Each September and October, the Waldhorn Restaurant in Pineville, North Carolina, puts on an Oktoberfest celebration in its parking lot, complete with beer tents, polka bands, and plenty of German food. The celebration is held for the last two weekends of September and the first two weekends of October. Admission is $4.00 for adults and children over 12.
While you have probably heard of Oktoberfest before or seen Oktoberfest beers, you may not know that Oktoberfest actually began as a wedding celebration way back on October 12, 1810, when Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. Breweries in Munich were asked to brew a special beer, known as a Marzen, to commemorate the wedding. Fast forward a few hundred years and Oktoberfest is the largest festival in the world – over six million visitors go to Munich for the 16 day festival.
If you can’t make it to Munich, you can find a fun Oktoberfest festival at the Waldhorn. It is family friendly and does not allow pets, so be prepared for scores of children running around during your visit. The Oktoberfest is cash only, and you can buy “tickets” (actually receipts) at several stands they have set up around the tents. The tents are decked out in the recognizable blue and white diamond patterned-flags and banners. In case you’ve wondered (I did), the blue and white diamond pattern is one of the accepted flags of Bavaria, the capital of which is Munich.
They have three beers on tap: Spaten Oktoberfestbier (a traditional Marzen), Spaten Lager, and Franziskaner Hefeweizen. Pitchers of beer are $18.00 each, which is the only size we bought all night. There are plenty of other offerings, such as wine and soda, but who goes to an Oktoberfest and drinks wine or soda? I didn’t buy any food while we were there, although I probably should have gotten something to soak up some of the beer I drank, but the food looked like what you would expect to find at a German restaurant’s Oktoberfest: bratwurst, wienershnitzel, spatzle, etc.
We were there from about 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm and the crowd was an even mix between families and people there to drink pitchers of beer, although those two groups were not mutually exclusive. On another night when it wasn’t 90 degrees outside, sitting in the tents would have been a pleasant and probably more authentic experience. We opted for the picnic tables behind the tents on top of a hill that was popular with the children for rolling down. By the end of the night, I was thinking it looked like it was probably pretty fun for adults to roll down, too, but restrained myself.
I think we ended up with at least two pitchers of each beer, but the Spaten Oktoberfest was my favorite. Marzen is a beer style that is perfectly suited to its season: malty and bready, with some bitterness and a rich aftertaste. Marzen beers are named such because they were traditionally brewed in March and then lagered in cold caves over the summer. Most modern versions of Marzen come from the Spaten recipe developed in 1841. After a couple pitchers of it, however, I definitely had my fill of Spaten’s Marzen and found that the aftertaste became somewhat cloying.
Overall, if you’re looking for a fun place to sit outside and drink beer while listening to polka bands play “The Chicken Dance” a few times in a night, then check out Oktoberfest at the Waldhorn. They had plenty of staff around to help keep the tables clean and there were enough tables to buy food and beer that we never had to wait more than a couple minutes. The prices were reasonable and it’s always fun to see adults wearing leiderhosen and dirndls.