Well, so far I’ve hit the Oktoberfests I wanted to this year. Up next: Wurstfest and possibly the Roman Baachanal at TexRenFest. I’m sensing a theme. Hmmmm.
So here’s how the 2 fests shook out this year:
1) Flying Saucer Fall Beer Festival. This started at noon but I didn’t get there until 2:30 or so, just as my friends were leaving. They said that the lines at noon were great for about 20 minutes, and then it became annoying. Like me, they simply filled their 4 ounce taster glass, then stood in line for the next fill-up while they drank. No problem there. But for my timeslot, the lines were to the fences, and even conservative sipping finished my taster about halfway through the line. The Texas beers were great, of course, and I recommend hitting the limited edition and cask-conditioned beers when the opportunity arises. I didn’t even try the 512 Pecan Porter since I feel like I can have that any time (and I do). I tried a West-Coast beer, but ultimately I just went for the shortest line. Not the best way to sample beers, and I wasn’t a fan of the line organization this time around: by location rather than style. I loved trying all the Belgium-style beers in one line last year, for instance.
The $15 for the 10 tasters was an ok buy, but it means you have to stand in line for all 10 of those beers. Even if you have zero lines for the first 20 minutes, then a short couple of lines, then long lines, you’re still looking at a good two hours, just standing in lines. We got through 5 testers of our 10 in about 1.5 hours, then sold the second half of the voucher for $5 and split.
Bottom line: come early to not waste your time in lines, buy a pint to drink in line while you wait for your testers.
2) North by Northwest Oktoberfest. This is a two-day affair, so if you miss the first day—perhaps you spent too long in the Saucer’s lines, let’s say—you’ve always got a back-up plan. Last year I didn’t enjoy the dog portion of the fest so much. Something about it didn’t sit right with me. However, this year I really liked that folks had their dogs with them. I just really dug the laid back family atmosphere under the big tent. The oompah band was especially chatty and family-themed (a mom and her sons, it seemed) and everyone really felt like they were hanging out in someone’s back yard. Cool vibe. I could probably do without the jousting and bungee-running and rock-climbing wall at a beer event, but I still found myself jousting anyway and eyeing the wall thoughtfully.
There were only 4 beers to try, all made onsite at NXNW. Their hefeweizen is always good, and I thought the Oktoberfest was delish this year. I was really knocked out by the Northern Light, though. I usually don’t go for lighter beers, but dang it was nice. Having a warm pretzel, corn dog, and cobbler was super choice. It was awesome to not have to worry about standing in lines in the sun or finding my friends in the crowd.
I’m just happy we have an event in Austin that combines the weirdnesses of dogs, kids, strange pedo-bears, meat on the bone and in the bun, and of course beer. I’m so glad my drinking buddies (whom I ran into at the fest, despite the quick-change in our schedule du jour) introduced me to good beer. I thought everything was the nasty watery stuff college kids drink. Not so! The Oktoberfest and Northern Light they make at NXNW was really good. I’m no expert, but as a note to self or anyone else who visits Austin, try some! Of course, if you’re at North by Northwest and they have their homemade Black Jack on tap, do that instead. OMG, wow.
Bottom line: come early for a table and parking, but no worries if not. There’s plenty of beer you can fill in your own mugs and plenty of time to enjoy slowly with friends.
Can you think of a nicer day to drink beer in Austin?