Despite the ridiculous heat wave that just blew through, it’s October. Really. That means Oktoberfest – beer and brats and plenty of good cheer in just about every civilized city in the world.
In Sacramento, for the second year running, we get to enjoy German food, music, crowds of cool folks and, yes, plenty of German beer at Sactoberfest, in West Sacramento’s Bridge District. Starting Friday, it’s going to be bigger and better than the inaugural, and it has been lengthened to three days. Tickets are for sale online or at the gate: $30 for general admission. $45 for premium admission and $95 for VIP. Three-day passes start at $55. The first beer is included. Subsequent beers are $8 for half liter and $12 for a liter. There are 10 super-premium beers for $2 more.
Last year, about 3,000 people attended and, frankly, things were a little rough in spots. Organizers didn’t anticipate demand and came up short on food and local beers, though there was plenty of German beer to go around.
Organizers say ticket sales have been robust. Friday is planned to be more of an after-work vibe. Sunday is expected to be a family day (yes, you can bring kids because it’s not a wild party kind of event), and Saturday is likely to be the big day.
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There is going to be an emphasis on authentic German food, including dishes by Broderick and Ten22. The sausages will be by revered Morant’s Old-fashioned Sausage Kitchen. And it wouldn’t be Oktoberfest – er, Sactoberfest – without brass bands, lots of oom-pah and folks dancing the polka.
But most important for this space, there will be plenty of terrific German beers, including some, I’m told, that are difficult to come by in the U.S. Because it is in West Sacramento, the local breweries will also be pouring – Bike Dog, Yolo Brewing, Jackrabbit and Sudwerk (which is actually in Davis, but has a longstanding expertise in German beer). In addition to all that, there will be plenty of games for young and old, including human Jenga, keg relay races, cornhole toss, beer pong and stein-lifting.
Says event organizer Rich Clakely, “It’s a family-oriented event that just happens to have one of the best Oktoberfests in the country.”
• The recent Great American Beer Fest in Denver brought some big news forNew Helvetia Brewing
on Broadway. It won a gold medal in the Historical Beer category. Its “Thurston” (11% ABV) is a nearly forgotten German style called adambier. I remember tasting it in February during Sacramento Beer Week and was very impressed.
I caught up with brewmaster Brian Cofresi:
His reaction to winning gold: “I jumped up and down and said ‘Hallelujah!’ It’s so hard to get a medal at GABF. It’s the biggest beer show on earth as far as recognition.”
On being a beer historian: “I can’t imagine being a brewer and not being a beer historian. There are many styles that have been lost. Just think about Fritz Maytag (Anchor Brewing founder). He kept steam beer going, and it was a style that was nearly lost.
The appeal of adambier: “It’s has a touch of sweetness, but it’s very smooth. The high alcohol is not noticeable but it helps lighten the body. It can also have a bit of smokiness.”
Cofresi is brewing another batch, which should be ready for Beer Week in February.
Major props to Auburn Alehouse, too. It won a silver medal for its Hop Donkey Imperial Red Ale (9% ABV).
• Last week I made a quick trip toRussian River Brewing
in Santa Rosa to taste the excellent limited-edition beer Framboise For a Cure (6.5% ABV). The base beer is the Temptation, a sour blonde ale aged in chardonnay barrels. To become the Framboise, Russian River loads 31 pounds of fresh raspberries per barrel. The result is an excellent fruit beer that is sweet, plenty tart and an appealing berry aroma.
We wanted to buy some bottles to take home, but lo and behold, people tend to hoard this stuff, and by the time we got there in mid-afternoon, the daily allocation was sold out. Because the money goes to breast cancer awareness, it’s hard to complain. But it’s becoming more and more of a problem – folks buying beer not to enjoy it but to broker deals online.
Two people sitting next to us at the bar were doing exactly that. They were already on their phones making deals around the country, yet they wouldn’t entertain generous trade offers from us. I’d like to think that the craft beer culture is into buying and sharing, not hoarding and profiteering. I’m a supporter of beer-sharing events, in which folks gather, bring beers and taste and talk. Online beer trading? I might be souring on it.
Even with the sellout, it’s hard to be disappointed at Russian River, which is one of the great craft breweries in the world. We had a great bartender and enjoyed the Framboise on tap, along with some others. I bought bottles of Pliny the Elder, and famed sours Temptation, Supplication and Consecration. The next day, I shared them with friends, and we had a great time.