By Natalie Dunbar
With the rise in popularity of stateside microbreweries, there are many styles of quaffable brews being crafted and served at a brewery near you. But what you may not know is that there's real history in those suds -- particularly in the Bavarian brews that vie for a position of prominence at the biggest beer blowout: Oktoberfest.
Two centuries ago, Oktoberfest actually started as a wedding party held to celebrate the nuptials of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig's and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The original gathering, open to the citizens of Munich, featured a number of festivities held over a five-day period, and in time resulted in a huge annual fest a lot like our own modern-day county fairs.
Of course, all that merriment meant quelling the thirst of visitors, and what better way to do that than to set up beer concessions. Earlier versions of the drink dispensaries were mere beverage stands. But as the number of amusements -- and attendance -- grew, Munich's big beer brewers got involved, and early beer stands gave way to today's huge beer tents. The rest is beer history.
Now you can pay homage to the wedding that got this royal party started by trekking to some of the best Oktoberfests on this side of the Atlantic.
Dancing and revelry at Oktoberfest Zinzinnati.
Texas Chainsaw Pumpkin Carving at Fremont Oktoberfest.
Oktoberfest Zinzinnati - Dubbed "America's largest Oktoberfest," Cincinnati's celebration (pictured left) breaks out the brewksis, bratwurst, schnitzels, goetta and strudels for around a half-million partiers every year. Aside from brews and polka, also test your chops in the World's Largest Chicken Dance and the Pepto World Brat Eating Championship. The monstrous beer bash and downtown festivities usually take place the third weekend of September.
Snowbird's Annual Oktoberfest - For nearly four decades, the popular annual fete has drawn thousands of beer trekkers looking for a weekend getaway high in the mountains, before the green slopes return to snowy white. Enjoy music, dancing, traditional German cuisine and plenty of brews in Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort's Oktoberfest Halle on Saturdays and Sundays, from the last week in August through the second week of October.
Oktoberfest Denver - After taking brewery tours around downtown, trek to Larimer Square for Colorado's largest Oktoberfest, which takes place the last two weekends of September. Enter your Dachsund in the Long Dog Derby, take in polka on the entertainment stages, and down brats and brews served up by local restaurants. You can also race to the finish line for beer in the Das Hustlehoff 5K, which organizers describe as a "running German parade."
Tulsa Oktoberfest - For more than three decades, the heart of steer country has been hosting one of America's best Oktoberfests for families. Gather your beer-trekking buds for the famous Bier Barrel Race, take the kids to the children's tent, and enjoy the brews in the Bier Garten. The four-day fest usually takes place the third weekend of October.
Fremont Oktoberfest - Head to the Great Northwest for one of the most fun-spirited Oktoberfests. Fremont's twist on the tradition features more than 40 microbreweries, a Dogtoberfest for pooches, a Brew HA-HA 5K with a "Beer Belly Division," Texas Chainsaw Pumpkin Carving and the popular Miss Buxom Contest, where hopeful contestants must strut their stuff in their funkiest lederhosen. Head to the three-day fest during the third or fourth weekend in September.
Oktoberfest USA - Easily the granddaddy of German good times, Oktoberfest USA has pleased beer trekkers for more than half a century. Every year, the event packs in more than ten days of reveling -- and that's not including the Pre-Fest festivities. In addition to the traditional froth, fun and frolic, you can kick things off at the Festmaster's Ball, take in the Maple Leaf Parade, or enjoy traditional German fare at the Lederhosen Luncheon. The fest also features a Craft Beer Night, with offerings from breweries from the U.S., Canada and -- yes -- Germany. Catch all the brewmastery during the last week of September and first week of October.
Alpine Village Oktoberfest - The little slice of authentic Alpine heaven has been getting its Oktoberfest groove on for more than four decades, and it has bragging rights: USA Today named this beer blast in the South Bay as one of the best Oktoberfests in the world. Every Friday through Sunday for the duration of the fest, there's plenty of beer, bands and bratwurst -- the three Bs of Oktoberfest -- for all to enjoy. Alpine Village hosts its Oktoberfest every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from the second week of September to the third week in October.