Sunday marks the end of Oktoberfest, the 16-day Munich beer-drinking celebration that honors the 19th-century marriage of some Bavarian crown prince. The fest is a sanctioned citywide event in which the government encourages its citizens (and tourists) to consume mass quantities of excellent lagers served by large-busted women. They shut down schools, close offices and run naked through the streets.
You know, America sure could use something like that – something to loosen our tight-butted, humorless, who-stole-the-dream, millennium-fearing, downsized psyches. A festival in which, for the common good, our leaders open up the taps and tell us to drink, drink!
Unfortunately, the nearest we get to the ritualized consumption of alcohol is the NFL.
Here’s the scene: Hours before gametime, thousands of fans chug Coors and Bud, certain the Eagles will stomp the Cowboys. They roam the parking lots with suds-filled plastic cups, boiling with testosterone, setting up the enemy for the kill. This is all well and good, for it celebrates our manifest destiny and honors our expansionist heritage.
Naturally, the Eagles lose, and all these fans go home to wake up wondering why we couldn’t expand into the end zone. Yo, manifest this: We don’t have a quarterback.
Now, in Philadelphia, you’ve got to figure this is going to happen more often than not. In my lifetime, at least, the Eagles have a losing record; they’ve won just one NFL championship since the invention of television.
You have to ask yourself: Why bother with all that pre-game posturing if you know that, most of the time, you’re going to go home a loser? In fact, it occurs to me that football is a lousy reason to drink beer.
We need an event that ends happily, a celebration in which – even in the midst of a nasty, mind-sapping hangover – we can smile pleasantly and say, “Damn, that was fun.”
I’m thinking, maybe, Oct. 26, which happens to be Joe Sixpack’s wedding day. I’m not a crown prince, but hell, who is these days? America deserves an officially sanctioned beer-drinking festival. America needs Sixpackerfest!
If Sixpackerfest doesn’t catch on, allow me another suggestion: Attend a local beer festival.
You can find one within driving distance nearly every weekend.
Locally, the next big one is the Philadelphia Craft Brew Oktoberfest ’96, at the Electric Factory (421 N. 7th St.), on Oct. 13. Tickets are $22.50 at the door, but you can save yourself five bucks if you purchase them in advance at Jake & Oliver’s House of Brews (22 S. 3rd St.)
Here’s some advice if you attend this or any other beer-tasting event.
- Have a system. Get a program and decide which beers you’d like to sample first.
- Bring something to write with. Guaranteed, you’ll fall in love with at least one brew and, by the next day, forget its name. Then, for the rest of your life, you’ll wander the streets asking strangers, “Yo, what’s the name of that beer? You know, the reddish-tan one with the bubbles . . .”
- Get your money’s worth. ‘Nuff said.
- Eat food and drink water. Those small samples add up to a big wallop.
- Use public transportation or bring along a designated driver.
- Wear a beer T-shirt, the more obscure the better. They’re great conversation-starters and, guys, I’m told the ladies dig ’em.
- Carry a cigar, the more obscure the better. You don’t have to smoke it, but everyone will ask you where you got it. And, guys, I’m told the ladies dig ’em.
Speaking of beer events, the Great American Beer Festival just wrapped up in Denver with a decent showing by some local micros.
Independence Brewing Co. won a bronze medal for its golden ale and a gold for its Oktoberfest, called Franklinfest. Stoudt’s took a silver in the Bock category for its Honey Double Mai Bock (the non-pasteurized version in 25-ounce bottles, not the more familiar 12-ouncers that are contract-brewed by the Lion brewery in Wilkes-Barre).
The biggest surprise was the gold that Valley Forge Brewing Co. of Wayne took in the strong ale category for its imperial stout. Beerheads have shrugged off this shopping-center brewpub as a nonplayer in the local beer scene; we may have to reconsider with a few swallows of their black brew.
If you’re a diehard mainstreamer looking for something that won’t challenge your taste buds while you maintain that girlish figure, trawl the cheapo aisle at the distributor for this year’s gold medal American light lager. It’s Pabst Genuine Draft Light, edging out Coors Light and Bud Light for honors as the brew most likely to be confused with tap water.