Oktoberfest in Washington is a fantastic time of year, thanks to the wide range of events. You have traditional beer gardens with German beer, roast suckling pig and strolling accordion players. You have beer festivals that bear no resemblance to anything in Munich that want to capitalize on the appeal of drinking outdoors. You have dachshund races and stein-holding contests.
This guide is split into two parts: The celebrations at German restaurants and beer gardens that extend into October and beyond, and the much shorter festivals and events that only last a day or a weekend. There's some overlap, so you might want to pay attention to both parts.
1355 H St. NE. www.biergartenhaus.com.
The enormous H Street NE beer garden kicks off its celebrations on Friday, Sept. 18, before going all out for the H Street Festival the following day. For the duration of Oktoberfest, you'll find eight German Oktoberfest beers on tap, including Ayinger, Hacker-Pschorr and Weihenstephaner, sold in liter mugs for $15 or more manageable half-liter glasses for $8. At happy hour, which runs from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 4 to 6 p.m. on Friday, liters of Spaten or Warsteiner Oktoberfest beer are $10, and a sausage platter is $8. Throughout the festival, there will be music and other special events under the trees on the patio.
322 Massachusetts Ave. NE. www.cafeberlin-dc.com.
Every Saturday through Oct. 31, the Capitol Hill restaurant hosts celebration on its patio. The special is a roast suckling pig, two sides, apple strudel and a liter of beer for $35, beginning at noon. You can also just drop by any day to sit outside and drink a liter of one of the four Oktoberfest beers.
Dacha Beer Garden
1600 Seventh St. NW. www.dachadc.com.
Dacha has a strong relationship with Weihenstephaner, the German brewery that has been making beer in Bavaria since 1040, and will sell its Festbier from Sept. 19 to through Oct. 4. A one-liter glass boot costs $16 (sorry, you don't get to keep the boot) and a half-liter glass is $8. Special events include a Strongman stein hoisting contest from 6 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 30; one man and one woman win 3 month memberships at VIDA, plus Weihenstephan swag. (It's free to register; just arrive before 6 p.m.) Throughout the festival, Dacha encourages customers to wear lederhosen and dirndls to the bar, take photos there, and tag them with #dachafest on social media. The best outfits, chosen by Dacha and Weihenstephaner employees on Oct. 4, win prizes.
2434 Wisconsin Ave. NW. www.old-europe.com.
The historic Glover Park restaurant offers a special menu with $12 liters of Spaten Oktoberfest beer, and platters of weisswurst, pan-seared pork loin and other dishes. Live polka is offered on Wednesday nights.
The Old Stein Inn
1143 Central Ave., Edgewater. www.oldstein-inn.com.
Live music plays in the Edgewater restaurant's terraced beer garden Friday through Sunday, ranging from strolling accordion players to full polka bands. Look for Oktoberfest beers on 10 taps and plenty of schnitzel. Special Oktoberfest events include the Best Dressed Bavarian contest on Oct. 2 (which is also the Day of German Unity, a holiday in Germany), and the Spanferkel-Fest pig roast on Oct. 4.
1216 18th St. NW. www.saufhausdc.com.
From Sept. 17 to Oct. 4, the Dupont Circle bar has games, music and beer specials every Thursday through Saturday. Opening weekend is busy: On Thursday, the bar offers $10 Oktoberfest tasting flights and a "Stammtisch" happy hour where German speakers (native or otherwise) can converse in German. Friday brings live music and $2 off festbiers and gruner veltliner wine. On Saturday, doors open at noon for live music, face painting, corn hole, a contest to see who can consume Sauf Haus's two-pound pretzel the fastest, and a stein-holding competition.
Special Oktoberfest events
Thursday, Sept. 17
The Oktoberfest beer at District Chophouse is usually one of the best in town, thanks to brewer Barrett Lauer, who imports German malts and hops for his special recipe. Try it at the Penn Quarter brewpub's annual Oktoberfest party, which runs from 6 to 8 p.m., while a live band plays. As a special treat, there's a cask-conditioned version of Oktoberfest made with fresh hops from Lauer's garden.
Friday, Sept. 18
Fair Winds Brewing Company is hosting a Beerfest in its Lorton taproom from beginning at 4 p.m., though it probably doesn't include Das Boot or beer pong competitions. Instead, all of the brewery's German-style beers (kolsch, maibock and the brand-new Oktoberfest) will be discounted, and German food will be for sale.
Saturday, Sept. 19
German-born Christian Heurich was Washington's most celebrated brewer of the 20th Century, so it makes sense that his Dupont Circle mansion hosts eight current D.C. breweries for a special Heurich House Oktoberfest celebration. The $60 ticket includes unlimited beer, brats, soft pretzels, live polka music and tours of the historic home.
Mad Fox Brewing Company's fourth annual Hoppy Oktoberfest in Falls Church unties two specific styles of beer: Malty Oktoberfests, including Mad Fox's Hitzig Frau, and punchy IPAs. Two dozen breweries will offer one or both styles of beer at this outdoor festival, which also includes live music. Admission is free, though you'll pay for food and drink.
