Oktoberfest in Minnesota: The Next Best Thing to Munich

Oh, Oktoberfest. How do I love thee?
Let me count the ways: Warm, soft pretzels, schweinebraten (pork roast), apple strudel, Hammerschlagen, dirndl dresses and lederhosen costumes and those cute hats with the feather in the side, happy people toasting to good health and cheer (“Prost!” “Zum wohl!”) and so, so, so much good beer.

When you live in Minnesota, there’s no shortage of fun Oktoberfest celebrations happening in September and October. Why do we celebrate Oktoberfest in September, you ask? Even though the first Oktoberfest was, in fact, held from October 12-17—way back in 1810—it was eventually moved to September to allow for warmer weather. (A little history lesson for you: The first Oktoberfest was in honor of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig’s marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen.) The good news is that this creative rearranging of the dates of the first Oktoberfest means an entire month of Oktoberfest celebrations throughout the state!

Oktoberfest began last weekend at Gasthaus in Stillwater, and wraps up as late as October 11 down in New Ulm and at Gasthof’s in northeast Minneapolis.

Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter Oktoberfest: September 19-21, 2014

There are three “main” authentic German restaurants in the Twin Cities, Gasthaus, Gasthof’s (often confused but entirely different places), and The Black Forest Inn. Gasthaus, located off Manning Avenue in Stillwater (just down the street from the Saint Croix Vineyards) knows how to celebrate Oktoberfest with a giant outdoor tent bash. Gates are open from 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday for the tent party, requiring a $5 admission. Everyone must be 21 or over—no exceptions. Sunday is reserved for families, with a $3 admission, free face painting, balloon twisting, music, dancing, imported beer, brats and chops, pretzels, cinnamon-roasted almonds and Hammerschlagen! *Bring cash. *If you bring your own stein, it will be filled for $6. You can also order a mini keg of Spaten if you’re with a large group. 8390 Lofton Ave., Stillwater. gasthausbavarianhunter.com

St. Paul Oktoberfest: Saturday, September 20, 2014

This fun, family-friendly event—complete with live music and a children’s area—will run from noon to 10 p.m. at the Klub Haus. For a unique twist, the event will include dachshund races at 3 p.m. There’s a $5 admission for those 21 and over; free for those under 21. 1079 Rice St., St. Paul. saintpauloktoberfest.org 

Duluth Oktoberfest: September 19-20, 2014

With 10 breweries in Duluth alone, you can’t go wrong with a trip to the North Shore for Oktoberfest. The celebration kicks off on Friday with a polka band at Fitger’s and across the hall at Redstar, and a lineup of German-style beers, beer pong, and Hammerschlagen. Saturday afternoon the party moves outdoors at the newest brewhouse outpost, the Endion Station Public House. A band will perform from 2-7 p.m., and German food and beer specials will accompany Hammerschlagen and beer pong on the lawn. The party returns to Fitger’s Saturday night with Hammerschlagen on the patio, a polka band, and games on stage between sets. Attendees can sign up to compete in the Kraut Eating Contest at 10 p.m., the Team Boot Chug at 11 p.m., and the Masskrugstemmen (beer stein-holding) contest at midnight, or head over to Redstar for live music, hammer loggin’, and beer pong throughout the night. Endion Station Public House, 200 Lake Pl. Dr.; Redstar, 600 E. Superior St.; and Fitger’s Brewhouse, 600 E. Superior St. (both Redstar and Fitger’s are housed in the Fitger’s Brewery Complex). oktoberfestduluth.com

 Minnesota Renaissance Festival Oktoberfest: September 20-21, 2014

Lords and ladies will enjoy live entertainment, Hammerschlagen, a Schell’s beer tasting (free!), a sauerkraut-eating contest, “beir” pong, a stein-holding competition, a keg toss, a home-brew competition, a best-beard contest, and dachshund races in the Bavarian Village of the Renaissance Festival, located in Shepherd’s Green. General admission is $20 for adults and $11.50 for children 5-12 years old. Hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., rain or shine. The Minnesota Renaissance Festival grounds are at 12364 Chestnut Blvd., Shakopee. renaissancefest.com

Gasthof Zur Gemutlichkeit Oktoberfest: Friday, Sept. 19-Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014

Gasthof’s, reminiscent of a Bavarian bierhaus, regularly includes people singing, laughing, and enjoying life, beer, German food, and polka music—but this northeast restaurant really shines during Oktoberfest. Bring your own beer mug and pay $6 for every half liter, or buy one half-liter mug for $6 (without beer). You can either celebrate inside or under the big tent. The tent is open from 5 to 11 p.m., with live music from 6-10 p.m. Gasthof’s is located at 2300 University Ave. NE, Minneapolis. gasthofzg.com

The Black Forest Inn Oktoberfest: Friday, Sept. 26-Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014

Each night has a theme throughout the 10-day Oktoberfest celebration at The Black Forest Inn, starting with Prost! night (with prizes for the best toast), followed by Eurotrash Night, Dumpling Day, the ‘Wurst’ Night, Kino Abend (Movie Night), Faust Night, Herman the German Night, Angela Merkel Night/Reunification Day, Tie the Knot Night, and Drain the Keg Knight.  The Black Forest Inn is located on “Eat Street” at 1 East 26th St., Minneapolis. blackforestinnmpls.com

Twin Cities Oktoberfest: October 3-4, 2014  

Summit sponsors the Twin Cities Oktoberfest on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds October 3 and 4, so you know it’s gonna be good. In addition to delicious Summit beer, the event features music, German food, and vendors selling German/Bavarian/Deutschland hats, dirndls, jewelry, artwork, and more. Enjoy “lawn” games, Hammerschlagen, and camaraderie inside and out in the tent. The $25 admission fee for those 21 and over includes a beer stein and a voucher for a 24-ounce beer. The admission is $5 for those 13-20 (available at the door only) and free for those 12 and under. The event is from 4-11 p.m. October 3 and noon to 11 p.m. October 4. Twin Cities Oktoberfest will be held in the Progress Building of the State Fairgrounds campus – 1265 Snelling Ave., St. Paul, as well as an outdoor tent. twincitiesoktoberfest.com

New Ulm Oktoberfest: October 3-4 and October 10-11, 2014

Named one of the “10 Great Places to Celebrate Oktoberfest” by USA Today, New Ulm—a small town about a two-hour drive south of the Twin Cities—should be on every beer-lover’s bucket list. The event, spread out over two weekends and in four different locations, features a German-American Day Parade at 11 a.m. October 4 in downtown New Ulm (at the corner of Center and Minnesota), as well as live music, food, and Schell’s beer from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The party moves to the Morgan Creek Vineyards (both weekends), Holiday Inn (both weekends), and August Schell Brewing Company (October 11 only) afterwards. On October 11 there will also be a new event, the “Taste of New Ulm” Food Tour, from 3-7 p.m. with six participating restaurants offering menu ‘tastes.’ Tickets for the “Taste of New Ulm” are $25 and available online at Xorbia and the New Ulm Chamber. For a full schedule of events (or directions), visit newulm.com.