A Backyard Biergarten Oktoberfest Party
Bring out the beer steins and raise a toast this fall without leaving home
While Oktoberfest in Munich might be officially over for the year, October has just begun and there is no reason to stop celebrating the best that Germany has to offer — beer and brats, of course.
This fall, host your own celebration that the entire family will love at home. Be inspired by the alphorn and have kids make their own kazoos that they can then use for a parade to polka music. For adults, set up a beer tasting, with dozens of varieties for guests to try, in your very own backyard biergarten.
Instead of traditional invitations, send out cards in the shape of beer steins. Ask guests to wear their Bavarian best — traditional lederhosen, felt alpine hats, and Tyrolean jackets for men, and dirndls for ladies. To stay in the spirit of the day, and keep costs down, ask each guest to bring their own beer stein for drinking and toasting — ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit (a toast to your health)!
Setting the Scene
• Be inspired by the rustic wooden homes of Bavaria and the region’s blue and white flag when setting up. Use picnic tables, or another long, rectangular table, to set up a dining area like you might find in a real biergarten. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Lebemann Schwabing)
• Use blue-and-white-checkered tablecloths on the table, and fill beer steins with dried edelweiss, red cockscomb, and yellow mums for color. Other fall decorations, like pumpkins and swaths of wheat, are also good to use.
• Short on seats? Stack hay bales in a circular formation for a casual alternative to sitting at a table.
• When recreating the feel of a bier hall, playing Oompah music and other Bavarian folk tunes are a must. Combine classics like The Bavarian Oompah Band’s “Oompah Polka,” with Alfons Bauer’s “Almdudler-Marsch,” or “Tiroler Polka.” Yodeling along to “The Lonely Goatherd” is optional.
Just as it is in Germany, the star of an Oktoberfest party should be the food and drink, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun, too: (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Corsi Photo)
• For adults, set up a beer tasting. Have each guest sign up to bring a different brew. Put together a sheet of paper for tasting notes, then taste away. Have each taster rate the brews on a scale from one to 10 and name a favorite.
• Beer halls are noisy places, and with polka-style Oompah music playing, it can be hard to resist not wanting to dance along, too. Collect paper towel and toilet paper tubes and put them to good use and create kazoos. Simply secure a five-inch square of waxed paper around one end with a tight rubber band, then buzz-buzz-buzz away.
• For something active, set up a cider relay. Carrying cups (not glass, in case it breaks) filled with apple cider, have guests race 10-yard distances without spilling, exchanging the cup after each lap. Award the winning team with giant pretzels and bottles of beer (or sparkling cider, for kids).
• Play “hot pumpkin,” a seasonal variation of hot potato. Have groups of eight stand in a circle and toss around a miniature pumpkin. Every time someone drops the pumpkin, they get a point. The person with the least points at the ends, wins.
• No Oktoberfest is complete without the Chicken Dance. Yup. A tradition over two decades old, this should be the only reason to put down your glass of beer.
• A variety of sausages — knockwurst, bratwurst, weisswurst — should be at the top of every Oktoberfest menu, along with beer. Stock a variety of wursts and grill them to order, along with braised red cabbage and potato salad as sides.
• Kids will love miniature cocktail franks, on toothpicks, as well as drinking their own “beer” — either sparkling cider or plain apple juice diluted with sparking water — just like the adults.
• Don’t forget the pretzels! Guest of all ages will enjoy pulling off pieces of soft and salty jumbo pretzels that they can dip into a variety of sauces like honey mustard, cheese sauce, and spicy mustard. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/razan.orendovici)
• Looking for something a bit more upscale? Make a big pot of goulash and then serve along with a side of spaetzle for crunch.
• For dessert, serve strudel mit schlag (with whipped cream), or Black Forest-inspired sundaes, topping vanilla or chocolate ice creams with cherry sauce (unstrained), chocolate sauce, kirschwasser-spiked whipped cream, and a cherry.