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.
A Chinatown pub crawl to celebrate Oktoberfest? Apparently so. The Cap-City Bartoberfest will take you to seven neighborhood bars—Greene Turtle, Bar Louie, Clyde's, the Irish Channel, Rocket Bar, Penn Quarter Sports Tavern, and RFD—for drink and food specials, including $2 Coors Light and $3 Blue Moon. There will also be a bratwurst eating contest. Start at the Greene Turtle between from 1 to 6 PM; drink specials will be available until 9. Advance tickets, available here, are $10. Tickets at the door will be $13, but you can get them at the advance-ticket price with the donation of a school supply, benefiting children's charity Horton's Kids.
Faust at the Sonic Circuits Festival
Tired of the lager-and-lederhosen routine? Try experimental music on for size. The Hamburg-based art-rock band Faust, which was at the heart of the Krautrock movement in the 1970s and still retains a big US fan base, plays in DC on the final day of the Sonic Circuits Festival of Experimental Music. The festival is held at venues throughout the city, but Faust will perform at the Black Cat at 8. Tickets are available here.
Barkley Square Bakery, an dog bakery and boutique in Alexandria, is hosting Barktoberfest to benefit animal rescue organization Homeward Trails. Make a donation and you can get beer, hotdogs, and brats, and dogs can enjoy complimentary homemade treats and doggie beer. German dress—think dirndls and lederhosen—is encouraged. The store will also be offering 50 percent off toys, leashes, collars, and more, and the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria will be on-hand with dogs looking for homes. 5 to 9 PM.
Fort Belvoir Oktoberfest
October 1 through 4
Enjoy beer, brats, and a volksmarch—literally, "people's march"—at Fort Belvoir's annual Oktoberfest celebration. The 5- and 10-kilometer walks, a German tradition, take place October 3 and 4 with start times between 10 AM and 2 PM. Other Oktoberfest activities include live music, a carnival, and kids activities. Admission is free, but some events, such as the carnival, have fees. For more information, go here.
Capital City Brewing Company
The Shirlington outpost of this local chain is celebrating Oktoberfest with pours of beer for more than 30 breweries. Of course, there will also be German food and live music—because what's Oktoberfest without good eats and tunes? If you want to drink beer, tickets are $25; nondrinkers get in free. The rain-or-shine event runs from noon to 7.
Who says mixing beer and explosives isn’t a good idea? The 27th annual Germantown Oktoberfest honors the area’s heritage by setting up a biergarten, playing German music, and blasting fireworks into the night. Choose from Miller Lite or Sam Adams Octoberfest on tap to wash down that sauerkraut. Festivities get under way at 11 AM. Free parking and admission.
For something a bit different, head to the Balkans’ version of Oktoberfest in Silver Spring. Sure, you don’t normally equate the St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral with bacchanal, but so what? Peruse the Balkan Bazaar, munch on traditional mezze, and down it with a pint (or two or three). At least 12 Balkan bands and dancers will bring their unique Eastern European blend of Slavic beats to the party. The Eastern European soire runs from 4 to midnight. Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for seniors and students, under 18 free.
For $25, revelers at the Mid-Atlantic Oktoberfest can sample four-ounce tastes from more than 30 breweries. Each patron gets ten drink tickets—depending on your thirst, that could either add up to a bargain or bust. Regardless, the folks at Capital City Brewery, which is sponsoring the event, will close off a street in Shirlington Village, pitch their own beer tent, and offer a day’s worth of German music as a drinking soundtrack. Swing by from noon to 7.
Vienna Oktoberfest Celebration
This family-oriented Oktoberfest celebration takes place along Church Street in Vienna and includes a beer garden, food vendors, live entertainment, a marketplace, and free children's activities. The event is free and runs from 11 to 7, rain or shine. For more information, call 703-281-1333 or go here.
October 3 and 4
You don’t have to feel guilty about pounding pints before lunch—at the Frederick Oktoberfest, you’re drinking for a cause. Proceeds support community projects of local Rotary Clubs, though the $5 admission is waived if you show up wearing a traditional German dirndl. Keep the youngsters (free admission for those under 11) busy with face painting while you and the misses compete in strongman/woman, log-sawing, and yodeling contests. Saturday 11 to 10, Sunday 11 to 6. Free parking.
October 9 through 11
In honor of October, Reston puts on a rousing three-day party complete with a carnival for the kids and fall brews for their parents. Tired of bratwurst and knockwurst? There’ll be 11 local restaurants, including Café Montmartre and Mon Ami Gabi, offering food. The event is scheduled to run from noon until dusk, with free admission and individual food and drink tickets going for $1 each or a 24-pack for $20.
October 9 through 12
Revelers in Clarendon looking to lift their elbows in the spirit of the season should head to Restaurant 3 for three days of sausage, schnitzel, and schweine. Executive chef Brian Robinson will be manning the grill, offering a variety of kielbasas from the restaurant’s “Oktoberfest Menu.” For those craving something less hearty and more healthy, try the soft pretzels and cucumber salad. The Oktoberfest theme culminates with an outdoor-patio party on Sunday from 4 to 8 PM, featuring live music and hourly toasts. Admission is free, but bottles of German beer cost $6 to $8.
Neighborhood Restaurant Group Oktobeerfest Celebration
October 10 (Rain date: October 17)
This neighborhood block party, which runs from noon to 6 in Old Town, is sponsored by the Neighborhood Restaurant Group and DC Central Kitchen. Stop by Rustico for tastes of fall dishes plus the samples from NRG’s other restaurants, including Vermilion, Tallula, EatBar, Evening Star Cafe, Buzz Bakery, and Columbia Firehouse. Birch & Barley, a soon-to-open restaurant in DC’s Logan Circle, will make an appearance, too. To wash your meal down, there’ll be 20 seasonal beers on tap. There’ll also be live music. A raffle that evening will benefit DC Central Kitchen, which promotes food recycling and redistribution.
Squeeze in one last Oktoberfest hurrah today at the Goethe-Institut. Your ticket ($15) gets you admission to a reception with German beer and wine and a 7:45 screening of the 2004 German film The Edukators. The movie, which tells the story of three young political activists, was nominated for the prestigious Golden Palm Award at the Cannes film festival. The bar opens at 6. Register here.
Know of an Oktoberfest event not listed here? E-mail email@example.com with details and we’ll update our list.