We’ve rounded up the best ways to celebrate Oktoberfest, that quintessentially German tradition, around Lake Minnetonka. Prost!
Back Channel Brewing
Check out the new Vienna Lager Oktoberfest brew at Back Channel, which celebrates its one-year anniversary this month. With new transient boat slips—complete with a flag system for navigating the channel safely—it’s a great spot to boat up for a cold beer and make use of the last few warmer days of fall. “Every day is a celebration at Back Channel. Great beer and great company,” says co-owner Melissa Leddy.
Birch’s on the Lake
It’s not German-inspired, but Birch’s three-year anniversary party, Fall Fest, is September 23. There’s a regatta with the Long Lake Rowing Crew, fireworks, and an oyster-shucking contest. And honestly, the Kramarczuk’s Ukrainian sausage is on the menu year-round, and the bacon sauerkraut and grainy mustard will compete with any German plate in town. So order that and call it a day.
Wayzata Brew Works
“Oktoberfest beers are lagers—and lager beers are a specialty of ours,” says Wayzata Brew Works head brewer and hosemaster general Tim Manley, who went to brewing school in Munich. Even though lagers make up half the brewery’s taps all year, they brew a special variety each fall in honor of the occasion. There’s been a Marzen-style, darker, grain-centric bier with rye and a true German Festbier, which skews lighter—and though this year’s Oktoberfest brew wasn’t planned yet when we talked to him, Manley is sure of one thing: “It should be a blast!” September 29 is when the celebration goes down, with hammerschlagen, live music, German food, and outdoor games.
Excelsior Brewing Co.
Excelsior is a town that takes lake living to heart, and Excelsior Brewing’s Docktoberfest is the perfect marriage of German tradition and the last open-water lake views of the season. The all-out bash runs October 5-7, with bands each afternoon and evening.
Friday, October 5: 70’s Magic Sunshine Band and White Iron Band
Saturday, October 6: The Gooney Birds and Mango Jam
Sunday, October 7: The 25-member Westwind Swing Band and Bavarian Musikmeisters, who boast a band 40-strong, playing only traditional German tunes.
The event features great beers and is also family-friendly, says Caroline O’Halloran, taproom and events manager, who’s lined up the Excelsior Masonic Lodge 113 to sell food, with proceeds going right back to the community. “Excelsior beer brats with all the fixings, and German potato salad,” she mentions. Beers include the Docktoberfest Marzen Lager, Bittesclappe Munich-style Brown Ale, Sunburn Cherry Wheat, Portside Pilsner, Saucy Kate Kolsch and Helios Hefeweizen. Compete in the liter-holding contest—or “get nailed,” ahem, at hammerschlagen.
The new-and-improved ninetwentyfive at Hotel Landing is all about fresh, handcrafted, and locally sourced cuisine, so seasonal flavors really shine. The last weekend in September, executive chef Lenny Russo is releasing a house-crafted bratwurst—paired with a pour of Summit Oktoberfest—on special at lunch and in the bar all evening. A sauerbraten dinner is made to pair with a cold Oktoberfest, or take 50% off all German wines.
Feeling a little Oktoberfest fatigue? Put on a flannel over your lederhosen and hit the Flannel Roots Music & Beer Festival on Saturday, October 13. There will be live Americana, roots, bluegrass, and folk going all day long at the outdoor beer garden—with food trucks and games, too. On tap? Flannel Roots Lager, an Oktoberfest Marzen Lager. “We figured we’d at least offer a tasty Oktoberfest beer even if we are not going all-in with the Oktoberfest theme,” says Unmapped founder JD Park. “And, of course, we are encouraging people to wear their favorite flannels.”
In Search of Cider?
Yes, you can buck the trend and order something a little different this month. Kowalski’s wine specialist Brian Mallie shares favorites from the Excelsior store. Before grabbing a cart, he suggests answering one important question: “Food or no food? Drier ciders tend to pair better with food. For sipping by themselves, the lightly sweet ciders can be more charming.”
Loon Juice Honeycrisp $10/6-pack
This not-too-sweet variety is made from Minnesota’s favorite apple, the Honeycrisp. “Though not a cider of great depth, its clean flavors and good balance make it an ideal option for the cider drinker looking to move beyond the national brands and into the realm of the craft producers,” Mallie says.
Blackbird Ciderworks Estate Reserve Semi Dry $9/4-pack
This medium dry English-style cider hails from Buffalo, New York. Honey and citrus notes work well with the natural skin tannin that gives this cider structure and is “as quaffable as it is food-friendly,” says Mallie.
Sweetland Orchard Scrumpy Original $13/4-pack
“Scrumpy.” Say it. It’s fun! A type of cider first made in the West Country of England, today this term distinguishes locally made ciders produced in smaller quantities using traditional methods, Mallie explains. “Sweetland Orchards Original blends the best of old world and new world styles in a cider that is upliftingly tart and bone-dry.”
Shacksbury Semi-Dry $13/4-pack
The national press has picked up on the excellent ciders produced by Vermont-based Shacksbury, due in part to its work celebrating and preserving America’s early cider tradition. The company has propagated 1,000 trees—grafted from 12 rare, heirloom varieties of apple—to create its Lost Apple Orchard from which its celebrated Lost and Found ciders are produced. Mallie adds that the Semi-Dry is layered and complex, balancing fresh acidity, delicate fruit with woody, earthy notes.
No. 12 Cider House Sparkling Dry (Check store for price)
“Someone who’s not used to dry cider may find this cider’s nervy acidity and firm tannins a bit bracing,” Mallie warns. “However, the foodies will find no shortage of pairing options for this racy blend of ten different apple varieties.” Try it with richer foods like duck breast, braised pork shoulder or charcuterie. “Tame the acid and really pop the fruit.”