Unlike a classic game day cookout, bringing Oktoberfest to your backyard might seem like a bit of a challenge. From brats and brews to polkas and lederhosen, honoring the culture of Germany is what makes the whole experience as fun and authentic as possible. With a little bit of creativity, however, you can pull off a Bavarian bash without worry, making for a great evening with friends and family.
A selection of German beers is the centerpiece of your Oktoberfest celebration. A variety of bottled imports from your local specialty store will allow your guests to sample the widest array of German Biergarten brewing styles and will bring the essence of the celebration to life.
- Berliner Weisse is a wheat beer with a low alcohol content, sour flavor, and a light, frothy body and is best served with pretzels or the richness of German double chocolate. It is a traditional export of Berlin.
- Dortmunder Export is a style of lager that is smooth and malty with a sweet, hop flavor. Their ABV typically ranges from 5 to 6 percent, making them both crisp and refreshing. Serve Dortmunder with pork or spicier fare on your Oktoberfest menu.
- Bock beer is a bottom fermenting lager that comes in a wide variety, ranging from golden amber to dark brown. They are typically creamy, smooth, and malty, with hints of toasted caramel.
- Rauchbier is a variety of beer made with a smokey malt, with deeply traditional German flavor. The Rauchbier style pairs especially well with smoked red meat, charred poultry, sausages, stews, and rich cheese varieties.
- Helles is an Oktoberfest lager that is clean, fresh, and dry with a light bitterness and subtle malt sweetness, making it ideal for easy drinking. Helles is ideal for pairing with the lighter fair in your feast.
Line the area surrounding your bar with recycling containers and cover the serving area of your deck with a clear vinyl tarp to make cleanup a breeze. If you’re concerned about celebratory spillage, consider covering some of your furniture with waterproof patio furniture covers as a spill-proof protective measures.
The Best of the Wurst
Curating the menu for your Oktoberfest feast should include the works: large soft pretzels, sauerkraut, potato salad (German style, of course), horseradish, hard rolls, red cabbage slaw and a variety of mustards to accompany the staples from the wurst family of sausages. Wursts are a variety of traditional German sausages often served with a selection of mustards.
- Bratwurst is characterized by sage, marjoram, ground caraway seeds, ginger or garlic flavor (depending on the butcher), grilled to perfection on your barbecue. Serve bratwurst on hard rolls with a mustards.
- Knockwurst is the crunchy cousin of bratwurst, possessing a similar porky flavor characterized by its thicker casing. Serve your knockwurst alone or on a bed sauerkraut.
- Liverwurst is a creamy sausage made from pork and beef with peppery secondary flavors. Slice your liverwurst and spread across a hard, toasted roll before serving with a potato salad.
- Bockwurst is light, white colored sausage of finely ground veal and pork (more of the former than the latter), lean in taste and hearty in flavor. Serve with assorted mustards.
- Weisswurst is made from a rich combination of pork and veal, mixed together and cooked in a thicker casing. To serve, remove the casing and enjoy with a side of red cabbage slaw.
- Frankfurters are most similar to a hotdog. Grill them until nicely charred and serve with your variety of mustards.
You can Americanize your approach to German cuisine, serving your wursts as small portioned, appetizer style dishes, thus allowing your guests to sample the items without being overwhelmed.
Oktoberfest is well-known for its many festival games and activities for both the young and the young at heart. While some pastimes such as beer keg bowling may be out of backyard bounds, there are many games that can easily be adapted for your Biergarten:
- Stein races: All you need for this Bavarian relay race are a few steins, a lot of beer, and a good attitude. Pairs of contestants must run a short relay while holding a stein filled to the brim with beer without spilling a drop. The winning team is whoever has the least spillage. Wait to pull off your patio furniture covers until after the racing has come to an end – spills will
- Brat eating contests: This competition is only for those with a huge appetite! Have a huge serving of brats set aside for an old-fashioned eating contest, where the last man eating wins. A clear vinyl tarp should be placed underneath contestants to catch any brat remnants.
- Chicken dance contest: Believe it or not, this hugely popular novelty tune has its roots as a German drinking song heard at many an Oktoberfest celebration. Throw your own competition with a prize for whoever has the most creative and enthusiastic take on this festive dance.
Traditional costumes and music are the simplest ways for you and your guests to channel the Oktoberfest spirit. The novelty of polka and lederhosen encourages your friends and family to immerse themselves in German culture. Rent lederhosen or dirndls from a costume shop or you can even dress up your everyday wear with accessories like alpine hats and floral crowns to provide a suitable alternative to the traditional garb. A local polka band, a polka playlist from the streaming platform of your choice, or a local yodeler round out the traditional Oktoberfest entertainment options.
Traditional Oktoberfest decor typically embraces a blue-white checkerboard pattern inspired by the Bavarian flag, as well as autumnal leaves and pumpkin motifs. Blue and white checked tablecloths, pennants, and balloons channel the spirit of Bavaria while pumpkins from the local patch remind us that Oktoberfest is more than just beer and brats – it’s the ultimate celebration of fall.