Although the official Oktoberfest celebration in Munich, Germany, which usually ends on the first Sunday in October, was canceled because of the pandemic, brands, venues, and event producers in the U.S. are still raising a stein—some in person and others virtually.
Launched in September, Blue Point Brewing Company's virtual Oktoberfest, called Zümfest (pronounced zoom-fest, get it?), features a smorgasbord of German-inspired content, ranging from food to art to of course polka, all arranged under digital “tents.” For example, Melanie Moss of Mini Melanie demonstrates how to make chocolate cake truffles with Blue Point Mother Pumpkin Ale; The Gay Beards show visitors how to decorate their beards; and artist Steven Harrington illustrates the creative process behind his Zümfest beer can artwork.
“When it became clear that an in-person Oktoberfest wouldn’t happen, we began researching the viability of a virtual event,” explained Shelby Poole, Blue Point's communications specialist. “The original idea was to just have one giant Zoom call to toast our collaborative beer with Spaten of Munich, aptly called Zümfest, and listen to a band. As we spent more time on Zoom ourselves and started cutting our own internal meeting times back, we realized that the event could be far more robust if we allow people to come and go as they please.”
In order to compile the site content, Blue Point's team worked with the collaborators to produce their segments, which included a combination of self-produced footage, on-location shooting, as well as recording video at the company’s Patchogue, Long Island brewpub—all “in the most socially responsible way possible.”
While hosting a typically rowdy event like Oktoberfest virtually might seem like a buzzkill, Poole said going digital actually added to the fun. “Using Zoom as a platform for our discussions opened us up to new collaborations because distance was a non-issue. A lot of relationships that had once only been social media-based banter became true connections. An unexpected but wonderful side effect.”
To celebrate this year’s Oktoberfest, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. combined a bit of the virtual with IRL by offering Yodelgrams in the Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Va., area from Sept. 21-25.
TikTok yodeling sensation Cassidy Rose visited homes armed with Devils Backbone's Oktoberfest beers (including Vienna Lager, O’Fest, and München on Hops) and steins, along with a custom yodel. In case you’re wondering, the Yodelgram was performed from a safe distance.
And on Saturday, Cannonball Productions, the team behind the Bacon and Beer Classic, hosted Oktoberfest in the Outfield at CHS Field, a baseball park in Saint Paul, Minn. The socially-distant outdoor event, which was sponsored by Hormel Black Label Bacon, featured autumnal brews and Oktoberfest-inspired dishes for purchase like soft pretzels with jalapeño bacon cheese dip and spicy bratwursts with ranch bacon sauerkraut. VIP ticket holders also received access to a biergarten with picnic table seating, as well as a five-flavor bacon flight.
Cannonball Productions, which had hosted its Seltzerland event at the same field back in September, implemented similar COVID-19 safety measures for Oktoberfest in the Outfield, including contactless temperature checks, social-distant seating, and spaced-out vendor booths placed at a 50-foot minimum. Each area also had a capped number of attendees, with its own set of restrooms, concessions, staff, and games in order to minimize contact between guests and staff.
“The venue is an industry leader and formulated a plan with the city and state to host events and games during this time,” explained Cannonball Productions CEO Kate Levenstien. Adding that, CHS Field “seemed like the perfect setting for Oktoberfest in the Outfield.”
This Friday and Saturday, The Boro in Tysons, Va., is hosting an Oktoberfest event in conjunction with URBNmarket. A pop-up biergarten will be serving seasonal beverages, while the marketplace will highlight local artists, crafts, and vendors. And a kids’ area will feature fall crafts, games, a nine-hole mini golf course, and entertainment. Organizers are following Fairfax County COVID-19 regulations including limiting capacity and enforcing social distancing, plus reservations (for a maximum of six people) are required for the biergarten with slots limited to two hours in order to reduce crowding and allow for proper sanitization in between seatings.