Nothing says Oktoberfest like a masskrug, the one-liter mug of beer that is a staple of celebrations on both sides of the Atlantic – unless, of course, you're drinking from a giant glass boot, which really says "Beerfest."
With Oktoberfest officially beginning Saturday, we did a quick survey to find the best Oktoberfest happy hours, the coolest vessels for drinking beer and the cheapest liters overall. If you're looking for a longer list of beer festivals and chances to polka, check our list of Oktoberfest events.
German happy hours
Most beer at Biergarten Haus is sold in one-liter mugs (it only seems natural) for $15, with half-liter mugs averaging $8. (It says $12.73 per liter on the menu, but that doesn't include tax.) There's a trick, though: From 5 to 7 p.m. on weekdays, the bar sells Spaten Lager, Warsteiner Dunkel and Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse for $5 per half-liter. Ask your bartender to bump you up to a full liter and they'll charge you $10.
Seemingly hidden behind a German deli and market, Cafe Mozart is a dark, quiet refuge from other downtown happy hours. From 4 to 7 p.m. on weekdays, the bar sells liters for $12 and halves for $7. Tuesday, though, is the night to go: From 4 to 9 p.m., the extended happy hour features $11 liters, $6 half-liters and, most importantly, two-liter glass boots for $20. It's definitely a place to bring a group of friends, but the bar closes at 10 p.m. on weeknights, so you'll want to make it an early stop.
The Black Squirrel
Every Wednesday, the Adams Morgan beer bar features a "Brats and Brau" promotion with a one-liter mug of Hofbrau beer and a bratwurst platter for $20. The Squirrel is tapping a half-dozen Oktoberfest beers this Friday as part of its "Star Trek"-themed Spocktoberfest party: Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen, Bell's Octoberfest Beer, Epic Fest Devious, Foothills Oktoberfest, Hofbrau Oktoberfest and Otter Creek Oktoberfest. All American and German Oktoberfest beers will sell for $13 to $16 per liter through Oct. 6.
The brewpub chain offers all its house-brewed beers for $2.50 per half-liter on Tuesdays though Oct. 15, including the malty Festbier. (Strangely, if you ask for the Festbier in a one-liter mug, you'll pay full price.)
Drink from das Boot
The newest German-inspired beer garden in D.C., Dacha has a fine selection of beers from Weihenstephan, Bavaria's oldest brewery, for $8 per half-liter and $14 per liter. The bonus: Liters come in glass Weihenstephan boots.
The doner and currywurst joint, which has outposts in Leesburg and Adams Morgan, hosts multiple Oktoberfest parties with live music and beer. Look for celebrations in Adams Morgan from Sept. 26-29, and in Leesburg from Oct. 11-14. Both restaurants offer a selection of German beers on tap, which range from $6 to $8.20 per half-liter. The bar also sells special oneliter Doner Bistro mugs for $10, which you can have filled for $10. Then, when you bring it back, you get refills for $10. You can also bring in your own one-liter mug, which the staff will usually fill for $10. (Of course, this means lugging a heavy glass mug around all night, but the beer is probably worth the effort.)
In Adams Morgan, Doner Bistro sells a two-liter glass boot of beer for $20, which the staff points out is "mostly for sharing." Sadly, you don't get to take the boot home.
Visit Cafe Mozart Tuesdays from 4 to 9 p.m. and you can partake of a two-liter boot for $20. Just remember to turn the boot before the air bubble comes out of the toe.
Other places for giant mugs of beer
As part of its rich and hearty Oktoberfest menu, which runs from mid-September to the end of October, the 65-year-old German restaurant pours Spaten Oktoberfest for $13 per liter and $7 per half-liter.
Old Stein Inn
The Edgewater beer garden only has half-liters of German beer on its menu, which sell for $6.50 each. But if you ask your server, they'll double your order and pour it into a traditional mug for $13.
The Capitol Hill restaurant, which has a small, sunny beer garden facing Massachusetts Avenue SE, sells liters for $14 and half-liters for $7.