The German tradition of Oktoberfest has been adopted by American cities all over, and thank goodness! What would we do if we had to fly to Germany every time we wanted to participate in Oktoberfest?
German beer and drinking culture has a long history in America, since the first lager beer was brewed in America in 1840 by a Bavarian immigrant in Philadelphia who went by the name John Wagner. As German-American communities grew into the Midwestern states, their ‘foreign’ ways—and their big-drinking traditions—scared Protestant Americans into spreading anti-immigration and anti-Catholic messages.
One particular Chicagoan named Levi Boone, aimed to curb German drinking by raising the cost of a liquor license by 600%. German-Americans, some of whom started their own taverns and breweries in the States, then had to live through a difficult two World Wars, which stirred up much discrimination and outright rage toward Americans of German descent.
The two largest Oktoberfest events in the states take place in Cincinnati, Ohio (500,000+ visitors) and Denver, Colorado (450,000+ visitors). While some would argue bigger is better, we don’t agree. In looking for the best 5 Oktoberfest locations in the US, we looked for locations that contributed to the overall tone and environment of the festival.
5. Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest (Big Bear Lake, California)
Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest is in its 46th year, in 2016. Weekends throughout September and October get filled up fast at Big Bear Lake, replacing summertime campers with Bavarian-blooded revelers, bonfires, and bands.
The fresh mountain air of Big Bear Lake is perfect for catching a breather between steins and sausages. While California’s Indian Summer keeps the area nice and warm throughout Oktoberfest, you can check the local weather site for up-to-date reports.
Test your waning co-ordination throughout the day in contests of sawing logs, balancing steins, or slamming O’Doul’s. Tickets are available for just about everything at the event: Dinner, Sandwiches, Beer, Wine, Burgermeister Bucks (useful for all food and alcohol) for $40, and Bier Booklets (just good for beer) for $65.
4. Oktoberfest (Hermann, Missouri)
Oktoberfest in Hermann is a beloved tradition from those days of early German-American settlements. Although Hermann is Missouri’s wine country, Oktoberfest is a destination event that brings thousands of people from throughout the Midwest to the state’s most beautiful town to drink some beer.
Oktoberfest happens all five October weekends, but Hermann’s restaurants, shops, museums, and many wineries, add to the action throughout the month. The setting is a quaint 19th-century American town with picture-book houses, churches and schools. The main event takes place Friday through Sunday of each weekend in Jaycee Bier Garten at Sesquicentennial Park (Third and Gutenberg).
Jaycee Bier Garten is the venue for stein hoisting contests, but there are smaller games and events, like punkin’ chunkin’ at Lost Creek Vineyard and the five-acre corn maze at Pin Oak Farms. Learn the history of Germans in Hermann at Historic Hermann’s Museum at the German School. Bands play throughout the day at just about every venue, although the live music at Jaycee is a marquee event. Tickets vary from venue to venue, from a $5 cover charge to a $75 ticket for two to dine and dance at Lost Creek Vineyard.