Los Angeles is not particularly known for its Oktoberfest celebrations. Our city never saw the waves of German immigrants that settled in the Midwest and Great Lakes Region, who brought with them precision brewing and sausage-spicing techniques. That doesn’t mean there aren’t dozens (literally, dozens!) of us who see the cooling September days (surely we’ll get one soon) as an opportunity to cut a rug to the tune of big brass bands in our finest dirndls and lederhosen.
In Germany, Oktoberfest beer traditionally marked the last month of the brewing season (March) before beers had to be tucked away in cold storage so they wouldn’t spoil in the warm summer months. They’d slowly tap away until the very last reserves were consumed during an autumn festival. Wacky Crown Prince Ludwig institutionalized this ritual for his wedding day revelry, and brought about the party vibe and Gemütlichkeit that characterize this modernized tradition.
Stylistically, the Oktoberfest style is malty and higher in alcohol than most German beers at anywhere from 5-7.5 % abv. Close relations include Märzenbier and Vienna-style (like Negra Modelo). For beer in the true style of Oktoberfest, Hacker-Pschorr is one of the higher quality imports, but Ayinger Oktober Fest/Märzen is exceptional.
Weighty liter steins filled with roasted, malty lager and yeasty pretzels and bratwurst to balance the beer: this is the season for succulence. Any true Oktoberfest celebration is remiss without a Wiesn Hendl – spit-roasted half-chicken heavily salted and generally accompanied by mustardy potato salad or cucumber and radish – but those are admittedly hard to find outside of the rolling hills of Bavaria.
Head to Munich now for the world’s largest fair and booziest party, or better yet, stick around L.A. and lift your stein at one of the following celebrations. All the ongoing events are already underway but unlike Munich’s Oktoberfest, which is almost over, they run through the end of October. In a land where more is more, doesn’t that make us better?Prost!