For a certain beer-worshipping city in Germany, the end of September means the start of Oktoberfest, a 16-day festival with enough beer, carnival rides and food to earn it the title of "world's largest volksfest." Southern California has, for decades, embraced the tradition of donning your best lederhosen and downing steins of German beer while umpa-umpa-ing to polka bands, with long-running, month-long festivals like those at Alpine Village and the Fairplex.
But last year, Oktoberfest fell on L.A. Beer Week, which made the event options more craft beer-y than ever. And this year, the vibe is even more unorthodox, with white-tablecloth restaurants and Chinese dumpling-makers getting in on the festivities. With options for everything from meatless sausages and beer olympics, celebrating Oktoberfest in Los Angeles continues to evolve. Below are our top five not-so-average recommendations:
Sat., Oct. 3 and Sun., Oct. 4, 1-5 p.m.; L.A. Center Studios, 450 S. Bixel Street, Westlake; $45-$65 for VIP packages, veganoktoberfest.com.
While some naysayers might think that a vegan Oktoberfest would be the "wurst" idea ever, last year's sold-out inaugural event was such as success that it instead suffered from over-attendance; beer vendors ran out within a few hours, and lines for food were horrendous. This year, organizers have doubled capacity and moved the event closer to downtown, and the expanded offerings include 50 beers, 30 food vendors and enough stein-holding contests to accommodate every animal-free advocate in L.A.. A vegan Oktoberfest (this is the first in the world) isn't so different from other festive Oktoberfest celebrations, except that it replaces the bratwurst and schnitzel with meatless food from L.A.'s top vegan food trucks — and only allows the pouring of beers not filtered by fish-bladders. Prost!
Dumpling and Beer Fest
Wed., Oct. 1, 6-9 p.m.; San Gabriel Mission Playhouse Theater Plaza, 320 S. Mission Dr., San Gabriel; $20 for unlimited beer sampling, eventbrite.com/e/dumpling-beer-fest-tickets-18478990157.
Who says the Germans get to have all the fun on Oktoberfest? The City of San Gabriel is getting in on the action by embracing its diverse demographics with a local twist on Oktoberfest that will pair area breweries and local dumpling vendors. In the shadow of the historic Spanish mission, the first Dumpling and Beer Fest will feature some of the region's best Chinese dumplings — from steamed to pan-fried — alongside locally brewed beers. The list of food participants hasn't been released yet, but we can only guess they will be pulling from the wealth of nearby talent.
Long Beach Oktoberfest and Beer Olympics
Sat., Oct. 3, 2-10 p.m.; Roxanne's Cocktail Lounge, 1115 E. Wardlow Road, Long Beach; $10-$15 for taster flight, eventbrite.com/e/long-beach-oktoberfest-10315-tickets-17753274522.
North Hollywood's Bar ONE is hosting the eighth year of Oktoberfest-timed Beer Olympics, during which it lets two-person teams compete in bar games like corn hole, beer pong, flip cup and Jenga while sloshing back Paulaners. This year the Beer Olympics will be held for the first time at the Long Beach Oktoberfest, which is letting four-person teams compete in a few of the requisite bar games along with a more classic stein-holding contest. Roxanne's is known for hosting local beer festivals in its parking lot, so expect a well-stocked beer garden with craft selections like Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest and Goose Island Bourbon County 2013. Jagermeister will also be poured.
Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne are less interested in the beer-guzzling aspect of Oktoberfest than they are in how the event heralds the coming of fall. So at their flagship, white-tablecloth restaurant Lucques, even though the leaves aren't changing color in L.A. yet, they will be using the occasion to work in some early-season ingredients — like winter squash, roasted apples and wild mushrooms — to traditional German dishes like herbed spaetzle, house-made sausages and sauerkraut. Of course, there will still be plenty of booze at Lucques' Oktoberfest (where themed attire is encouraged); all guests will get a tulip glass of house-made mint schnapps (crafted by head barman Christiaan Röllich), there will be bottled and draft German brews to choose from, and Styne will present a complementary list of wines from Austria, Germany and beyond.
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BierBeisl Imbiss's First Oktoberfest
Sat., Oct. 10 and Sun., Oct. 11, 11 a.m.-2 a.m.; BierBeisl Imbiss, 541 S. Spring St., downtown; (213) 935-8035; bierbeisl-imbiss.com; $30, eventbrite.com/e/bierbeisl-oktoberfest-in-dtla-tickets-18641546367.
The term "Oktoberfest" doesn't much the offerings at BierBeisl Imbiss. The all-day bakery, beer and brat spot from Austrian-bred chef Bernhard Maringer has been filling European-sized steins with imported beer and slinging gourmet sausages since opening downtown in June. But L.A.'s only Austrian restaurant (whose head baker just made Zagat's 30 Under 30 List) will be taking over the glass-ceilinged galleria in which its storefront is located with two, 15-hour days of polka music, lederhosen competitions and the largest selection of authentic Austrian food and drink in the city. Think oversized pours of nothing but Maringer's favorite (and hard to find) German and Austrian beers; giant pretzels fresh from the in-house oven; a half-dozen different kinds of custom-made sausages; pork shanks and spaetzle; plus sweet and savory knoedels — all in the heart of downtown's historic core.