It’s Oktoberfest season, and breweries, restaurants and bars all over town are celebrating one of the world’s largest festivals, which has its origins in an 1810 mid-October royal marriage in Munich. So dust off your dirndls and lederhosen, Charlottesville, and get thee to a bierhaus.
Oktoberfest “is in the nature and history of this place, of getting everyone together to celebrate,” says Chris Cornelius, general manager at Kardinal Hall, where they’re rotating many German beers through the taps during an ongoing celebration. You’ll find the approachable Bitburger German lager, Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest-Märzen, Weihenstephaner Oktoberfestbier and Weihenstephaner Hefeweizen, a classic German hefe that Cornelius says is the best he’s ever tasted. “It has beautiful balance, not too banana, not too clove.”
Kardinal Hall will hold a stein-hoisting contest Saturday, October 1, before wrapping up its Oktoberfest on Tuesday, October 4, with a $30 per plate all-you-can-eat dinner of bratwurst, sauerkraut, spaetzel, pretzels and gingerbread (read more about Kardinal Hall’s German food on page 49).
Starr Hill Brewery
Starr Hill offers German-style brews all year round—The Love Hefeweizen and Jomo Vienna-Style Lager—but this year’s Oktoberfest afforded brewmaster Robbie O’Cain the chance to develop two new ones, a tart Berliner Weisse and the Basketcase American Helles Lager. Those beers, plus The Festie Oktoberfest Lager, Helles Bock and Warehouse Pils, will be on tap for the brewery’s Oktoberfest celebration on Saturday, October 1, from noon to 7pm.
For the beer nerds, Starr Hill’s brewers will conduct a “bier session” on the history of German brewing techniques and beer styles. And if German food is your thing, check out the audience-decided bratwurst battle, where three local chefs will go knife-to-knife in hopes of being crowned brat king of the Blue Ridge.
Tickets are $17 and include three tokens, each redeemable for one beer or food serving.
Firefly’s 12-day Oktoberfest celebration ends Oct. 2, but there’s still time to taste some official Munich Oktoberfest beers—such as the Hacker-Pschorr Hacker-Festzelt and Pschorr-Bräurosl and the Hofbräu Oktoberfestbier. General Manager Brett Cassis says they’ve also got some märzens on tap from Seven Arrows, Devils Backbone, Left Hand, DuClaw and others, and will have schnitzel, sausages, cabbage and pretzels on the menu, plus a stein-hosting contest on Thursday, September 29.
Blue Mountain Brewery
Over the next couple of weeks, pair Blue Mountain’s 13.Five Ofest lagerbier with some schnitzel, gulasch or a pretzel. If you’re lucky enough to snag a seat on Saturday, October 1 or 8, you can devour your Bavarian-inspired fare to the tune of a traditional oompah band. Dying to add to your Oktoberfest memorabilia collection? Blue Mountain’s Steal the Stein Night is Thursday, October 6.
Michael’s Bistro & Tap House
Michael’s keeps things a bit more traditional, with lederhosen- and dirndl-clad servers dishing out dinner specials such as wild boar and elk sausage alongside official Munich Oktoberfest beer offerings. “When you drink a märzen or a wiesn [this week], you know you are sharing that experience at that moment with people all over the world,” says owner Laura Spetz.