It’s September, so that means Oktoberfest time.
Despite what the name might suggest, the true Oktoberfest in Munich spends most of its time in September, running for 16 days through the first Sunday in October.
The Washington Beer Commission’s third annual Spokane Oktoberfest returns to Riverfront Park on Sept. 21-22, but this year’s event will take a step back from its former Bavarian trappings.
The sounds of oompa music will give way to classic rock, and the food focus will shift from sausage to barbecue and pizza. Think less lederhosen, and more party down in the park.
“There will still be some elements of a traditional Oktoberfest, but it’s really about the beer,” says the commission’s executive director, Eric Radovich. “People are more interested in the beers they’re tasting, talking to the brewers.”
At press time, 22 breweries were lined up, split evenly between Eastern and Western Washington. Each will bring at least two beers, including one Oktoberfest-inspired seasonal.
Our side of the mountains will be represented by Spokane’s No-Li Brewhouse, Iron Goat and C.I. Shenanigans; Twelve String, Spokane Valley; Golden Hills, Airway Heights; Alpine, Oroville; Iron Horse, Ellensburg; Laht Neppur, Waitsburg; Northern Ales, Kettle Falls; Paradise Creek, Pullman; and Riverport, Clarkston.
Coming from the West Side are Seattle’s Elysian, Fremont, Georgetown, Pike and Two Beers; Diamond Knot, Mukilteo; Harmon, Tacoma; Mac and Jacks, Redmond; Redhook, Woodinville; and Sound, Poulsbo.
Rounding out the roster is Colorado-based New Belgium, which qualifies thanks to the Trip series specialty beers it brews at Elysian. It will be bringing the latest of those, a Honey Chamomile Blonde.
Other brews expected so far include a pair of pumpkin beers – Pike Harlot’s Harvest and Elysian’s Dark O the Moon Pumpkin Stout – Northern’s potent Honey Basil and a fresh hop ale from Two Beers. A full list should be up soon at www.washingtonbeer.com/ oktoberfest.
Buying tickets in advance will save you a few bucks – $15 per day, versus $20 at the gate – and is recommended in case of a sellout. Advance tickets are available online at spokaneoktoberfest. brownpapertickets.com, or locally at No-Li.
Admission includes a commemorative tasting cup and five 5-ounce samples. Additional tastes are $1.50 each, or four for $5.
You might be able to get in for free by volunteering for a four-hour shift pouring beer, taking tickets, etc. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coeur d’Alene will host two Oktoberfest celebrations on successive weekends.
The calendar-appropriate Septemberfest at the Inn is scheduled Sept. 22 from 2 to 8 p.m. at the Best Western Coeur d’Alene Inn, 506 W. Appleway Ave.
It also features a new format: all you can drink for $20 in advance (through the hotel) or $30 at the door. Extra security will be on hand just in case, and designated drivers are recommended.
Organizers are shooting for at least 15 breweries and 30 beers. There also will be beer pong and card games, and food for purchase. For more information call (208) 765-3200.
And the Downtown Coeur d’Alene Oktoberfest runs Sept. 28 from 5-8 p.m. and Sept. 29 from 1-8 p.m. Tickets are $15, which includes six samples and a keepsake glass mug plus live music admission. More details on all the festivities are at www.cdadowntown.com.
Rise of fall
Fall seasonal beers are starting to show up from regional brewers.
Widmer and Pyramid offer different takes on the Oktoberfest style. Widmer’s well-rounded Okto Festival Ale (5.3 percent alcohol by volume, 28 International Bitterness Units) is sweet and smooth with a hint of hops. While a traditional lager, Pyramid’s Oktoberfest (6.7 ABV, 35 IBU) is strong for the style with a spicy, herbal hoppiness from Nugget and Mount Hood.
Hops are at the forefront in New Belgium’s Red Hoptober (6.0, 60), with complex flavors from five varieties balancing the rich, roasty malt. Sierra Nevada’s Tumbler (5.5, 37) is all about the malts, toffeeish and toasty with a touch of smoked malt in the finish.
Closer to home, Twelve String is revisiting its original Roundabout Confusion (7.5, 35), a malt bomb that resulted from the accidental addition of copious quantities of dark Crystal 150.
Due around month’s end are two beers made with fragrant, freshly harvested hops: a pale ale using Chinook, and an India pale ale showcasing Simcoe.
Iron Goat also is brewing a fresh hop ale using homegrown hops from its grounds as well as some contributed by the community. A small-batch India black ale should show up at the taproom soon, with a pumpkin beer planned later.
C.I. Shenanigans will tap an authentic Oktoberfest lager Sept. 20, while Selkirk Abbey in Post Falls is readying a rye saison.
No-Li has come out with the first in its limited-edition Inland Imperial Series: Jet Star Imperial IPA (8.1, 90). The new release in 22-ounce bottles coincides with No-Li’s expansion into the Colorado market.
The brewery also is joining in the Oktoberfest spirit with its Spokeapalooza on Sept. 28-29, featuring live entertainment, a keg toss, hot wing eating contest and more.
Viking’s new voyage
The revamped Viking Bar & Grill, 1221 N. Stevens St., celebrates its grand reopening Friday.
New owners Troy Hardy and Kim Duffy have cleaned the place up since its abrupt closure in June and added hard liquor to the 34 taps.
Friday’s festivities start at 11 a.m., with DJ music from 3 to 7 p.m. and reggae with Raggs Gustaffe at 8. Brewery reps will be on hand and there will be food and drink specials.
Portland’s Alameda Brewing will be featured in the 30th brewer’s dinner hosted by Hills’ Restaurant & Lounge, 401 W. Main Ave., on Sunday at 6 p.m. Cost for the four-course steak dinner is $47 (includes tax and tip); call (509) 747-3946 for reservations.
Manito Tap House, 3011 S. Grand Blvd., will welcome Sound Brewery for a four-course dinner Sept. 23, with wild boar as the entrée. Cost is $65 (tax/tip included); call (509) 279-2671.
And in its nod to Oktoberfest, the Tap House will pour more than 20 German beers from Sept. 22 through Oct. 7.