It’s (almost!) time to strap on your suspenders, hike up your dirndl, and lift your beer stein for Oktoberfest season. Whether you’re looking to stagger to an oompah band, slam to Krautrock, or just show off your beer gut, we’ve compiled a list of the best places to stamp your passport and whet your whistle without leaving the Beltway. Prost!
Did we miss any Oktoberfest celebrations? Let us know about them in the comments below.
September 17 through the end of October; depending on demand, the dates could extend to mid-November
At this German restaurant in DC’s Glover Park, the waitresses wear dirndls and live Oktoberfest entertainment runs Thursday through Sunday evening. Steins of Bockbier—a Munich classic—are $4.25, and the mostly German wine list has lots of options. While you’re there, try the German food, such as schweinenackenbraten (roasted pork in dark beer sauce) or fleischpflanzerl (meatballs with German potato salad).
Sometimes beer is best when it comes with an expert. In the basement of the Georgetown outpost of Pizzeria Paradiso is Birreria Paradiso, where the restaurant will host a beer dinner with six brews from the Pennsylvania-based, German-influenced Victory Brewing Company. Brewmaster Bill Covaleski, who trained in Germany and whose repertoire includes HopDevil and Storm King Stout, will be in attendance. There are two sessions for the four-course dinner: The first starts at 6:30 and the second at 9. (As of this writing, there’s a wait list the 6:30 session, but spaces are still available for the session at 9.) Call 202-337-4936 for reservations. Price is $65 per person and includes tax and gratuity.
Oktoberfest at Fort Meade
September 23 through 27
Come hungry to this one: Fort Meade is celebrating Oktoberfest with German and international food vendors, live music, and culinary demonstrations by chef Edwin Schölly, who’s cooked for Madonna and won a bronze medal at the Culinary Olympics. Bring the kids on September 20 for special activities geared toward younger patrons from noon to 4. The festival runs Wednesday and Thursday 5 to 11, Friday 4 to 11, Saturday noon to 11, and Sunday noon to 6 at the Fort Meade Pavilion. Admission is free.
Pass up the $12 cocktails and opt for half-off German beers at Oktoberfest 2009, sponsored by Bisnow and One Hundred Percent. The 14th Street nightspot Policy will be hosting this event from 5:30 to 7:30—although for the dedicated, an after party goes until midnight. It's free, but those grateful enough for the beer prices might consider making a $5 or $10 donation to benefit the Friends of the Goethe-Institut. Reservations can be made online here.
September 24 through October 24
Supposedly the site of the first Oktoberfest in the United States—and currently aspiring to become the Polka Capital of the East—Blob’s Park restaurant in Jessup, Maryland, hosts live German music on weekend evenings starting at 8 (Sundays starting at 4). The Oktoberfest celebration was recently extended to six weekends to accommodate crowds. Bavarian beers are on tap, and the menu offers German entrées such as wienerschnitzel with cranberries and red cabbage as well as regional specialties such as beer-battered rockfish. Depending on who’s performing, there might be a cover charge, and it’s usually $8 to $12; check the Web site for a full event schedule with prices. Open Fridays and Saturdays 6 PM to 1 AM, Sundays 2 to 10. Reservations are recommended; call 410-799-7130.
Das Best Oktoberfest at National Harbor
Okay, so “Das Best” probably isn’t correct German, but the beers, brats, and bands on hand at this Oktoberfest celebration might make you feel like you’re in Deutschland. Last year, the annual party drew more than 5,000 carousers, and the 2009 edition promises more food, oompah bands, and brews (100-plus) than ever before. Especially rotund men can partake in the Beer Belly Contest, while their female counterparts can compete in the Miss Oktoberfest Competition. If you wear German attire (think lederhosen), you’ll get free-beer tickets. Children 12 and under get in free. Open from 2 to 8. Advance tickets, available here, cost $25; tickets at the door are $30.
Capitol Hill’s Oktoberfest 2009
Enjoy a sensory tour de force at historic Barracks Row with this one-day festival’s Military Culinary Competition, pitting chefs from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard against each other. In Top Chef form, this competition involves 15 teams, open tents, field stoves, mystery ingredients, and a time limit. You can also take a tour of the 203-year-old Home of the Commandants, which will run every hour; celebrate football season with an appearance by six of the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders; and catch a musical performance by the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon. Beer gardens, a petting zoo, classic cars, and 75 food, craft, and vendor booths will also be on hand. Free.