The hunt for real Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest season is upon us, but what does it all mean?

So we are quickly approaching that unfortunate time of year when upper-middle class squares in quaint college towns across the country break out the lederhosen and giant beer mugs to participate in something that isn't remotely native to their own country.

I'm talking about Oktoberfest. That yearly ritual where the moneyed professional class gets to dip back into its oh-so-wacky college days and drink beer in the middle of the day with others of its ilk.

Oktoberfest in and of itself is harmless fun. There's nothing inherently wrong with gathering around a tap on a brisk fall day and enjoying a pint of Spaten with your people. Hell, I'd pass a law requiring Oktoberfest be celebrated every weekend of the year if I was elected president. You'd vote for me, admit it.

But then there's the issue of lederhosen. My god, the lederhosen.

Oktoberfest marks another "holiday" traditionally celebrated by a European nation that we've shaped into a drunken crapshow. I've got friends who were born in Ireland who shake their heads at our St. Paddy's Day projectile green-beer vomit fests. That "holiday" has become little more than an excuse for a bar to burn through 1,347 bottles of Jameson on a Tuesday night.

And then there's Cinco de Mayo. I dare you to walk up to a tequila-soused 20-something from Beaverton on Cinco de Mayo and ask him/her what that days stands for in Mexico without them having to look it up on their iPhone. Sit back and watch the comedy ensue.

"Itshhhh Mexico's independence day, kindshhh like our Fourthshhh of July," they'll slur.

"Um, no," you'd reply, being the Mr. Smarty Pants that you are. "Mexico celebrates its independence on Sept. 16."

"Ahsshh who cares shut up and do a shot with me YAAA!!!!!"

From what I've gathered by speaking to actual Mexicans who were born and grew up in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo, though acknowledged by the populace, occupies a space more or less equal to President's Day. I mean, how many of us hit the pub on Prez Day to suck down Jager bombs in honor of Millard Fillmore? That's not to say that ol' Millard ain't worth raising a drink to, but I'm not sure his honor is worthy of projectile vomiting on the street and fighting a cop once the bars close.

Oktoberfest is relatively popular in Germany, from what I understand. I recently spoke to an old friend who lived in Germany for several years before moving back to Chicago last fall. I picked his brain about Oktoberfest and learned that while it certainly is a day of dancing and drink, particularly around Munich, it is a strange holiday to make the trip across the ocean and lodge itself squarely in the United States conscience.

Basically, Oktoberfest was a kegger thrown by Prince Ludwig of Bavaria in 1810 to celebrate his marriage to some hottie from Saxony-Hildburghausen. Ludwig was so proud of his score that he even wanted to show her off to the commoners of the surrounding area.

The party was notable because of its all-inclusiveness. Stick-up-their-ass nobles hammered warm beer with farm folk as Ludwig held sway over the entire affair like a millionaire hip-hop mogul at a release party.

According to the historians at Beer Advocate, brew wasn't even the focus of the first Oktoberfest. Apparently, it was built around a large agricultural show and a horse race. Beer was surely imbibed, but it didn't occupy its vaunted place at the heart of Oktoberfest until some years later.

The event is hugely popular in and around Munich, my friend said. Most other cities in Germany host some form of Oktoberfest or another, and much beer is quaffed. Turns out our German allies are as keen on making excuses to drink in the middle of the day as people from Cleveland.

Which is all fine, but I'd like to see a bit more of the inclusive spirit notable in the first Oktoberfest exhibited in our variety. Most Oktoberfest celebrations I've attended are populated by the BMW and whitebread professional classes and not so much by those of the blue-collar variety. Oktoberfests are held primarily in high-end college towns and within posh neighborhoods in large cities.

Anyway, Southern Oregon does Oktoberfest right. You can find them in every town in the area, and it's always a good time.

In fact, this year's Oktoberfest celebration at Jacksonville's Schoolhaus Brewhaus has been expanded to three days, starting Friday, Sept. 27, and running to Sunday, Sept. 29.

Hope to see you there. And let's keep the lederhosen to a minimum. I don't know whether I can talk while looking at the spindly, ghost-white legs of a 54-year-old accountant from Talent for three days.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or

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