Ah, the sensory experience of Tampa in October. Leaves turn from green to brown. Nutmeg and cinnamon waft from the local bakeries.
Fucking pumpkin everything is available with which to bombard your palate, from a latte at Starbucks or a slice of the eponymous glory from Cheesecake Factory.
Pumpkin beer? Hell yeah! This brew is available across the entire craft beer spectrum, from local fave Cigar City’s Good Gourd Imperial Pumpkin Ale to Shipyard’s Pumpkinhead Ale and Southern Tier Brewing Company’s Pumking (with a lovely 8.6 ABV). When it comes to October, pumpkin is the king of the craft beer world. While pumpkin has its place, it's not for everyone.
One place you won’t find a pumpkin brew is the Oktoberfest Tampa event in Downtown’s Curtis-Hixon Park. For Oktoberfest, it’s all about traditional brewing—and that’s OK. Hell, anyone who's had good German beer knows that is better than OK. What you will find are pleasing pilsners, hearty hefeweizens, delicious dunkels and the traditional Oktoberfest Märzens, plus plenty of German and Bavarian foods, all available in mass quantities throughout the three day event, which kicks off at 4 p.m. Friday, October 11.[jump]
But it wouldn’t be Oktoberfest with just food and drink. There’s sure to be plenty of polka playing, with alphorns, Schuplatt dancers and, of course, beer gaming. From individual games like stein hoisting, barrel rolling and grain tossing to games for two like a brat toss or schwartze loch (cornhole). Got a bigger group? There’s still a liter stein bucket race and tug-of-krieg, all of which earn you points to try to qualify for Sunday’s Olympiad. It’s like Broken Lizard’s Beerfest, but without all the ethnocentrism and death!
VIP is available, and comes with a commemorative 1L acrylic stein which gets you open bar at the VIP section. It also comes with table-side service, express entry, access to private VIP tent and bathrooms and König’s Feast, a full food plate with all the fixings and a pretzel, delivered right to your seat—hopefully by a buxom bier babe.
Just make sure you know the words to “Ein Prosit” if you don’t wanna look like a total dummkopf. Check out the Survival Guide (hint: take care of your beer maiden) and the rest of OktoberfestTampa.com for all the info you need, including pricing, parking and what to bring.
On the other side of the bay, there’s also the German American Society of Pinellas Park’s Oktoberfest event at Germania Hall. Billing it as “Tampa Bay’s Best Oktoberfest” and the most authentic, they kick off at 5 p.m. on Friday and boast of authentic German food and sweets, imported German beer, live Oompah music, a parade and keg tapping ceremony plus plenty of vendors. Admission is $6, parking is free and more info can be found at BestGermanClub.com. Is it me or is there an uncomfortable amount of elitism here for a historic German folk celebration? Achtung, I keed, I keed!
The weekend after you can check out the 17th Annual Top O’ The Bay Oktoberfest at Tampa Bay Downs. Put on by the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce, it runs from Friday, October 18, through Sunday and features a huge Munich-style tent, German dance troupes, German food and a carnival for kids, plus dozens of food and arts and crafts vendors. The Europa Band will entertain attendees on Friday and Joe Oberaitis and Oktoberfest Express take to the stage Saturday afternoon. The Grammy Award-winning Alex Meixner Band will play Saturday evening and Sunday. Adult admission is $5 and there is a ton of free parking. Hit up utbchamber.com for more info.
Dunedin’s Oktoberfest event also kicks into gear on Friday the 18th in conjunction with the Our Lady of Lourdes Fall Festival. There will be plenty of midway rides and fun for the whole family, including Bee Sharps performing German and Polish Music. Saturday night features local faves The Black Honkeys to rub some funk on Oktoberfest tradition. All the info you need is at ollfallfestival.com.
No matter where you’re heading this Oktoberfest, celebrate safe and remember, “beer is good.”