While officially just a thinly-veiled excuse to drink under a large, outdoor tent with a massive crowd that occasionally and inexplicably shouts "Hoi! Hoi! Hoi!," any good Oktoberfest usually also offers some decent food -- bratwurst, sauerkraut, soft pretzels -- along with their beer. While the Oktoberfest season is already in full swing (Minneapolis's was this past weekend, as was the Mill City Museum's) there's still plenty in the wings.
Here's our Top 5:
1) Gasthof's. An old standby, but a solid standby. Started last weekend but continuing on for the next three -- 9/25-26, 10/2-3, and 10/9-10. Lines can get kind of long, and don't forget you need tokens to get any food or drink, but strike up with one of the dozens of people within arm's reach and time'll fly.
2) Black Forest Inn. Another oldie but goodie. Lots of activities on tap, including tarot readings, an opportunity to get your photo taken with a giant pretzel, a home brewing contest, and holy shit, an entire night dedicated to David Hasselhoff. Featured foods will include kraut balls, Deutschburger balls, and a brat bar. 9/25 - 10/4 (different specials nightly).
3) St. Paul. A more family-friendly take on Oktoberfest with lots of kid-centric activities, lots of live music, dancing, and our personal fave: dachsund racing. The fest will serve the usual suspects as far as food goes, but we're really eyeing some of the desserts slated to be on tap: apple strudel, Black Forest cherry chocolate cake, and German chocolate cake. 10/10.
4) New Glarus. No offense, but some Oktoberfests just don't have good beer. New Glarus is an exception. The hometown of the well-known Wisconsin brewery has its own Oktoberfest going down this weekend, which will feature the brewery's Staghorn Oktoberfest, made with "Ggreat Midwest barleys, the world's most expensive hops, fresh yeast from Germany, and clear Wisconsin water." Also, food of note: fondue!9/25-27.
5) New Ulm. Best for last? Maybe. People haul ass literally by the busload for New Ulm's Oktoberfest, and literally spend the rest of the year talking about it. New Ulm seems to have perfected the balance between family-friendly and party hearty with people from both sides of the spectrum flocking to join in its festivities. Lots of music at this one, including a tuba ensemble. And of course, it's all to the tune of Schell's beer. 10/2-3, 10/9-10.