On the outskirts of Shippensburg in Pennsylvania is a small factory that makes plastic bibs expressly for Oktoberfest celebrants. There’s a choice of these accesorio para fiestas (as the label refers to them): a life-size top part of lederhosen or a life-size cleavage bursting from a frilly blouse and dirndl. Needless to say, the female versions were the first to run out last night at the inaugural Newlands Brewery Oktoberfest. There’s a ‘big jugs’ joke in there somewhere.
The massive tent on the Brewery Green was filled with long wooden tables surrounding a raised bandstand. I found myself a spot on one of the benches opposite the lovely Richard Hardiman from Two Oceans Vibe, and flanked by travel writer and part-time baker Tiny van Niekerk and Lucy Corne, a freelance Beer Correspondent. Yes, it seems there is such a job.
The fraulein serving our table was a model of German efficiency, immediately at my elbow asking what I’d like to drink. Shouting over the enthusiastic sounds of the oompah band, Lucy recommended that I work through the beers as you would with wine: lightest first. There were only three beers to choose from, so that wouldn’t be too hard. Except that a litre is an awful lot of liquid. In a thick glass mug so heavy it gave me a new appreciation for the restrained beauty of the pint.
But the beer itself was, in all honesty, absolutely delicious. Specially crafted for the occasion by the South African Breweries, the lightest, Krystal Weiss, was clean and refreshing, while the Royal Bavaria was a good steady medium malty brew. The darkest, a Munich Dunkel, was a smooth, rich blend – almost a meal in itself. But then there was the food… a starter platter of cold meats and pickles followed by a main course platter of two types of sausages Bockworst and Nurenberger, with roast chicken and, of course, sauerkraut. I’m more of a fish and chips girl but this all went down a treat. Apart from the delicious-looking bowl of what turned out to be pig lard.
To cheer me up from that particular mistake, Tiny regaled me with the story of the Nurenberg sausage which apparently attained its distinctive long and thin shape so that it could be squeezed through a key hole. Yes, I was sceptical too but I’ve now googled it and frighteningly, it appears to be true.
Richard, Tiny and Lucy had each individually attended the Munich Oktoberfest and so knew all the rules about when we were supposed to drink / not drink / stand up / sit down / clink glasses etc. Happily it was all very Capetonian and we did what we wanted when we wanted, but it was interesting to know that there were, in theory, some rules to the occasion. Regardless, every person there was having fun, from the older ladies in their bavarian feathered hats to the lads singing Robbie Williams songs as they queued for the ladies’ loos (confused, presumably, by their busty bibs).
For those who are thinking of attending this coming weekend, 6000 tickets have already been sold and the rest are selling fast. Dressing for the occasion is not compulsory, but ‘plaits and flats’ for girls is relatively easy, and for those boys who don’t happen to have lederhosen already, long socks, shorts, a checked shirt and braces will get you far. If not, there’s always the bibs…
The Oktober Bierfest takes place at the Newlands Brewery Village Green 30 September – 2 October.