Entertainment

Time to tap the casks

Say pröst to October, and raise a stein at Calgary Oktoberfest

Caroline Green poses for a portrait in the beer hall at Wurst in Calgary on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. Wurst is a German restaurant and bar and is well known for its exciting Octoberfest celebrations. (Photo by Dawn Gibson/ SAIT)

Caroline Green poses for a portrait in the beer hall at Wurst in Calgary on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. Wurst is a German restaurant and bar and is well known for its exciting Octoberfest celebrations. (Photo by Dawn Gibson/ SAIT)

Break out your beer steins, your lederhosen and your dirndls; Calgary Oktoberfest is back, returning to the Big Four Building on Sept. 23 and 24.

The beer sampling event, now in its fourth year, offers both newbies to the craft scene, and beer connoisseurs a chance to taste test the wares of local, national and international breweries.

Trevor Bacon, director of communications with Alberta Beer Festivals (ABF), said the event is “a little bit more intimate than our beer festival which we put on in the spring, so we try to make this more of a party atmosphere in terms of the Oktoberfest spin on it.”

Bacon said this year the festival will be featuring a real German “oompah” band, The German Knights, who will be on hand throughout the festival to lead attendees in rousing drinking song sing-a-longs, as well as traditional Schuhplattler dancers.

Prizes from ABF and participating breweries and distilleries will be awarded throughout the weekend for the best costumes.

Despite the party atmosphere, the real draw to the festival is the beer. Over 40 craft breweries and distilleries are participating, with food provided by a dozen local restaurants.

Festival-goers receive an official Calgary Oktoberfest sampling cup and can purchase tokens for food and drink samples. Each token is a dollar, with four-ounce beer samples generally costing two tokens. Three samples is the equivalent of one bottle of beer.

Throughout the weekend, eight specialty casks will be tapped, “with a different brewery from Alberta pouring the casks every hour on the hour,” said Bacon. “Those casks are being brewed specifically for Oktoberfest.”

Mayor Naheed Nenshi will be on hand to tap the first cask of the festival, with Village Brewery, Dandy and Tool Shed Brewing Companies being among the local brewers contributing specialty casks.

For those whose beer tastes are limited, ciders and spirits samples will also be available from vendors such as Saskatoon’s Lucky Bastard Distillers.

Unlike the Calgary International Beerfest held in the spring, Oktoberfest doesn’t offer brew masters seminars for aspiring craft brewers, but “this event is so much smaller that you get up and close with the brewers,” said Bacon.

“So, if you want to go up and taste their beer and talk with the brewer, you can do that. You’ll be able to learn right on the spot.”

While some out-of-province breweries such as Ontario’s Muskoka Brewery and Lake of Bays Brewing Company pulled out of the event due to the newly raised beer tax, Bacon said the grants available to in-province brewers has revitalized the number of participants.

“I wouldn’t call it an issue, as more of an opportunity,” said Bacon. “We have seen some breweries that have left Alberta, but those are far and few between, and now we’re getting all these brand new breweries like Boiling Oar and Banded Peaks in Calgary.

“And then when you look at towns and cities across Alberta, places like Medicine Hat are opening Hell’s Basement, Coulee Brewing in Lethbridge, places like Grande Prairie, Lacombe and Black Diamond all have breweries on the radar, so I think the new rules have inspired people here.”

Last year, over 8,000 people attended Oktoberfest each night, and despite the economic downturn Alberta is experiencing, Bacon is expecting to see about the same number of festival-goers this year.

“Ticket sales are going really well; people just love their beer.”

SAIT students can receive 15 per cent off of the cost of admission to Calgary Oktoberfest by entering promo code SAIT15. For tickets and more information, please visit: http://albertabeerfestivals.com/events-services/calgary-oktoberfest/

Oktoberfest Fun Fact:
Oliver Struempfel holds the world record for “beer-carrying.” Struempfel carried 27 one-litre beer steins, weighing about 136 lbs, a distance of over 130 feet. Anita Schwarz, a 50-year-old waitress, holds the women’s record for carrying 19 steins, weighing about 96 lbs, across the length of a bar.

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