Halloween festival with an Oktoberfest slant, presented by Brew Ha Ha Productions in conjunction with the OC Fair and Event Center, will be held at the OC Fair and Event Center in Costa Mesa. Festival activities will include stein holding competitions, Halloween costume contests and zombie face painting. Traditional German food will be available to purchase and pair with over 80 German-style and local craft beers. Music will be provided by Dead Man’s Party (Oingo Boingo tribute band) on Friday and Metalachi on Saturday.