Craft Oktoberfests in Denver

It’s been a pretty big couple of weekends for beer drinkers.  Oktoberfest is back, the world-renowned festival of springtime, accordians, bratwurst, and märzens celebrated from sea to shining sea.  Much in line with the festival’s roots in 19th century Germany, it is a fest of the common man, German or not.  But after going to Denver’s official Oktoberfest celebration a couple of times, it feels a little too common-man.

That sounds snobby, I know.  But even with the giant steins, the bratwurst, the big soft pretzels and whatnot, none of it feels German.  I don’t mean to get on a soap-box and talk about overrated breweries like they’re not making good enough beer, but the whole shindig is put on by 2 breweries: Sam Adams and Coors.  The Sam Adams Oktoberfest is legitimately one of the best American-made märzens, but there aren’t many drinking it.  You’re more likely to see steins and pints of Coors or Coors Light, or a cider, or worse–a hard tea.  The whole party has a commercialized appearance with a late-night-bar attitude.

But luckily here in Denver, one is never in want of beery options.  This year three local craft breweries put on their own Oktoberfest parties.

Prost Brewing Company

Michael Hancock pourin’ brew.

It is a tradition in Munich that the sitting mayor taps the first keg of beer at noon on the first day of Oktoberfest.  It may not have coincided with the Munich Oktoberfest, but on Friday Sept. 29th Denver mayor Michael Hancock stopped by Denver’s 3rd newest brewery (they open fast here) to pour the first steins of Prost Märzen at noon.  Joining him were Inge Frerichs and Fred Beisser, board members of the German American Chamber of Commerce to offer an authentic German toast.  I spoke a little bit about Prost Brewing last week, so just know that out of any brewery here in Denverville, Prost is pretty dang German-oriented.  Prost Brewing offered patrons an outdoor tap cart for easier access to beer while enjoying the patio view of the Denver skyline, while Denver-based German polka band The Rhinelanders jammed out nearby.  And unlike traditional biergartens in Deutschland, you can order any of Prost’s beers in a “maß” stein, be it the märzen or the pils.


Steve Hogan spraying beer

Dry Dock Brewing Company
While Dry Dock’s locale is technically Aurora, it’s really close enough to Denver’s limits to just go ahead and include it in this post.  But it’s also enough in Aurora to get their own mayor to come out and, like Prost Brewing and Munich Germany, Aurora mayor Steve Hogan tapped a cask-condition version of Dry Dock Docktoberfest on Saturday Sept. 30th.  For curious nerds, it took him 2 mallet strikes to get the tap in.  Only one batch (plus one firkin) of the brew was made due to Dry Dock’s high growth over the past year, so they didn’t really have the brewspace to commit to a big batch of lager for non-distribution.  Co-owner Kevin DeLange estimated it would be out by day’s end.  The Rhinelanders were there as well, offering brave patrons and children a chance to blow the alphorn (I tried it, and produced a respectable long-held low note.  Like a boss.) Loud polka and frequent musical German toasts abounded.

The Rhinelanders


Denver Beer Company
Also on Sept. 30th,  the folks at Denver Beer Co. held their 2nd Oktoberfest party, which featured a ticket-based deal: for $15, customers got a souvenir stein, a fill of beer, and a big soft pretzel.  Hell of a bargain.  They sold out prior to the event, naturally, but DBC was still open to the public offering pints of their Oktoberfest along with any of their other brews.  Like the other breweries DBC also had some German polka music from a live band, but the musicians were just locals without a proper band name.  Just a couple of folks who liked playing music.  Best part? Roasted pig.  Freshly pulled pork from the carcass right before your eyes.  Kind of a macabre sight, but with a glass stein full of tasty märzen and a handful of fatty hot pork, one can’t help but feel prideful about appearing like a savage.  And then, you could refill your stein…


It should also be noted that each of the breweries had food carts for all or part of the festivities.  Because what is Oktoberfest without food?  Or any beery day without food, for that matter?  And there was lederhosen.  And beer-maiden dresses.  I should point out that Dry Dock wore the most lederhosen/dresses-per-employee, in case you wondered.  I know you did.

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