Updated: Mar 7, 2019
The von Trapp Family Lodge's 9th Annual Oktoberfest is the event of the year for this Austrian family. Why do they (and we) celebrate Oktoberfest? Here's a little history lesson...Oktoberfest traditionally starts on the third weekend of September and ends on the first Sunday of October. The very first Oktoberfest was actually a celebration of the royal marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen (that's a mouthful) on October 12, 1810. They invited all the citizens of Munich to join in the festivities which were held over a five day period in the fields in front of the city gates. They loved it so much, that they decided to have the festival again the following year, and two hundred years later they're still going strong. So this is a very celebratory and positive holiday, one that I think deserves to be highlighted in red on calendars like St. Patrick's Day and Arbor Day (unfortunately I don't make the rules of the calendar...).
Me and Chris have been waiting for this event since the beginning of the summer. I've been wanting to go to the von Trapp Oktoberfest at their Bierhall ever since it opened. I love their beer, I love their food, and honestly, if I'm going to any 'Oktoberfest' it should be at the one place I basically grew up in. Chris had to calm me down a bit as we were driving up the mountain—I was getting so excited! But this was the event of events, and I think even Chris got caught up in the excitement as well! We really lucked out with
the weather, a bright, sunny (yet chilly) day, with big puffy clouds hanging in the sky on this beautiful Autumn day in Vermont. I had my camera in hand, ready to take pictures on this gorgeous day at the place that, to me, feels like my second home—no pressure or anything...
We arrived at noon, about a half hour after it started and already it was PACKED! When we walked up to the grand Bierhall, we could hear the sounds of some traditional Austrian music dancing in the air, courtesy of the Inseldudler German Band. The band was out back, inside a big white tent on the lawn (in case it rained) with a dozen or so picnic tables so you can stuff your faces with sausage, sauerkraut, and drink beer to the tune of traditional Oktoberfest drinking songs. All around the tent, people were fully enjoying the day, playing some lawn games (corn hole and disc golf), drinking beer, or waiting in line to get a nice cold mug of Oktoberfest. We were standing around a bit, just soaking in the warm sun and merry mood the von Trapp family made for us. The energy of everyone, laughing, cheering, dancing, it was all so intoxicating—finally, I turned to Chris, "hey... I need some beer."
Like I said it was noon when we showed up, and already there was a long line for food and drinks. Inside the Bierhall, they had regular table service and their full menu, but it was too nice of a day to sit inside, plus I wanted that souvenir beer mug! (400 mugs ran out in about an hour) Chris stood in line while I started my rounds, capturing photographs of the patrons, the Bierhall, the chefs, the bartenders, and of course, the von Trapps themselves. Outside they had distilled the menu down to just five Oktoberfest essentials: pretzels with cheese sauce and mustard, pulled pork sandwiches, sausage sandwiches, and two beers, their Helles Lager and (unsurprisingly) Oktoberfest. Chris asked me what I wanted, I simply replied "all of it" (such a silly question really).
The pulled pork sandwich was way more delicious than I would've expected. I've had my fair share of pulled pork sandwiches, and usually, they're drenched in a thick heavy sauce (which I love, don't get me wrong), but this pulled pork sandwich was very light on the sauce, allowing the pork itself to shine through. The pork was a lot sweeter than I would've imagined...but not too sweet. Almost as if they put some fresh maple syrup or honey in the sauce just to keep you on your toes. It was served on a toasted bun with thinly sliced pickles and fresh coleslaw. The coleslaw tasted like a German-style coleslaw, made with mustard and vinegar instead of the heavy mayo-based coleslaw that was all the rage in my childhood. The sausage sandwich was simply amazing, as expected. Von Trapp's signature bratwurst, grilled to perfection, served in a toasted bun, stuffed with their house-made sauerkraut, with two types of mustard to choose from (whole grain and what Chris named 'super mustard', it started off sweet then hits you with a strong mustard punch right to the nose.) As a side, the sandwich came with a helping of traditional German potato salad (again, omitting the heavy mayo for creamy mustard and vinegar, fresh and zesty). Last, but most certainly not least, the pretzel. And by a pretzel, I mean pretzels! You got two large soft pretzels per order, served with those same two mustards, and a warm ooey-gooey beer cheese sauce that I wanted to drink right out of the cup—no pretzel needed. It had a slightly spicy kick (maybe that intense mustard?) that just kept me wanting more. I was even thinking about ordering just the cheese sauce—but I had a feeling I would get some weird looks, so I refrained.
During the middle of this Oktoberfest, the ceremonial 'tapping of the keg' took place. On the first day of the official Oktoberfest,
the Mayor of Munich traditionally taps the first keg of beer, marking the opening of the festival and the start of the drinking. In the leisurely Austrian way, Sam von Trapp tapped the 5th keg of the day in the late afternoon (but a sight to behold nonetheless). I've never have seen someone 'tapping a keg' the traditional way, by hammering a spout through the keg, but I have tapped numerous kegs myself in a modern way. Whether you're tapping a keg old school or new school, either way, you gotta watch out if you don't want to get beer on your lederhosen (if any of you have been a bartender before... you know what I'm talking about). All our eyes were on Sam von Trapp, spout in one hand and a hand-carved mallet in the other (the hammer was made from trees on their property). With Johannes and Wolfie (Sam's father and son) together, Sam graciously thanked his brewing team for their hard work and dedication to make his father's dream a reality. Right before he raised the mallet into the air he asked for a German countdown. Eins! Swei! DREI!! With a swift swing of the mallet, the beer was pouring, and the mugs were swarming. I know some of us would've stuck our heads underneath it just so no beer would be wasted (not that I was thinking of doing that or anything....)
The beer itself, von Trapp's Oktoberfest, is probably one of my favorite Oktoberfest beers out there. "Oktoberfest is brewed with a blend of light and dark Munich Malts, which not only adds to its depth but delivers a residual sweetness. Carmel and toffee notes linger but are balanced by the subtle hops additions in this beer. We use Hallertau and Tettnang hops which adds a floral yet peppery aroma to this beer. It's our take on this traditional fest beer." As soon as the keg came, it went. Everyone there flocked to the ceremonial keg, sticking there mugs and cups underneath, one by one in, actually, a very orderly fashion. Full mugs in hand, everyone was taking in this beautiful day any way they could; playing lawn games with friends and family, sitting on the lawn or the fence lost in conversation, or just relaxing with the music in this mountain air. We had pleasant conversations with patrons, fellow servers, brewers, musicians, and
even Johannes and Sam themselves. I was so happy I truly didn't want to leave. Unfortunately, we had a long ride ahead of us back to Massachusetts for work the next day—sadness.
If anybody wants to experience an Oktoberfest that's as true as you can get in the states... this is the place to be. I'm already looking forward to next year, telling everyone I know about the von Trapp Family Lodge's Oktoberfest so they can join me next year. The von Trapp Family Lodge and Brewery truly know how to bring in a crowd and keep a party going (I'm pretty sure, beer and sausages are key). The staff (chefs, bartenders, brewers, musicians, and any other helping hands) really worked diligently and tirelessly to make this event as special as it was. In case you missed it this year, be sure to check it out next year (September 21st, 2019), I know I will! I got plenty of room on my mantle to collect all of the mugs in the upcoming years. With delicious beer, welcoming hosts, mouth-watering food, and Mount Mansfield poking out from the background, what's not to like??
More Pictures of von Trapp Oktoberfest down below!
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