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Lederhosen? Check. Beer stein? Check. Oktoberfest hits Petaluma

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To Germans, Oktoberfest is about so much more than just eating and drinking copious quantities of German food and beer. Its origins traced back to the 1810 wedding of Prince Ludwig, who would later become king, and Princess Therese. Locals were invited to celebrate at the fields in front of the city gate, which were named Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s Meadow”)in honor of the princess and still bare that name today, although locals have shortened it to simply “Wiesn.”

Officially celebrated in Munich, the capital of Bavaria, Oktoberfest actually starts in late September and runs into the first weekend of October and includes all sorts of fair-time festivities, from parades to carnival games to music and dancing. And although it was originally a non-alcoholic event, it has since turned into the world’s biggest fall beer festival.

Only six breweries are authorized to serve beer at Oktoberfest and usually deliver their suds in wood barrels directly from their Munich Breweries. All six are available in the United States, but nothing beats the freshness of hand-tapped barrels, straight from the brewery.

The six official Oktoberfest beers are Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, Spaten, and Hofbräu, all of which must adhere to strict Bavarian beer laws from 1516 known as “Reinheitsgebbot.”

Americans call them “Oktoberfest” beers, however the Bavarian style that is tapped most often at the real Oktoberfest is in the Marzen category of the Beer Judge Certification Program guidelines and is described as, “An elegant, malty German amber lagerwith a clean, rich, toasty and bready malt flavor, restrained bitterness, and a dry finish that encourages another drink.

The overall malt impression is soft, elegant, and complex, with arich aftertaste that is never cloying or heavy.” Marzen’s sound almost as good as they actual taste, with my true test of quality being whether the one in front of me is befitting of the phrase, “...that encourages another drink.”

When I cannot wait for the next sip, I am drinking a great Marzen. There are many American breweries that produce Marzens and other Oktobefest beers, and as of late, have beenturning out some impressive products. Year in and year out though, Sierra Nevada goes one step further and collaborates with a different German brewer to create a unique yearly Oktoberfest beer.

I think each year’s taste better than the last, with this year’s collaboration with German brewing giant Bitburger being my favorite so far. However, this might just be because it is the one that is in front of me, but no matter who Sierra collaborates with, they seem to always turn out a great Oktoberfest beer.

For those wondering about the blue and white diamond checker pattern that seems to pop up around this time of year, it is the officially flag of Bavaria and is synonymous the world around for all things Oktoberfest. In fact, all a brewery has to do is decorate their can or bottle with blue and white checkered diamonds and I am sure to buy, knowing it will have something to do with the smooth flavors of Oktoberfest.

It would be great to spend two weeks celebrating like a Bavarian, but most of our bosses would not go for it. However, our local restaurants, bars, and social houses do a pretty good job of paying tribute to Oktoberfest with special menus, often paired with season appropriate beers.

Pub Republic really stepped things up this year by adding a second weekend to their Oktoberfest celebration, as well as offering a very special sausage and beer pairing. Their schnitzel and spätzle special will run through Sunday, September 29, after 5 p.m. each night, and pairs well with Sudwork’s (Davis, CA) Marzen.

Starting on Thursday, Sept. 26, they will also offer a special four-cut sausage sampler, using Fabrique Delices local sausages, with a craft beer flight pairing. We were lucky enough to get a heads up last week, just in time to make it in for dinner on Saturday night, and now know why PubRepublic’s schnitzel and spätzle is such a crowd favorite.

More than just a restaurant, Brewsters Beer Gardenhas Oktoberfest built right into their name. Not surprisingly, beer gardens originated in Munich, where breweries dug large beer cellars into the banks of the River Isar in order to keep their beer chilled into the summer months.

To help cool the ground above, they planted shady, yet shallow-rooted horse-chestnut trees, which. With shade in the hot summer months and ample beer on tap nearby, it was natural for beer gardens to pop-up, as they still do, around the breweries of Munich. Running all weekend long (Sept. 28 and 29), Brewsters will be a great place for fine food, beer, and plenty of German inspired music. Along with music from Big Lou’s Polka Casserole from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday and 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday and Schwabenland German Band on Saturday from 5 to 8:30 p.m., Brewsters always offers a variety of fun games from costume contests to stein holding and yodeling competitions.

I finish out our Petaluma Oktoberfest restaurant tour with TAPS because they are known for having many of the authentic Oktoberfest brewers on-tap throughout the year. Their tap list definitely respects our local breweries but if you want an ever rotating selection of excellent European beers, TAPS is the place, and even serves them in beer style and brewery appropriate glassware.

This year’s special Oktoberfest menu started last week and will run through the end of this week September 29, so long as the ingredients last. We are always watching TAPS’s Facebook page for their Thursday night special menu announcement, but when we get close to the end of September, we pay extra special attention.

The menu and pair pairings are so good that we not only do not want to miss out, but we want to be able to plan ahead and schedule at least two or three visits. With their Oktoberfest spanning two weeks, we can now do that with ease, and have. The jumbo pretzel has returned, with its side-kick beer-cheese dipping sauce.

As always, there is a pork dish that includes the German egg noodle known as spätzle, which due to the chefs at TAPS, is my favorite pasta of all time. Last year it was topped with roasted pork shank, while this year is classic schnitzel, which is a breaded and fried pork loin. Making its triumphant return is Currywurst, but do not be fooled by its common looks. Sure, it appears to be a sliced hotdog with fries, but one whiff of it as it arrives at the table and the curry aromas tell you it is so much more.

With at least four rotating German beers on tap through “Oktorbest” I highly recommend getting a flight before deciding on just one beer. With four healthy pours per flight, we often just continue down that route for the entire evening so we always have all four German delicacies at our fingertips. Although a bit after the official close of Munich’s Oktobefest, Petaluma’slocal Oktoberfest classicis naturally held atHermann Sons Hall, and this year falls on Sunday, Oct. 13, with the doors opening at noon and music starting at 2 p.m. As always, they will be serving great German food, including some specialty desserts you will usually find only in Germany and Austria. Along with dancing to the Steve Balich Band, guest will also be able to enjoy entertainment by the Schuhplattler Folk Dancers.

The following night, Monday, Oct. 14, marks the 4th annual Trevor Smith Memorial Foundation “OctoBEER Fest 2019”at Lagunitas Brewing, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.. The evening will include German inspired food, games, live music, silent auction items and wine raffles, all to help fund scholarships for Petaluma youth in arts, education and athletics.

Tickets are available at Eventbrite.com, with early bird’s priced at $30 until Oct. 10, when tickets go up to $40, which is still well worth it, especially considering what a great cause this supports. At its heart, like most festivals that revolve good food and drink, Oktobefest is about celebrating life and spending quality time with friends.

Locally, Oktoberfest is always a way to say goodbye to the warm summer months and to welcome in the brisk days of fall with good beer and hearty food. Compared to the Bavarians, who will see snow and freezing temperatures until spring arrives in April or May, Petalumas do not have it too bad, considering even TAPS’s outdoor seating is easily enjoyable with just a heat lamp or two.

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