Oktoberfest is the perfect way to transition from summer to fall. It’s all about enjoying the crispness of the air while spending time outside with friends, whether you’re clanking steins of beer, eating unhealthful amounts of pork products or dancing to a peppy accordion.
We’ll have plenty of chances to savor beer, food and music over the next few weeks. Here’s a guide to the best the Washington area has to offer; you can find more celebrations, including family-friendly festivals, at goingoutguide.com.
The District’s largest German-style beer garden kicks off its Oktoberfest celebrations Sept. 21, the same day the festival in Munich gets underway. Take your pick of nine draft Oktoberfest beers from Germany, served in giant one-liter masskrug mugs, while partaking of an outdoor barbecue and enjoying a German music performance. This date is also penciled in for the debut of Biergarten Haus’s new bar, the Ratskeller, which will open in a converted garage next to the back patio.
As fate would have it, that Saturday coincides with the insanely popular H Street Festival, which means you should brace for long lines to get your beer and pork. If you’d rather not fight the crowds for a seat at a table under the chestnut trees or at an upended barrel for two on the rooftop deck, there will be more celebrations — complete with pig roast and live music — every weekend through the end of October. Remember: There’s never a cover during Oktoberfest, but you can make reservations only for groups of 15 or more.
Sept. 21 from 11 to 3 a.m. 1355 H St. NE. 202-388-4085. www.biergartenhaus.com.
The Old Stein Inn
The Old Stein Inn is a survivor. The Edgewater restaurant and pub was almost destroyed by a December 2010 fire, but after $900,000 in renovations, it looks better than ever, just in time for its 30th anniversary. Expect entertainment every weekend through the end of October in the split-level beer garden, including strolling accordion players (Sept. 21 from 5 to 9 p.m.), music with alphorns and cowbells (Sept. 22 from 4 to 8 p.m.), and straight-up polka (Sept. 20 from 6 to 10 p.m.). Make reservations and come hungry: The pork shank and schnitzel are worth the trip.
On Oct. 4, the Old Stein is hosting an alphorn blowing contest on the patio during a performance by the Heidi und Heimut Echo Band, giving audience members a chance to try the enormous wooden instrument. Then on Oct. 6, the beer garden will host Spanferkel-Fest, with a pig going on the spit to roast at noon and music from Mike and the Continentals at 4 p.m. Reservations are strongly suggested.
1143 Central Ave., Edgewater. 410-798-6807. www.oldstein-inn.com.
Heurich House Oktoberfest
The Heurich House Museum has become a regular site for beer-related events this year, honoring the legacy of former owner Christian Heurich, the German immigrant who became Washington’s biggest brewer.
At the museum’s Oktoberfest, held in the pretty Victorian garden behind the Dupont Circle mansion, guests can sample five beers from Baltimore’s Heavy Seas Brewery, including the Cutlass Amber, a German-style Maerzen; the Great’er Pumpkin ale; and the seasonal AARGHtoberfest. A polka band provides the music while Cafe Berlin supplies sausages, pretzels and other Oktoberfest treats.
Sept. 21 from 1 to 4 p.m. 1307 New Hampshire Ave. NW. 202-429-1894. www.heurichhouse.org. $40 tickets
include unlimited beer.
With a large “festhall” for music and dancing, a beer garden for drinking and a special area for children, Frederick’s Oktoberfest brings a festival atmosphere to the Frederick Fairgrounds. Taps pour beers from Frederick breweries Barley and Hops, Flying Dog and Brewer’s Alley as well as from Germany. Polka bands and traditional German dance troupes perform both days, indoors and out. Each day features yodeling, polka and “biggest beer belly” contests. Children can decorate pumpkins, hop on a moon bounce, make scarecrows and watch performers. Proceeds benefit Frederick County charities through local Rotary clubs.
Sept. 28 from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sept. 29 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Frederick Fairgrounds, 797 E. Patrick St., Frederick. 240-599-0660. www.frederickoktoberfest.com. $5 in advance, $10 at the gate; free for age 2 and younger; free for visitors wearing authentic lederhosen or dirndl.
If you’re not a fan of malty Oktoberfest lagers, you might enjoy Mad Fox Brewing Company’s spin on the celebration: It’s offering dozens of hoppy IPAs from regional breweries on tap, plus its new Hitzig Frau Oktoberfest beer at the outdoor event. The event also includes a performance by the Justin Trawick Group and outdoor grilling.
Sept. 28 from noon to 6 p.m. Mad Fox Brewing Company, 444 West Broad St., Falls Church. 703-942-6840.
The area’s longest-running beer festival turns the streets of Shirlington into a boozy block party. Fifty breweries will be pouring four-ounce samples at their booths while local restaurants feed the masses. Arrive early, before the popular booths start running out of beer.
Something to look out for this year: In addition to Oktoberfest Lager, new Cap City brewer Kristi Mathews Griner is introducing two seasonal beers: Smoketoberfest, a smoky German lager, and the pumpkin-flavored Dr. Punkinstein.
Oct. 5 from noon to 7 p.m.
The Village at Shirlington,
4001 Campbell Ave.,
www.capcitybrew.com. Free; $25 to sample beers, which includes a souvenir mug and 10 tasting tickets.
Meridian Pint Oktoberfest
Meridian Pint’s 2012 Oktoberfest street party, timed to coincide with the nearby Columbia Heights Day, was a blast. Oktoberfest beers from Germany flowed at a beer garden in the middle of 11th Street, while two dozen American beers were on tap inside. A brassy German band performed traditional songs. Restaurant owners and bartenders climbed into a dunk tank for charity. Pups dressed in ballerina outfits and dirndls vied to win the Doggy Costume Contest.
Owner John Andrade says he plans to stick with the same formula this year, again coinciding with Columbia Heights Day. But expect more activities for kids, including a moon bounce and face painters, and tables for local vendors.
Oct. 5 from noon to 6 p.m.
Meridian Pint, 3400 11th St. NW. 202-588-1075.
Snallygaster is not technically part of Oktoberfest: No dirndls, no blaring oompah music. It’s also held the weekend after everything wraps up in Munich. But if you’re a fan of good German beer, or just beer in general, this well-organized festival in Union Market’s parking lot is one of fall’s must-do events. Greg Engert, the beer expert behind ChurchKey, Rustico and the forthcoming Bluejacket, selected about 200 beers for Snallygaster, including 16 gravity-poured casks of kellerbier from Franconia, smoky rauchbiers and sour Berliner weisse and gose, in addition to thirst-quenching Oktoberfest styles.
Beyond German beer, look for seasonal fresh-hop ales and pumpkin beers and a focus on small Virginia producers as well as rare English ales. Red Apron Butchery will be serving brats and hot dogs, lawn games will be available, and DJs and stilt-walkers will be among the entertainers.
Beers and food will be purchased with tickets; six-ounce tastes of beers will require three to six tickets.
Proceeds benefit Arcadia, a local nonprofit group that provides farm-fresh foods to low-income neighborhoods.
Oct. 13 from 1 to 6 p.m. Union Market, 1309 Fifth St. NE. www.snallygasterdc.com.
$10 admission. $30 Kraken advance ticket package offers a beer mug and 25 $1 drink tickets.
$50 Jabberwock ticket includes 30 $1 drink tickets and noon admission for an extra hour of sampling.