Pacific Northwest Beer Festivals

Oktoberfests and Fresh Hop Celebrations in the Northwest

By Kendall Jones

Photo at right: Das bier and OktoberFest revelers. Photo courtesy of Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce

OKTOBERFESTS

Spokane Oktoberfest
Riverfront Park,
Spokane, Wash.
Sept. 21–22

More than 20 breweries from across Washington participate each year in this event, pouring more than 50 different beers.

Enjoy a vast assortment of seasonal and other brews served up in a festive, riverside atmosphere. Along with the beer, enjoy Bavarian-themed music and food. This event presents an excellent opportunity to sample beers from the breweries of eastern Washington, many of whom do not distribute their beer west of the Cascades.

Proceeds from the festival support the Washington Beer Commission, a state-appointed commodities commission tasked with promoting Washington-brewed beer—the only commission of its kind in the United States. www.washingtonbeer.com/oktoberfest

Fremont Oktoberfest
North 35th Street and Phinney Ave North., Seattle, Wash.
Sept. 21–23

Seattle’s once-freaky Fremont neighborhood has changed a lot in recent years. One thing has remained the same: they know how to party.

Each year Fremont Oktoberfest attracts huge crowds for three days of Bavarian-themed fun. In addition to a bustling beer garden packed with thirsty urban hipsters drinking beer from dozens of local and not-so-local breweries, Fremont Oktoberfest offers a 5k run, zucchini decorating and racing, a kid’s play area, and even a Texas Chainsaw Pumpkin Carving contest.

You are welcome to bring your well-behaved pooch into the beer garden with you on “Hair of the Dog Sunday.” www.fremontoktoberfest.com

Fun and frivolity encircle German tynzers. Photo courtesy of Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce

Leavenworth Oktoberfest
Downtown Leavenworth, Wash.
Oct. 5 – 6, 12–13, 17–18

This festival in the Bavarian-themed town has been happening since 1998 and always falls on the first three weekends in October. Don’t miss the keg-tapping ceremony each Saturday at 1 p.m.
There are four venues with live entertainment (including musicians from Germany) and free shuttles to get around town while enjoying your brews. It’s the next best thing to being in Munich.  www.leavenworthoktoberfest.com

Bend Oktoberfest
Oregon Avenue in downtown Bend, Ore. Sept. 21–22

In addition to being a Mecca for outdoor adventurers, Bend is also one of the greatest beer towns in the Northwest with a half dozen breweries, including the beloved Deschutes Brewing Company. Bend is replete with beer year-round but for Oktoberfest they shut down one of downtown’s main streets for two days of beer-fueled, German-inspired fun. Enjoy German food and music. Endure the Yodeling competition. Be sure to catch the Wiener Dog Races, Saturday at 3 p.m., where dachshunds run for glory (or treats, anyway). Friday night is for grown-ups only, a 21+ affair. Sure, the event includes an official beer garden, but you should use this as an opportunity to visit one, or all, of the city’s many breweries. www.downtownbend.org/oktoberfest-2012

Anacortes Oktoberfest —
Bier on the Pier
Commercial Avenue and First Street,
Anacortes, Wash.
Oct. 5 – 6

Generally recognized as the gateway to the San Juan Islands, the city of Anacortes invites visitors to stay on the mainland and enjoy an Oktoberfest celebration on the waterfront. At least 30 breweries will pour beer at this year’s festival, making it one of the largest Oktoberfest celebrations in the region.

Along with musical entertainment, Friday and Saturday will feature “German Costume” contests with prizes awarded for the most authentic or creative costumes. Festival organizers encourage attendees to spend the night and enjoy live music at a number of downtown venues. Since you are already at a prime location to launch, why not bring the kayak and spend Sunday paddling your way through the innermost San Juan Islands? www.anacortes.org/oktoberfest

A Bavarian quintet performs at Leavenworth’s Oktoberfest. Photo by Projekt Bayern

FRESH HOP FESTIVALS
in the Northwest

Hood River Hops Fest
Downtown Hood River — Sept. 29

Apparently, windsurfing and kiteboarding are thirst-inducing activities. That would explain why Hood River, Ore. is rapidly becoming one of the region’s top beer destinations, with four breweries within the confines of the city’s borders and several others within a stone’s throw. Each year Hood River celebrates the local brewing culture and the annual hop harvest by hosting the Hood River Hops Fest. The primary focus is on Fresh Hop Ale. In addition to beers from Hood River’s own, more than two dozen breweries will pour at this event. Two blocks of downtown are closed to traffic and a special pavilion is erected for the festival. Children are welcome at the event during the day, but after 6 p.m. this becomes a grown-ups only affair.  www.hoodriverhopsfest.wordpress.com

Yakima Fresh Hop Ale Festival
Millennium Arts Plaza,
Yakima, Wash. — Oct. 6

In addition to being a beer festival, this is a judged beer competition. The invited breweries submit their best Fresh Hop Ale for judging by a panel of hop experts who award highly coveted ribbons to their favorite beers. The Yakima Valley produces 75 percent of the nation’s hop crop each year and most of the judges are hop farmers or are deeply involved in the industry in some other way. This is intense stuff: after all, hops are a way of life in Yakima. However, this is also a beer festival and that is not nearly so serious an affair. Hops are the unquestionable center of attention and this event presents festival-goers with perhaps the single greatest collection of Fresh Hop Ale anywhere on the planet. Pair that with great food, great music, and a worthy cause (Allied Arts of the Yakima Valley), and you have a recipe for success. www.freshhopalefestival.com

Other readers have had interest  in this related article:

2012 NW Beer Festival Guide

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