I’m 25 percent German, and I credit that quarter with my fondness for beer, Gummi Bears, and cuckoo clocks.
Last Saturday, I went to Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter in Stillwater for their annual Oktoberfest celebration (still running this weekend) and really celebrated that 25 percent (although isn’t everyone German during Oktoberfest?). I wasn’t sure what to expect since I had never been to Oktoberfest at Gasthaus before, and it exceeded all of my expectations. (I have, however, been to Oktoberfest at Gasthof Zur Gemutlichkeit in Northeast Minneapolis many, many times. The Gasthof’s celebration is equally fun, but I liked that the crowd at Gasthaus was a diverse mix of ages, maybe even a little on the “older” side. I didn’t feel like I was drinking beer with a bunch of college kids.)
We arrived around 7:30 p.m. or so, parked in a giant open field, and waited in line to get in. The festival was in full force by then. In order not to exceed fire code-safety standards, a designated number of people were allowed into the tented area. For every five that came out, five could go in, and so on and so forth. It was a beautiful night, so we didn’t mind waiting.
Once we paid our cover and had our hands stamped, it was hard not to get swept up in the lively atmosphere. The Artie Schaefer band played polkas in the back of the tent, and groups of people either drank at long tables, danced beside them, or stood and mingled. I noticed a lot of beer steins and a lot of festive Bavarian hats. *Tip: If you bring your own stein, you can have it filled for under $6. If you don’t, your beer is served in a small plastic cup. You can also order a mini keg of Spaten for $40 (if you have a large group).
After ordering a beer, we stood in line for food. There was a wide selection of German food available—bratwurst, knackwurst, potato salad, sauerkraut, warm pretzels, red cabbage (Rotkraut), schnitzel, smoked pork chops, etc., as well as big bags of fresh, delicious kettle korn (did you know kettle korn originated in Germany?). I’m not an adventurous eater, so I ordered chicken and a pretzel (I figured I couldn’t go wrong with a pretzel). No complaints from me!
*Tip: There are servers in authentic Bavarian dirndls (adorable peasant dresses) roaming about. Had we known this in advance, we would have ordered our food from a server instead of waiting in line.
Since there were no vacant tables in the gigantic tent, we took our food to a picnic table behind the tent, where the popular Hammerschlagen “hammer striking” game was being played. I watched a few rounds of people attempting to hammer a nail into a piece of wood in one fluid motion—using the wedge end of the hammer—before deciding to join in, and shocked everyone (including myself) when I won. I honestly can’t remember the last time I swung a hammer, but who cares? I now have Hammerschlagen bragging rights! (Plus I just think it’s fun to say Hammerschlagen.)
We spent the remainder of the evening in the big tent. We never did go inside the family-owned restaurant—there was no need to leave the party outside. As they would say in Germany (I think), Prosit! (Good health and cheer!)
This is the last weekend (Sept. 21-23) for the Oktoberfest celebration at Gasthaus. The hours are 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. (Sunday is a family day with live music. You have to be 21 Friday and Saturday.) Gasthaus is located off Mannning Avenue in Stillwater, down the street from the Saint Croix Vineyards.