BY BREWMASTER ED HEETHUIS
Bierleiche (Beer-lie-sha) Noun (German) For one, I respect just how simplistic the German language can be. Everyday items such as beer, appliances, and even automobiles are given names which are quite literal. A television is Fernsehen (far-seeing), The Volkswagen (pronounced folks-vagon) is ‘the car of the people’, and Bierleiche, quite literally are ‘Beer Corpses’.
Bierlichen are a common sight at Oktoberfest where the beer flows like water, the music and dancing are endless, and common folk from all over the globe descend to share the sheer joy of life and camaraderie. Unlike stoic Americans, the term carries no judgement. Nobody pulls out a Sharpie to color the faces of those who literally pass out at the huge communal tables. Police do not collect the bodies scattered along the roadsides while in deep, dreamless slumber. The Bierleiche are simply allowed to sleep it off wherever they may drop until the recover, often sheepishly, from their prone positions.
Oktoberfest in Germany is a happy time and a celebration of life and the recent harvest; and while Munich is sitting out Oktoberfest for the second consecutive year, several Southern California destinations are unpacking their drindl’s and lederhosen this year in celebration. While the genuine festival runs from Mid-September to the first weekend in October in the homeland, Americans take the Octoberfest name seriously and local events generally run through the entire month of October.
Here is a look at where you can attend a celebration near you:
Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest
Where: Big Bear Convention Center, 42900 Big Bear Boulevard, Big Bear Lake
When: September 11 – November 7, 2021
Details: Oktoberfest has been a tradition in Big Bear for over 50 years. Festivities are held every Saturday and Sunday with several beer gardens and two indoor bars.
Expect a mix of German and American traditions in terms of food and entertainment. Burgers Wings and Mexican food are served side-by-side with Bratwurst, Bavarian Dumplings, Apple Strudel and enough Sauerkraut to float the Bismarck. Outside venues will feature cover bands while indoor locations employ the services of German oompah bands.
Tickets: General Admission runs $22 for adults and pre-purchasing tickets is encouraged as the festival is running at less than capacity due to the pandemic. November 6-7 is Heroes Weekend with free General Admission to US Military, Veterans, Law Enforcement, and Firefighters. You may make your free reservation by calling 909-585-3000. The immediate families of heroes’ can join the revelry at a discounted rate of $10 per guest, but the festival committee urges all to reserve their tickets in advance.
Lake Arrowhead Oktoberfest
When: September 18 – October 30, 2021
Where: Lake Arrowhead Village, State Highway 189, Lake Arrowhead
Details: The Lake Arrowhead Village sports an Alpine theme, so the festival, held every Saturday and Sunday is a natural fit. Note that this is a cash only event and ATM machines are on site and available near drink ticket windows.
German Bier, Food, Musik & Fun is the theme, so expect plenty of each. The festival celebrates its 40th Anniversary this year with German bands, dancing, and children’s games. Food is ala carte with various vendors offering traditional German staples such as Bratwurst, Knockwurst, Sauerkraut, Pretzels, and German Coleslaw. Prices will vary among the different purveyors.
Tickets: Admission to the event is free, but if you wish to consume beer or wine you must buy the event “Starter Package”. This includes a commemorative Oktoberfest mug as well as your first beer or wine ticket. Beer is served in 16oz. increments (the size of the mug) and wine consists of a 6oz. pour. Once you purchase your mug, it may be used for the duration of the 2021 celebration and you only pay for drink tickets ($8). Please note: Mugs from prior Oktoberfest events are not eligible and besides, your personal collection would be incomplete without this year’s edition.
Phoenix Club / Anaheim
When: October 1 – 24, 2021
Where: 1340 S. Sanderson Avenue, Anaheim (Behind the Honda Center)
Hours: Friday 6pm – Midnight (21+); Saturday 5pm – Midnight (21+); Family Sunday Noon – 5pm
Details: Founded in 1961 by German expatriates as a center of German Culture. This is my favorite Oktoberfest in Southern California and I am saddened to report that this will be the last festival at the current location. Reports are that the Club will relocate in time to host the 2022 event in a new city.
This year’s celebration will be held in their huge Oktoberfest tent and in the Beer Garden. Entertainment includes performances by Die Gemutlichen Schuhplattler, the Express Band, and DJ Musikmeister.
Tickets: General Admission is $15 and $25 for GA plus a $12 food voucher. Family Day includes $5 tickets for ages 13 – 16 and all children under 13 are free. Be warned; All tickets are available online only in order to control attendance due to the pandemic. Surf to: thephoenixclub.ticketspice.com/Oktoberfest-2021 for additional information and to purchase your admission duckets.
On a personal note, I made mention that this is my personal favorite of all the SoCal Oktoberfest’s. In my mind it is the most authentic to its German roots in terms of the overall experience. The massive festival tent is an awesome experience with thousands (ok, maybe only hundreds this year) of folks donning German drindl’s and lederhosen. The beer is shipped from Germany and beery aficionados will recognize Spaten, Hacker-Pschorr (yes, to be authentic you will want to pronounce that ‘P’), Augustiner, and Paulaner. The food at Phoenix Club has always reflected the best of Bavarian edibles.
Go forth, gentle readers, and raise a Litre and grab a Strudel in honor of the season. Eat, drink, and please be responsibly merry! Oh, and feel free to leave your Bierleiche at home or in the car.
(When Ed Heethuis isn’t brewing at Spotlight 29 Casino for 29 Brews, you will find the Certified Cicerone / Brewmaster out on his road bike, rebuilding the transmission on his Bug, or talking beer with the patrons at Taproom 29. He may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or wherever beer may be found in the wild.)