Reconstructing Oktoberfest


Oktoberfest in New Glarus. It’s an annual tradition, an invasion of a charming Wisconsin community by a small army of enthusiastic drunks. I’ve been fortunate enough to be a regular participant, and as always, it’s something of a challenge to recall exactly what happened. The first few hours are clear, sure, but then “scene missing” cards begin to make their way into the filmstrip. But for the sake of history, I’ll do my best to reconstruct the scene with fragmentary memories.

– Upon boarding the bus, I immediately crack into a New Glarus Scream IIPA. “You know that’s 9%, right?” someone asks me. No, I did not. It’s 10:30 am. Good start.

– At the immense New Glarus Brewery. There’s an insane rinsing station made out of copper brewing equipment. With buttons and spigots labeled in German, it looks to be the master control panel from a brewing system. “Please tell me that from, like, a U-boat or something,” someone says in an awed tone.


– Three samples of beer: Moon Man, Two Women, Staghorn. My offer to lead tours of the brewery is politely declined.

– Beautiful downtown New Glarus… massive tent with a band playing mediocre classic rock covers rather than the expected polka. My first beer is another Staghorn.

– Wander over to Puempel’s. It’s a classic place. What’s on tap? More of the same. The brewery has a stranglehold on this town. So be it. More Staghorn.

– Someone orders cheese curds. We’re expecting the usual deep-fried offering accompanied by ranch, but no — these are hunk of fresh cheese, served warm and garnished with what one of my companions deems as “Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, definitely.” Sound disgusting? Wrong! They’re shockingly delicious. “Just keep ordering them,” instructs our fearless leader.

– I am issued a t-shirt with lederhosen printed on it. I put it on and say farewell to dignity.

– There’s polka, of course, and a group with an average age of 108 merrily dancing about. “Do you know how to polka?” I’m asked. “No,” I reply, and proceed to prove it by endangering any number of toes.

– Holy damn, the Packers are beating the Bears. In my excitement, I spill a beer. Damn.

– I wander away and force a couple I know to form a human shield so that I can remove my lederhosen shirt without disturbing passersby.

– Pinball through the crowd in the tent… eat something? Nah, who needs food. Gimme another beer. What kind? Who cares.

– Make my way to a sports bar. Oh look, the Packers managed to win! Huzzah. Let’s celebrate with appropriately Teutonic cuisine: quesadillas.

– Another bar… shots? Why not? [gulp] Oh, that’s why not.

– Approaching a handful of friends, I suddenly sneeze and burp at the same time. There is a profoundly unpleasant result. Give me all the napkins you have, nearby pretzel vendor. And someone get me a beer to wash this taste out of my nose/mouth.

– There’s one hour left and I have two beer tickets left. I refuse to leave them unused.

– Bus ride back. I have little to no memory of it. There are people passed out in the back and I’m admiring a pumpkin. Or maybe it’s a gourd. Who can say? Thank Christ this only happens once a year.