Once upon a time (on an October day in 1810, to be precise) in the far away German state of Bavaria, a Prince Ludwig took a Princess Therese to be his lawfully wedded wife. The entire country rejoiced at this union and was invited to celebrate the happy occasion. Such a merry event it was that that people around the world continue to celebrate it to this day.
So there you have it, Oktoberfest, while originally all about love and unity, is now a month-long celebration of love and unity with… beer! Yes, there’s also spaten and polka dancing involved, but let’s face it, at least here in the U.S. it’s mostly about the beer, and here in Alaska, with more than 22 craft breweries statewide, we do love our beer. And we love our German Alaskans; so really, we’re all about Oktoberfest!
Every year for the past 47 years, the German Club of Anchorage hosts the city’s main Oktoberfest celebration. This year the event took place just a minute’s walk from the Anchorage Westmark Hotel at the Egan Center on Oct. 3-4. Two local bands — The Alaska Blaskapelle and Marge Ford and the Polka Chips — took turns entertaining the crowds with the sounds of cheerful polka music served up with German beer and delicious Bavarian food.
Celebrations continued Oct. 11-13 in the town of Girdwood, just a 40-minute drive south along the scenic Seward Highway and Turnagain Arm. Girdwood’s annual celebration is actually a two-weekend event where guests celebrate “the many attributes of beer,” dance to local oompah bands and sample more authentic Bavarian delicacies.
If a more intimate celebration of beer is your thing, consider hopping onto a ride with Big Swig Tours, the newest addition to Anchorage’s beer scene. Big Swig will pick you up downtown, just a block away from the Westmark Hotel on Fourth Avenue, and will take you and your party on a 3.5-hour tour that includes 12 beer tastings with a selection of appetizers at the Midnight Sun Brewing Co., King Street Brewery and Chilkoot Charlies. Broaden your knowledge beyond your taste buds as you sip beer and hear a little about the history of the breweries and the brewers behind them.
Between the luscious fall colors, crisp air and Oktoberfest celebrations, autumn is a great time to be in Alaska. Drop your bags at the hotel, pick your party, grab a beer and raise your glass. Cheers to Oktoberfest!