Last Updated on April 6, 2020 by Janet Frost
Oktoberfest!!! This beer party tradition started in Munich, Germany. Here in my home state of Wisconsin, 42% of the population still claim a German heritage. Therefore, it makes sense that Oktoberfest in Wisconsin is a popular event. We abound in lederhosen, polka bands and Oktoberfests. In addition, late September is the very best time to visit Wisconsin with warm days, cool nights and forests splashed with vibrant colors.
Let’s Go Learn Things about Oktoberfest in Wisconsin…
Munich, the Motherland
Oktoberfest was first celebrated in Munich, Germany. The original celebration in 1810, was in honor of the nuptials of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. Munich is in the southeastern part of the country and serves as the state capital of Bavaria.
Today, Oktoberfest parades and processions open the festival on Saturday September 22. The event parties on until Sunday October 7. This iconic event promises fifteen fun-filled days, 6,900,000 liters of beer, 75,000 pork shanks and over 7 million attendees.
Oktoberfest the Beer
Oktoberfest!!! A perfect time to geek out about beer! The original Oktoberfest beer-style was a dark, or dunkel version. This style was called Marzen. Marzen is full-bodied, rich, and toasty. Its color is typically some shade of copper. Ironically the name, Marzen, was a seasonal reference to March. The time of year that the beer was brewed.
Over time the German brewers produced lighter-bodied and lighter-colored styles such as Pilsner or Helles. These styles are closer to your choices at Munich’s Oktoberfest today. Only the six sanctioned breweries of Munich are allowed to sell beer at the festival. These are the giants of Lowenbrau, Spaten, Paulaner, Hofbrau, Augustiner and Hacker-Pschorr.
Here in America, the resurgence of craft brewing has brought most Oktoberfest beers back to the Marzen style.
Oktoberfest in Wisconsin
One mistake that we make in America with Oktoberfest is the dates. Although it is called Oktoberfest, it starts in late September and sneaks into October. Almost every small village, large metropolis, brewery and German club put on an Oktoberfest in Wisconsin. I look for the ones that stay true to the last two weeks in September and truly embrace the cultural extras. These include, the cherished traditional garb, delicious decadent german food and a lively polka band.
New Glarus, Wisconsin is a gem. This adorable Swiss village is located 30 miles south of the capital city of Madison. Naturally their Oktoberfest has a Swiss twist to the festivities and plenty of New Glarus Brewing Oktoberfest beer!
New Glarus Brewing Co. is nationally acclaimed. Founded in 1993 New Glarus Brewing is now the 15th largest craft brewery in the United State. To add to the allure, they only distribute in the state of Wisconsin.
La Crosse, on the Great Mississippi River, pulls out all the stops for their Oktoberfest. Scheduled at the historical time of late September, the La Crosse Oktoberfest is rocking. They follow traditions closely with parades, torchlight processions and the tapping of the keg throughout the weekend. This year the festivities start on Thursday Sept 27, 2018.
The beer list for this event is magnificent. Craft beer from big local players like Surly, New Glarus, Leinenkugels, MKE, Potosi, Pearl Street and more . Traditional German offerings from Spaten and Hacker-Pschorr.
Oktoberfest in Metro Milwaukee
Bavarian Bierhaus in Glendale dates back to 1920. At that time the German Club of Milwaukee built a beer hall and event space for their Bavarian Soccer Club and an annual Oktoberfest. Still running today, their Oktoberfest is a raucous and family-friendly gathering of German culture. It spans the four weekends of September and the last weekend of October.
Cedarburg doesn’t follow my date rules for Oktoberfest in September. But since all these local Oktoberfests are juggling for attention, I understand picking a later date. the quaint and historic town of Cedarburg is 25 miles directly north of Milwaukee. This mill town was established in 1840 when German and Irish immigrants recognized the power of the Cedar Creek. There is an historic grist mill, woolen mill and many adorable victorian homes. Cedarburg is a festival town. With their beautiful downtown and the Cedar Creek burbling through, why not?
Their Oktoberfest is October 13-14, 2018. In addition to all the traditional food, drink and frivolity; Cedarburg will host a Classic VW car show with their Oktoberfest.
Last but not least, of course a community with the name of Germantown must have Oktoberfest festivities. Germantown is 25 miles northwest of Milwaukee. The village dates back to 1830 when German immigrants settled in the remote woodlands. Germantown Oktoberfest takes place at the Dheinsville Historical Park. Phillip Dhein founded this small crossroads in 1842. One of their special events is the Dachshund Dash. Certainly I would call that a reason to hoist a stein!
Make your plans now!
There is still time to plan your trip to a Wisconsin Oktoberfest. Our trees are turning, the beer is flowing and the polka band is tuning up. Travel Wisconsin has a great list of the Oktoberfests all over the state.