Local breweries are gearing up for their annual Oktoberfest festivities with signature beers and activities for revelers. The celebration, which originated in Munich, Germany, began Sept. 16 and will continue through Oct. 3 in breweries throughout the state.
12 Percent Beer Project will be hosting its fourth Oktoberfest on Sept. 29, 30, and Oct. 1 at its brewery at 341 State St. in North Haven. Admission is $25, which includes a stein and first drink.
“We do a traditional Oktoberfest here and it’s really well-received,” owner Alex Blank said. “It started during the pandemic. Early on it became our single biggest event of the year. It’s grown and it’s a lot of fun.”
12 Percent, which opened in January 2020, is a collective of about a dozen breweries.
“A number of smaller breweries operate out of here,” Blank said. “Some of these guys make all of the beer they make out of this facility. Other guys have small breweries in other parts of the state and we help supplement their production.”
The taps at 12 Percent will feature beer being brewed at the time, as well as 12 Percent’s own Snappy Lager and an ABV Marzen-style beer.
“It’s a traditional German fest beer,” Blank said.
Manager Melissa Weigel said the Snappy Lager comes in different variations too, with a light and a lime light version.
Among the participants at 12 Percent’s Oktoberfest is the Meriden Turner Society, she added.
“They’re a German American organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of German culture and traditions,” she said. “They have a food vendor. They’re going to be offering schnitzel, bratwurst, sauerkraut and ribbon fries.”
Hop Haus, of Berlin, will be providing a food truck as well. Another activity taking place will be a beer stein holding contest.
“It’s basically last man standing,” Weigel said.
The brewery will also feature musical acts like The Beer Hall Boys and David Goclowski, craft vendors, dancing performances by the HSV Bavaria Dance Group, and a variety of food options.
“We have a couple vendors who make candles inside of beer cans,” she said. “Some who make coasters from the labels of beer cans. Tie dye macrame.”
Chris Papallo, who collaborates with 12 Percent and owns Eredita Beer, is also presenting two different Oktoberfest beers – a standard Fest Bier and a hoppier Fest Bier, dry hopped with Callista.
“This is a dry hop version,” he said of the Fest Bier with Callista. “A friend of mine who is a hop broker in Germany met me down here. I never used this hop before. We took 10 barrels of this and I dry hopped it with this hop called Calista, which is a German hop. It presents with noble hop characteristics and citrusy lemon notes. It’s really clear, really nice.
Some breweries, however, prefer to forego the revelries and focus on what makes Oktoberfest special – the beer.
Fox Farms Brewery, at 62 Music Vale Road in Salem, does exactly that.
Open since 2017, Fox Farms is run by brothers Zack and David Adams, with Zack as brewmaster and David as manager.
“We make classic European styles under which the German beers will follow,” David said. “The first beer we brewed was Gather, a German-style pilsner.”
With anywhere between 10 to 14 beers on tap at a time, Fox Farms doesn’t sell anything but beer. You won’t find televisions, games or food trucks.
“We have one foot in changing things up, but more often than not it’s trying to do justice to the tradition,” Zack said. “It’s a fun rabbit hole to go down.”
With a fondness for the history of beer, he said, they take regular trips to places like Munich and Czech Republic to see how their beers are being made.
“It informs us on how we want to make beer,” he said.
“German beer is a huge part of what we do here every day,” David said. “It’s always a big centerpiece.”
The best beer season, he said, is Oktoberfest.
“It’s a huge focal point,” he said, and marks the release of their annual Oktoberfest brew, Tines, a traditional Fest Marzen.
“For us, it’s really limited to Tines and trying to turn the dial up a little bit more than we usually do on German styles,” Zack said. “We have our Weiss beer, smoked Helles, Munich Dunkel. Largely Tines is what marks the season for us. We’ll serve it out of a traditional gravity cap called a stichfass. It will be dispensing Tines without the addition of [carbon dioxide] to push the beer. … It softens the mouth feel and provides more texture to the beer.”
Oktoberfest-style beers have evolved over the years, he noted.
Many people imagine a darker, maltier beer, he explained, but more modern interpretations have Oktoberfest beers being paler and slightly lighter.
“What we decided to do with ours is give a tip of the cap to history by bringing a bit more heft and maltiness, but still in the framework of a mostly pale lager,” he said. “It’s called a Festive Marzen for that reason.”
If people visit Fox Farm, David said, it’s for one reason – the beers on tap.
“There’s nothing else that brings people to the brewery except the beer,” he said. “That and good conversation. We have a fondness for the culture of sitting down with a beer and talking to people. It’s sitting down and chatting. That’s all the time. We never have a big something going on each weekend. Customers come and they’re enthused about the beer.”
Zack said their approach mimics how the people of Munich treat Oktoberfest.
“I think a lot of locals in Munich will tell you the party is fun and maybe get there for a day, but it’s more about getting outside the festival grounds, and the festival gardens and the beer halls,” he said. “There’s still an aura of celebration but at more of a normal pace. In a world of double IPAs and strong beers, that’s what we love about lagers. We can enjoy it among friends outdoors for prolonged periods of time.”
David said Oktoberfest is the perfect moment for lagers, which are making a comeback after years of IPAs being the trendy beer.
David said they encourage visitors to bring picnic spreads to eat on the lawn outside the brewery, or purchase food from a nearby restaurant.
“We want to support our local restaurants,” he said.
To keep their drinkers responsible, Zack said there is a three-drink limit, but beer can be purchased in cans or bottles to take home.
“We’re out in the middle of nowhere,” David said. “We want people to sit down and enjoy, but we don’t want them to overindulge.”
Fox Farms will be celebrating Oktoberfest with its featured German beer menu for five weeks, starting this weekend.
This year, the brewery will feature five German beers on tap: Gather, a German-style pilsner; Helmhold, a Munich-style dunkel; Tines; Rays, a Bavarian-style Weissbier; and The Cabin, a smoked Helles, or pale.
Fox Farms is open Thursday and Friday from noon to 7 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.