Beer Man

Oktoberfest Is Canceled, but You Can Still Lift a Liter of Lager

A lederhosen-clad Bill Eye, brewer at Bierstadt Lagerhaus, taps an Oktoberfest keg.
A lederhosen-clad Bill Eye, brewer at Bierstadt Lagerhaus, taps an Oktoberfest keg. Jonathan Shikes
"Look, there’s no sugarcoating this, Oktoberfest will suck."

That's how Bierstadt Lagerhaus begins the invitation to its 2020 version of the traditional Bavarian holiday, which begins on September 19. "In comparison with years past, there can be no comparison."

After all, Oktoberfest in Munich has been canceled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Locally, the 51-year-old festival that takes place on Larimer Street each year has also been axed.

But Bierstadt, and a variety of other craft breweries around Colorado, plan to keep their chins up and their liters full of lager anyway — with a handful of muted, socially distanced but hopefully fun-ish events.

The first of these take place this weekend as Comrade, Little Machine and Wibby tap their Oktoberfest Marzen beers — some serving them in steins or with German-inspired food. All of these breweries have capacity and social-distancing requirements, however, as well as mask mandates.


click to enlarge Last year's Oktoberfest party at Bierstadt was leder-tastic. - DUSTIN HALL/THE BREWTOGRAPHY PROJECT
Last year's Oktoberfest party at Bierstadt was leder-tastic.
Dustin Hall/The Brewtography Project
New Image Brewing debuts No-Toberfest lager on Friday as well, acknowledging that "it goes without saying that everything is canceled this year. Concerts, festivals, all of it. We already figured Oktoberfest would be cancelled, but we wanted to make a beer for it anyway...a crushable marzen that’s perfect for this slightly cooler fall weather but also gets us in the mood for the fests that have been called off."

Of course, you don't have to go anywhere to hoist a lager. There are at least a dozen Colorado Marzens on liquor-store shelves and many more from out-of-state craft breweries and German producers. Local options in cans include those from Bonfire, 4 Noses, Prost Ratio, Ska, Odell, Left Hand, Telluride, Grimm Brothers, Dry Dock, Avery, Great Divide and New Image.

On Wednesday, Copper Kettle begins a five-day Oktoberfest-themed birthday celebration with beer, food and music, and next Saturday, September 12, Dry Dock Brewing hosts its annual Docktoberfest event, complete with lederhosen- and dirndl-clad guests and servers, multiple German-style beers, food and polka. Of course, attendees won't be able to sit at community tables or mingle, but they will be seated under expansive tented outdoor seating and socially distanced indoor spaces. Masks, of course, are required.

click to enlarge Or you can drink at home. - JONATHAN SHIKES
Or you can drink at home.
Jonathan Shikes
Bierstadt's event will include all of that, as well as the opportunity to reserve a ten-liter keg of Marzen for up to eight people for up to three hours for $120.

"If you fail to finish it, we won’t judge you, but you can take it home and we will have a tap available for you to purchase at our cost. The keg is recyclable and single use with no need to return it. If you and yours do finish it and want another, we will judge you. We will judge you as being fine specimens of adulthood and a shining example to aspire to," the brewery says. "We will also have food options (pretzels and sausage plates) to help keep you from falling off your bench and being guilty of getting up from the table without a mask."

It's a necessary evil that hopefully means we will be able to return to more normal festivities in 2021. "Put on a brave front and drink beer until a smile unexpectedly is found on your face," Bierstadt says.
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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes