Break out the lederhosen and start hydrating now: Ketchum Oktoberfest is coming to Town Square this weekend for two days of Bavarian bacchanalia, with games, live music and—of course—local beer.
Sponsored, hosted and entirely provisioned by the Sawtooth Brewery, Ketchum’s event puts an Idaho spin on the German festival—and no, it’s not a month early.
The original event—Munich, 1810—was inaugurated to celebrate a royal wedding in mid-October. But after that, the city had an idea.
“The weather sucked,” said Paul Holle, Sawtooth’s head brewer. “So, they moved it up.”
Here in the mountains of Idaho, we understand.
Now, the celebration returns to put a bow on your summer—or kick-start your fall—or open your pre-season training regimen for winter’s après-ski activities—with a full schedule starting at 4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 20.
That’s when Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw will take a mallet and spigot to the ceremonial firkin, a naturally pressurized little keg that, actually, takes some skill to get flowing without too much spray.
“Just hit it hard, and hit it until it stops,” Holle said.
Good luck, Neil.
From there, it’s wall-to-wall. The beer—or nonalcoholic equivalent—starts flowing. Knockwurst and schnitzel start to sizzle in the Sawtooth Brewery’s food truck. And the beer garden’s open until 10 p.m., closing for a few hours overnight, and picking back up on Saturday from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Spike Coggins is set to play at 5 p.m. on Friday, followed by a full Saturday roster: the Mark Mueller Band at 1 p.m., Shop Dog at 3 p.m. and Pony Up! at 5:30 p.m.
Games run all the while. Some you know: Giant Jenga, beer pong, cornhole. But there’s also a few that need translation. Like Hammerschlagen, in which competitors drive nails into a hunk of wood with the narrow end of a forging hammer. And hourly Masskrugstemmen contests. (How long can you hold a liter full of liquid shoulder height? Hopefully longer than your buddies. Find out.) Chicken bingo isn’t a German phrase, but it usually has a profane English word wedged in the middle. Suffice to say, it’s a fowl form of the typical game. Look it up.
They all lead up to the Beer Olympics, where the best of the best compete in a half-dozen contests for “Das Boot”—a 2-liter glass boot—and all the glory that comes with it. Registration is limited to 10 teams, at $40 apiece. The games begin at 3 p.m. Saturday.
For kids, there’s free face painting and the ever-popular photo booth.
But beer is the star of the show.
Before refrigeration, the original Oktoberfest beers were the last brewed in the spring. That’s why their style is called Märzen—März means March in German. Summers were too hot, so they’d pack up the batch and leave them in caves to lager out of the heat. In the fall, they’d crack them open and sample the rich, copper beer inside.
Holle’s take is true to that tradition, minus the caves. But he’s also cooking up a full range of options. On the lighter end, there’s a crisp pilsner and a German helles lager. (Helles literally means “bright.) On the other end, try the doppelbock, a dark 8 percenter that Holle’s still working on. He plans to pack it into kegs just two days before the event.
Or, try them all. Sawtooth Brewery is adding a second bar on Saturday to cut the lines. Either way, there’s plenty to go around. Attendees guzzled 300 gallons last year—and this time, Holle’s holding out for more.
“This time, I think we’ll go over 500,” he said.