For some, the kickoff of football season or a crisp chill in the air signify the beginning of fall.
But if you’re a beer drinker, you know when you start to see Oktoberfest cans hit the shelves that it’s time to transition your palate from summer sours and pale ales to wintery stouts and porters. And the best way to begin the transition is to partake in the tradition known as Oktoberfest.
River Rat Brewery is rolling out the international red carpet for its annual Oktoberfest beer festival, this year set for Saturday, Sept. 9. Expect beer stations on the lawn, where you can try Oktoberfest brews from the Hofbräuhaus brewery in Munich, Victory Brewing Company in Pennsylvania, Brooklyn Brewery in New York, and Abita Brewing Company in Louisiana.
River Rat will offer various stations, including one with individual cans of its Oktoberfest, a Märzen lager, along with all its other beers sold by can. At another station, try River Rat’s German-influenced beers – your helles bock, lemon wheat hefeweizen, cucumber kolsch and gose (pronounced “goes-uh”).
Need even more options? A kegerator will be stocked with River Rat’s popular 803 IPA and Broad River Red Ale, and all will be available inside.
“I always wear my dirndl, the traditional German dress,” said River Rat’s taproom manager, Lauren Sandberg. “I get to wear it but once a year, and I’ve been wearing it once a year for five years. So any excuse I have to break it out, I’m wearing it. We encourage people to be festive. Braid your hair and come out.”
“We brewed an Oktoberfest the first year we opened, and it was perfect,” added brewmaster Drew Walker. “We were new in town; nobody was brewing lagers, so we brewed a full-flavored, Oktoberfest-style lager, and I think people realized you could drink a lager. There’s a lot of misnomers about lagers. Some people are kind of scared of them, but we help show them that lagers are great. It drinks smoothly and has less body. It’s not this big monster of a beer. It’s just a nice, easy-drinking festbier. And it goes back hundreds of years.
“(Oktoberfest says) we made it through summer,” Walker said. “And if you make it through a Columbia summer, you deserve a cold beer.”
If you go
River Rat’s Oktoberfest
WHEN: 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9
WHERE: 1231 Shop Road
COST: $20 for a commemorative stein (1 ounce) with a free first fill; $15 for stein without fill. While supplies last. $30 for an Oktoberfest taster glass. Drink for free from the taster throughout the event. Food station outside will have German-influenced food including bratwurst and schnitzel on a stick. Get your polka on with German music.