The first annual Spokane Oktoberfest opened under cloudy skies, and with a relatively small crowd at 4pm Sept 24, 2010. That first wave through the gates was small but enthusiastic about trying the diverse selection of Washington beers on tap. When the Riverfront Clock Tower struck 5pm, there was a small line to get into the brewfest and a nice size crowd mingling the grounds and enjoying the sun breaks. On Saturday and Sunday, expect perfect beer weather with sun and temperatures in the high 70s. Ticket sales were brisk for the weekend, so expect a nice throng of beer lovers enjoying that sunshine and beer this weekend.
Every Oktoberfest has its own “feel” to it. Some have a strong community feel, some are very family oriented with the bier garten being tucked into the corner, almost as an after thought. Some Oktoberfests are all about the party, with the emphasis on the how much beer can be consumed. The Spokane Oktoberfest is young, only hours old, but with the Washington Beer Commission is sponsoring it, expect this Oktoberfest to be known for not HOW much beer you drink but WHICH beers you drink. The emphasis here is clearly on Washington beer!
It is all about the lederhosen
This is a Washington beer fest but you will never forget that it is an Oktoberfest celebration. You will hear the music as you approach the gates.Expect to be greeted with a smile by someone wearing lederhosen or a dirdnl skirt before you walk through the arch decorated with hop vines. Not only will a number of the staff and volunteers be dressed in German garb, I saw several people in the crowd getting into the spirit as well. There were even enough guys in lederhosen to have a special “lederhosen” division to the stein heft competition!
The ladies also had a chance to prove their strength as they battled it out to see who could hold their steins aloft the longest. It was an impressive line up of feminine strength and concentration!
If you have ever been to an Oktoberfest, you have probably heard the Chicken dance. I don’t think I have ever seen it danced as often or with as much enthusiasm as I witnessed last night at Spokane Oktoberfest. If you want to join the dance, you can watch and learn in the video below.
You can see more photos of the entertainment and beer on our Facebook page.
With about 50 beers on tap there was no way that I could sample them all. I tasted a cross section of the beers and I spent some time talking to other people about their favorite beers of the evening. Some of the biggest buzz was around the hefeweizens and blonde ales. I was a bit surprised by that initially, as I expect to see enthusiasm for those beers at summer festivals. In talking with some of the eastern Washington brewers, they told me how many of their customers prefer a more subtle hop profile than I am used to seeing with the hop heads on the west. The Paradise Creek Dirty Blonde and Alpine Brewing Hefeweizen were getting the most buzz.
It was no surprise that the Oktoberfest beers were also extremely popular. I anticipated that the pumpkin beers would be popular as well but they turned out to be “love it or hate it” beers. I talked to as many people that raved about the Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin beer as those that went “ewww”.
One of the most unusual beers was the Johnny Appleseed, a belgian wit with nine gallons of Green Bluff red apple puree, half added during the fermentation and again in the bright tank. Chachi Rodriguez, the new brewer at CI Shenanigans, wanted to design something “champagne like” for the ladies with a bit of sweetness, subtle hops and bubbles. Since I overheard one woman say she came to the Oktoberfest just so she could more Johnny Appleseed, it sounds like he succeeded!
The international debut of the Fremont Brewing Harvest Ale was a huge success. Big sweet floral nose on this saison style ale. I got some banana on the mid-palate then it involves into a nicely balanced bitter finish. Now you may not always think banana + sweet + bitter would be a winning combination but in the hand of a brewer who understands balance it not only works but it shines. It was one of those beers that I enjoyed more as I worked my way to the bottom of the glass.
Golden Hills Brewing Clem’s Gold was getting a lot of attention, especially among fellow brewers. I heard it praised again and again for its balance and crisp lager characteristics.
Things to Know about Spokane Oktoberfest
- 100% Washington beer is on tap. This is not the Oktoberfest to sample a lot of imports. Spokane Oktoberfest is a showcase for Washington brewers to share their harvest and German style beers.
- Bring your ID – They are checking everyone’s ID at the gate and security will turn you away without proper identification.
- Oktoberfest is at Spokane’s Riverfront park. The festival is set up south of the IMAX, west of the Clock Tower and across the river from the carousel.
- There are 3 types of cups at Oktoberfest:
- standard issue 5 oz plastic souvenir glass you get at the entrance gate
- WABL glass sample glass you get at the merchandise booth when you show your WABL passport
- the BIG 10 0z souvenir stein you can purchase at the merchandise booth that includes additional tokens. It takes TWO token to fill the special inaugural Spokane Oktoberfest stein. These beer steins were very popular last night.
- Limited German food is available for purchase by the dinner plate or ala carte. You have the option of having your brat cooked in beer or not. Trust me, you want it cooked in the CI Shennagins Oktoberfest beer.
- NO dogs, NO kids, NO smoking
- This Oktoberfest is relatively easy to navigate for the disabled. If you can navigate on grass, you should be able to navigate most of this brewfest independently. The biggest challenge is the slope to the Pike Brewing/Snoqualmie/Schooner Exact beer tent.