Despite the omnipresent and horribly kitschy seasonal pumpkin beer trend, autumn is without a doubt the single greatest season in which to imbibe craft beer. Summer is wonderful for shandies and stealthy beach drinking, winter is gloriously chock-a-block with stouts at holiday bottle shares, but the flavors of fall have yet to be topped when it comes to mouthwatering Märzens and outstanding Oktoberfest celebrations.
The start of the original Oktoberfest in Munich historically kicks off the third weekend in September (wrapping up the first weekend in October), and while many local breweries adhere to opening ceremonies schedule, there are still plenty of San Diego Oktoberfest festivities on tap. Here’s a taste of what’s to come:
La Mesa Oktoberfest (La Mesa Village on La Mesa Blvd. between Spring and Fourth streets) Despite being billed as “the largest Oktoberfest west of the Mississippi,” in the past La Mesa has been more of a crowded carnival-esque street fair with the occasional bratwurst to remind you that you’re actually at Oktoberfest. However, this year it's touting a new approach to authenticity with an official keg tap to kick off the party, along with new German beers, more traditional foods, German bands and plenty of competitions to emulate Munich’s revelry. Friday, Sept. 30 (4 to 10 p.m.), Saturday, Oct. 1 (10 a.m. to 10 p.m.), and Sunday, Oct. 2 (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.); free, all ages
CRAFToberfest at Liberty Public Market (2820 Historic Decatur Road) As San Diego’s only extended Oktoberfest festival, CRAFToberfest promises to provide family fun with plenty of games and savory treats such as pretzels from Crafted Baked Goods, sausages from Mastiff Sausage Company, beers from Bottlecraft and much more. Still, is it really Oktoberfest without an oompah band? We’ll have to wait and see. Saturday, Oct. 1 to Sunday, Oct. 9 (hours not specified) free, all ages
El Cajon Oktoberfest (1017 South Mollison Ave.) When the German-American Societies of San Diego plans Oktoberfest, it doesn’t cut any corners. Not only is there live German music, they actually fly the band in from Germany. Add that to the plethora of traditional food and drink, non-stop games and contests and a chance to win a round-trip flight for two to Germany and you have what’s arguably the greatest Oktoberfest in San Diego. Even with an entry fee (Adults $10 on Fridays/Saturdays, $5 Sundays, under-21 and active military free), it’s well worth it for those who seek a bona fide Bavarian bacchanal. Friday, Sept. 30 (4 to 10 p.m.), Saturday, Oct. 1 (noon to 10 p.m.), and Sunday, Oct. 2 (noon to 9 p.m.); Friday, Oct. 7 (4 to 10 p.m.); Saturday, Oct. 8 (noon to 10 p.m.), and Sunday, Oct. 9 (noon to 9 p.m.)
Neighborhood-centric Oktoberfests in Ocean Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad and the first one for the Gaslamp Quarter are also still to come in early October, so be sure to add a few of these to your calendar as well. I’ve always found that El Cajon’s celebration is the best in town, but with a new focus on authenticity in La Mesa and competition from Liberty Public Market, it’s anyone’s game this year. Prost!