If ever there was a stereotypical doff of the trachten hat to Bavaria, it's Oktoberfest — that annual insanity of lager-soaked, lederhosen-saturated, cleavage-steeped, oompah-marinaded carousel. This year Oktoberfest happens in Munich from 19 September-4 October, but what has that got to do with London? you rightly ask.
Well, even as we speak, breweries over London are busily crafting their own beers for the occasion, plus there are a number of Oktoberfest parties in the pipeline all over town. So if you'd rather avoid the flight to Munich, and the very real danger of having to queue behind a load of sloshed backpackers at 9am, you can customise your very own Oktoberfest in London. Here's how.
What should I drink?
Hammerton Brewery in Highbury have just released a new German influenced brew called Geist Weiss (Ghost White). It combines the hop-character and brewing techniques of a dry-hopped India pale ale with the wheaty base and spicy additions of a cloudy German Weiss beer (hefeweizen). Hammerton have told us they may be doing an Oktoberfest event at their brewery too, so stay posted.
At Laine Brewing Company's Victoria Park brewpub there'll be two specially-brewed bevvies; a classic pilsner (5%), and a 5.8% dunkelweiss which you can sink while some poor soul toils away making more of it, just feet away.
South of the river now, and also getting in on the Oktoberfest action, Fourpure are making a 5.5% beer, using nothing save German malt and hops. The whole lot of it will be on draught, and you'll find it at reputable bars around London, and at Fourpure's taproom from 18 September.
At Elephant and Castle brewery Orbit, it's Oktoberfest year-round, as they brew a Köln-style beer (kolsch) called Nico, and an altbier (that's beer done Dusseldorf style) called Neu. While the Kolsch is light in colour and body with light spicy notes, the altbier is darker — amberish in colour, and with a toasty malt character. And busy bees that they are, Orbit have also made a dunkelweiss beer with the team from BrewDog Clapham Junction. You can get your thirsty jowls around this at the BrewDog pub, on 10 October.
Brixton Brewery are releasing their Coldharbour Lager in early October — a nice way to wrap up your Oktoberfest, which finally admits it's had enough to drink on 4 October. Well it does in Munich. But as you'll see in the next section, the party's set to continue in London.
Other German style beers to look out for, which are brewed in London: Peckham Pilsner (Brick Brewery), No Fly Zone (Highbury Brewhouse & Kitchen), London Sour (Kernel), Frontier (Fuller's — it's essentially a Kölsch beer), London Pilsner (Portobello Brewing Co), Coldharbour Hell Yeah! (Clarkshaws), London Alt (Mondo), Unfiltered Vienna Lager (Signature Brew). There will surely be many others, so keep your lager goggles peeled.
Where can I party?
If you're looking for an Oktoberfest party to accompany your gallons of bier, the following will quench not only your thirst, but your Teutonic sense of hedonism too.
Camden Town Brewery are serving a special Oktoberfest beer at their annual Tank Party, 26-27 September. We've been to one of these shindigs before and they're a lot of fun, even when there's a biblical rainstorm.
Clapham Junction BrewDog presents London Kraftoberfest on 26 September, pouring hoppy weisse beers, smoked beers, sour beers, and new wave German lagers — most of them brewed in London. There will also be mountains of pretzels and sauerkraut.
London Fields Brewery is running an October Fest event at its venue space The Brewhouse, close to the park after which the brewery is named. There'll be music, beers and pretzels. Tickets are £6-£22 depending on how fancy you want to get — available online.
Loughborough Junction-based Clarkshaws are holding an Oktoberfest in their brewery taproom on 3 October, dishing up a range of German-style beers brewed specially for the occasion.
Our bet is that lots of other breweries and brewpubs will be celebrating too. Check out our list of them.
Oktoberfest will be kicked off in style at UBREW in Bermondsey on 3 October with a special tap takeover. They've been busy brewing their very our own dunkelweiss beer which will be available alongside German classics like Erdinger, Paulaner and Lowenbrau throughout the month. A wider selection of German beers will be available in the fridge.
Whatever you do, don't confuse Oktoberfest London with London Oktoberfest — an ENTIRELY different beast, taking place in Kilburn Grange Park (17-20 September) and Millwall Park (8-11 October).Then there are the more mainstream parties, for instance OktoberFest London, happening at Tobacco Dock from 8-11 October, and advertised with more buxom beer servers than is surely politically correct.
Bierschenke in the City is celebrating Oktoberfest from 16 September-31 October — that's one and a half months — and we do not envy the staff. There's also the Octoberfest Pub in Fulham where it seems to be Oktoberfest every day of the year, and we really don't envy the staff.
And you can always pop into an outlet of Bavarian Beerhouse (London Bridge and Old Street), or Katzenjammers (also in London Bridge). The latter also sells traditional Bavarian getup, and people will definitely find it hilarious if you dress up and assume the identity of a cow farmer called Jürgen.
Heard of an Oktoberfest party in London we haven't mentioned? Tell us in the comments.