Interested in comparing and contrasting local versions of Oktoberfest beer? Brookland Pint will have DC Brau, Port City and Brewer's Alley on tap, plus Schlafly Pumpkin Ale, all paired with Oktoberfest food specials from noon to 10 p.m. (They'll also be pouring the beers on Friday and Sunday.)
Saturday, Sept. 19-Sunday, Sept. 20
The District Oktoberfest bar crawl winds its way through eight Penn Quarter bars, including R.F.D., Penn Social, Iron Horse, from noon to 9 p.m. Participants get a different beer at each location. Some are German (Spaten, Weihenstephaner). Some are not (Shiner, Yuengling). Tickets are $50 on Saturday or $45 for Sunday; VIP tickets ($20 extra) add lunch at R.F.D.
Friday, Sept. 25-Sunday, Sept. 27
The weekend-long Lovettsville Oktoberfest takes over the Loudoun County town, with performances, contests and food and drink specials at multiple locations. Saturday includes a pancake breakfast at the elementary school, a 5K or 11K volksmarch walk around the area, a kinderfest with games and clowns for kids at the library, and traditional German dancing and music, wiener dog races and a DJ at a pop-up beer garden.
Saturday, Sept. 26
The annual Wiener 500 Dachshund Dash is one of the most ridiculous and hilarious events of Oktoberfest. Now in its fourth year, the race – open to wiener dogs only – moves to Yards Park for an afternoon of fun. Beyond races, there will also be Best Trick and Best Costume competitions open to all breeds of dogs, live music, food trucks and a beer garden. Admission is free; registering a dachshund to race requires a $25 donation to the Washington Humane Society. Gates open at 1 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 26-Sunday, Sept. 27
Das Best Oktoberfest at National Harbor pushes the idea of Oktoberfest into parody: Best Beer Belly, Best Pretzel Necklace, Best Costume and Miss Oktoberfest contests. Beer stands where German beers are outnumbered five-to-one by Shock Top Pumpkin and Bud Light. But hey, they've also got a carnival with rides for kids, a mix of traditional German bands and local cover bands, and, if you purchase a $49 beer garden pass, unlimited beer, wine and schnapps for sampling between noon and 5 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 28-Sunday, Oct. 4
NoMa's pop-up Wunder Garten beer garden bids farewell to Oktoberfest with a full week of events and a draft lineup of imported Oktoberfest beer. Themes include a family-friendly trivia night on Monday and Metro Weekly's Sausagefest with a sausage-eating contest and other games on Wednesday. Doors open at noon Friday through Sunday with live music, games and contests, though there's a $10 admission per day. Wunder Garten's owners also run L'Enfant Cafe, famous for its French Maid race on Bastille Day, so they're incorporating a special "Dirndl Race" on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
Thursday, Oct. 1-Sunday, Oct. 4
Fort Belvoir opens its grounds to the public every year for a four-day Oktoberfest celebration. Entertainment comes from U.S. and German Army bands, and traditional German music and dance groups. Other attractions include a 10K volksmarch around the installation for people and pets on Saturday and Sunday, a field full of carnival rides, a beer garden, stalls serving German and American food, and a bazaar selling crafts from local artists. Read the Fort Belvoir Oktoberfest Web site carefully for information on prohibited items, where to park, and hours of operation.
Weekends in October
Doener Bistro is spreading the Oktoberfest love out between its three locations this month: Adams Morgan celebrates from Oct. 2-4, Frederick takes its turn from Oct. 9-11, and Leesburg wraps things up from Oct. 15-18. Each location offers $10 steins of Warsteiner and a $6 Oktoberfest menu, but other events are more specialized: Adams Morgan features $3 and $4 beers from 3 to 7 p.m. Friday, DJs and games from noon to last call on Saturday, and a fruehschoppen (hair of the dog) brunch on Sunday. Frederick offers a live band on Friday, family day on Saturday, and brunch with Bavaran music on Sunday. The biggest party is under the fest tent in Leesburg, with games and contests on Thursday, live music on Friday night and Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and a DJ on Saturday night.
Saturday, Oct. 3
Capitol City Brewing Company brings at least 60 breweries to the 16th annual Mid-Atlantic Oktoberfest, an annual block party that takes over the streets of Shirlington from noon to 7 p.m. Seasonal beer flows, German dancers perform, and restaurants sell food from booths on the sidewalk. It's free to enter, but $30 if you want to drink.
Meridian Pint is once again closing 11th Street NW in Columbia Heights for an Oktoberfest street festival with a beer garden, a dog show, charity dunk tank, live Bavarian music from the Edelweiss band, and face painters and a moon bounce for the kids. Head inside for 20 American seasonal drafts, or stay at the beer garden for 10 German beers -- one of the rare occasions you'll find foreign beers on tap at Meridian Pint. The party runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and admission is free.
Saturday, Oct. 3-Sunday, Oct. 4
Frederick's Oktoberfest brings German music, beer and dancing and a family-friendly atmosphere to the Frederick Fairgrounds. Beyond the beer garden, which features beers from locals Flying Dog and Brewer's Alley as well as imports, there's live music beginning at noon each day; a series of competitions including yodeling and polka contests; a sports tent showing football games; and a Kids Zone with a moon bounce, scarecrow making and pumpkin decorating.