By Guest Contributor Eric Zeigler
Ahhh, the smell of Fall is in the air. With it, there is excitement. For Foodies, it’s the beginning of Comfort Food Season. Heartier fare and bigger, bolder beers and wines. For me, September and October hold the promise of my favorite celebration of all. Break out your Trachten shirts, lederhosen and dirndls people. It’s Oktoberfest!!!!
This year, as always, I am headed beyond the Cheddar Curtain to the Promised Land —Wisconsin. Home to a 42% Germanic populace and to the most authentic Oktoberfest celebrations in the U.S. this side of Munich.
The Bavarian Bierhaus, which opened earlier this year, will host the oldest and one of the most authentic Bavarian Oktoberfest celebrations in the Midwest. Modeled after the one that takes place in Munich, Germany, it takes place every September on the four weekends following Labor Day. Admission is $5 at the door or $4 in advance (available at the restaurant). Kids 12 and under are free and firefighters, police, active duty military and veterans get in for free on Fridays. The festivities include traditional German brass bands, Schuhplatter folk dancing, singing, yodeling, sing-alongs, dancing, food and drink. Wearing the traditional lederhosen and dirndls at this festival is as normal as someone putting on jeans and a T-shirt to go to a regular bar. Meanwhile, you can try your hand at various smaller carnival-like games or enjoy a large Bavarian pretzel or bag of hot, roasted candied nuts. It is truly an epic experience.
To round up your month of Gemütlichkeit, you may also want to try downtown Milwaukee’s Oktoberfest celebration. Situated in the beautiful Pere Marquette Park across from the Hofbrau-franchised Old German Beer Hall (one of the sponsors), this equally exuberant festival is initiated by none other than the Mayor of Milwaukee tapping the first wooden keg to get things rolling. This harkens back to the same tradition in Germany of the Mayor of Munich tapping the first keg. At any festival in Wisconsin patrons are even encouraged to bring their own Maßkrug steins to be filled with the glorious beers produced by Hofbräu. Later, if one is so inclined, you can try your hand at Maßkrugstemmen (beer stein holding). See how long you can hold a 1-liter glass stein full of beer (about 6 pounds) straight in front of you. At any point, you can retreat from the tent’s festivities by walking around the gorgeous park scenery right on the river. I am taking my father for his first experience this year. I can’t wait until he tries his first cold sip out of a Maß in his new Trachten shirt!
Get out of your normal comfort zone and head to Wisconsin this month. You won’t regret the experience!