Oktoberfest in Germany this year wraps up on Tuesday, but the rage officially hit the East Coast Miami style, shattering the autumn apathy with two simultaneous festivals occurring in Brickell this past weekend.
The Brickell Sam Adams Octoberfest, originally slated for Friday and Saturday only, was extended an extra day to Sunday due to the unexpected popularity of the festival, with over 7,000 tickets sold.
Meanwhile more than 4,400 guests attended the Brickell Bier Garden at Miami Circle, more than three times what was expected. Here the crowd was more traditional with frequent sightings of men in lederhosen and a German polka band. The blue and white lights seen throughout the camp were chosen to represent the colors of the Bavarian flag.
Though the Brickell Sam Adams Octoberfest turned out to be more popular according to number of tickets sold, the Bier Garden was considered more of an upscale event, featuring Michelin-rated chef Wolfgang Ban and his Pop-Up Bier Garden restaurant.
Although there was no pop-up restaurant at the Sam Adams event, the atmosphere was more dynamic:a younger crowd, loud music and free Sam Adams beer samplings until it ran out.
The VIP tent at either event seemed like the place to be, especially at the Sam Adams event on Saturday night and Sunday as brief rain showers rolled in. In this case the $55 VIP ticket paid off when some guests were sitting pretty inside a nice air-conditioned tent with free Sam Adams beer samples inside, reduced line waits, plus a chance to try Sam Adams' extremely rare Utopias beer--the world's strongest commercial beer rated at 27% ABV.
Legal restrictions prevent it from being sold in several states: Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.
Utopias is an uncarbonated beer made with caramel, Moravian, Bavarian and Vienna smoked malts and four varieties of noble hops: Hallertauer Mittelfrüh, Tettnanger, Spalter and Saaz, then matured in scotch, cognac and port barrels for almost a year. The 2009 batch was a blend of batches aged in Portugal and the Buffalo Trace distillery.
It tastes like a malty cognac with a kick of alcohol and is meant to be sipped, not chugged. Tastings went for $10 for a one-ounce shot. A whole bottle sells for $150 retail, but as much as $500 from the internet. To hell with your obsession with Blue Label, Miami, Utopias could not be found anywhere in the city except at Brickell Sam Adams Octoberfest.
Meanwhile at the Brickell Bier Garden, the VIP tickets went for $103, with some people only paying $50 for internet deals. There was no air conditioning here, only an occasional breeze rolling off the river that provided some relief from the swampy heat.
Other than the breeze and the fantastic view, guests had access to an open bar of unlimited Radeberger beer and each side of the tent was flanked by sterno tables with traditional German Oktoberfest grub: several kinds of wurst, schnitzel, kraut, beet salad, potato salad, kaiser buns, pretzels, curry sauce, fancy mustard and apple strudel. On Sunday, unlimited Jägermeister and Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur were added to the bar to aid the digestion of all the German food.
Brickell gets a little rowdy on Saturday nights, especially when beer is involved. The VIP tent at the Sam Adams Octoberfest turned into a veritable dance party that lasted well into the a.m. hours of Sunday morning.
As the heavy showers forced an early shut-down of the Bier Garden, unidentified assailants pelted the facade of the Viceroy Hotel with fist-size rocks, making a series of rapid thuds that sounded like gunshots, striking at least one person in the face and shattering glass. The festival-goers scattered from under the valet section and out into the pouring rain looking for cover. Once they realized no gun shots were fired, everything returned to normal.
The Brickell Sam Adams Octoberfest is actually just a continuation of a series of festivals called Brickell Fest, which is marketed by Vitamin C Communications in Miami. Brickell Fest includes celebrations for St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo and any excuse to throw a party in Brickell.
While both festivals had their perks, some attendees felt they may have been slighted by the bad Groupon VIP deal they received for the Sam Adams event, which promised to include a free shot of Utopias and a free Sam Adams Octoberfest mug.
"You could have bought a 12 or 24 pack of Sam Adams and still get drunk off a better variety of beer at home with my friends for less money," said Andres Lennox, 25, from North Miami Beach.
At the Bier Garden, some guests complained that the beer ran out too fast, but then again this incident occurred around midnight. It turns out that they didn't run out of beer, they were just changing kegs.
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Complaints will always invariably occur for events like these where it is hard to predict demand and adjust for proper supply. The early bird gets the worm.
While each festival had their perks as well as differences, the fact is that more than 10,000 people showed up to reign in the fall harvest with mass quantities of beer and Oktoberfest chow.
Octoberfest 2012 in Germany may be over, but in Miami it is just beginning. For the rest of the month, keep on the lookout for celebrations in Coconut Grove and West Kendall.