Munich mayor Dieter Reiter swung his mallet twice — a respectable amount, according to those who judge such things — and drove a tap into wooden barrel of Märzen, shouting "O'zapft is!" He served the first mug to the Bavarian prime minister in September, and thus kicked off the world's largest beer fest for its 183rd year.
The German city's Oktoberfest is expected to draw around six million people in 2016, many of them rocking their best dirndls and lederhosen. In 2015, guests consumed an estimated 7.9 million liters of beer, served a full liter (2.1 pints) at a time. We probably can't compete with that kind of chugging, but not for lack of trying. There are more than a dozen Oktoberfest celebrations of various flavors spread across Tampa Bay in the coming month.
That's part of why WalletHub recently ranked Tampa 7 out of 100 on its Best Cities to Celebrate Oktoberfest. The personal finance website looked factors such as the number of local Oktoberfest traditions, affordability, crime and traffic to come up with the list.
Based on WalletHub's somewhat tongue-in-cheek methodology, Tampa owes the ranking to its huge number of Oktoberfests per million residents (14th overall), their low average cost of admission (No. 2 in the nation) and its more than 6.1 breweries for every 100,000 residents (10th in the nation). The somewhat inexpensive average cost of a sausage ($4.35, good enough for 40th in the U.S.) apparently didn't hurt Tampa either. We were in the bottom half (No. 55) in the average price of a beer.
Florida, overall, had more cities in the top 10 than any other state. Hard-partying Miami (No. 8) got a big boost from the sheer number of celebrations, while Orlando (No. 5) had lots of Oktoberfests, but also got a lift from having the third-most pretzel shops in the nation per capita. St. Petersburg was 63rd overall.
Oktoberfests in Tampa Bay range in focus, from competition-fueled like Oktoberest Tampa at Curtis Hixon Park (grain sack-throwing, anyone?), to the uber authentic, such as those at German American Society in Pinellas Park or Hofbrauhaus St. Petersburg. Some are unmistakably local, like in Tarpon Springs, where they've incorporated Greek and Italian food and run wiener dog races, a decidedly American Oktoberfest tradition.
One thing you will find at every one of them: plenty of beer for sale.
Oktoberfest at Hofbrauhaus: Hofbrauhaus St. Petersburg offers an authentic German beer hall experience year round, with five Munich-style beers to choose from and a menu of everything from knödel (big, white dumplings) to schnitzel, but Oktoberfest doesn't go ignored. Their celebration includes drink specials, stein-holding contests, chicken-dance dance-offs and performances on Friday nights by Gulf Coast Enzianer Schuhplattler Verein, a troupe of folk dancers that stomp, clap and whack the soles of their shoes. They're also selling lebkuchenherzen, decorated gingerbread hearts that hang from a ribbon for easy wearing, a popular treat at Oktoberfest in Germany. Fridays through Sundays through Oct. 2. Free. 123 4th St. S., St. Petersburg. (727) 898-3333.
Celebrate Oktoberfest: The Tampa Bay area's preeminent German American organization likes to bill its yearly event as the "most authentic" of local Oktoberfests. They take pride in doing things as they're done in Munich, and maybe that's why it starts earlier (in Germany, Oktoberfest starts in September), and all the beer is imported from Germany. It also means some serious "schuhplattlers" (traditional dancing) and "hausgemacht" (homemade) traditional foods and fresh-baked soft pretzels, plus games and raffles. All ages, Fridays and Saturdays, Sept. 23 to Oct. 8, 4 p.m, German American Society, 8098 66th St. N, Pinellas Park. $8, 12 and younger free. (727) 791-7218. germantampa.com.
Pair O' Dice Oktoberfest: The brewery's third annual Oktoberfest features the release of six of the brewery's fall beers, including their Oktoberfest lager, Bone Daddy pumpkin ale, a hefeweizen, a gose and Shooter's Chocolate Pecan Pie. Brats Sensation will serve up wurts and pretzels, and games include one-liter stein hoisting and a traditional German dress contest. Commemorative beer steins are available for $25 and will get purchasers weekly specials in the tasting room for the rest of 2016. Sept. 24, 6 p.m. 4400 118th Ave. N., Clearwater. Free. (727) 755-3423.
Oktoberfest on Main: Nine blocks on Main Street are filled with arts and crafts, German food, live music by the Black Honkeys, a beer garden and a custom car show. Oct. 1, noon, Safety Harbor City Hall, 750 Main St., Safety Harbor. Free. (727) 724-1555.
Oktoberfest: German food galore with local craft beers, games and an auction. Benefits Santa's Angels to purchase Christmas presents and food baskets for needy children. Oct. 1, 6:30 p.m., Freedom Park, Second Street and 164th Avenue, Redington Beach. $30 to $35. (727) 393-0100.
Tarpon Springs Oktoberfest: Expanded to three days for the first time, the event has a German biergarten tent, German, Greek and Italian food tents, along with artisan crafts vendors, live oompah music and a free concert on Friday by The Black Honkeys. New for this year will be amusement rides and wiener dog races, along with the return of best beard, best German costume and stein-holding contests. Sunday morning will feature a Yoga & Beer session. Oct. 7 to 9, 10 a.m., downtown Tarpon Springs on Orange Street between Safford and N. Pinellas. Free. (727) 946-5610. spongedocks.net.
Oktoberfest on the Beach: Live music and dancing all day long with food, beer and wine, vendors and exhibitors with arts and crafts for sale, stein carrying, keg throwing, silent auction and activities for kids at the kinderfest. Oct. 8, 11 a.m., Kolb Park, 16th Avenue and Bay Palm Boulevard, Indian Rocks Beach. Free admission. (727) 612-1728. oktoberfestonthebeach.com.
Oktoberfest Family Fall Festival: The family-oriented carnival returns for its 45th year with a Ferris wheel and other rides, plus games, a flea market-style shopping area and a crafts boutique. Beer, German food, live polka music, sports on TV and raffles all happen in the Oktoberfest tent. Oct. 14, 5 p.m.; Oct. 15, 11 a.m.; Oct. 16, noon. Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School, 750 San Salvador Drive, Dunedin. Free admission. ollfallfestival.com.
Palm Harbor Rocktober Festival: An Oktoberfest that rocks, with live performances by the Soul Circus Cowboys, Greg Billings Band and Stormbringer. There will be contests, giveaways, craft beer and food vendors. Oct. 22, 4 p.m., downtown Palm Harbor along Florida Avenue. Free. (727) 784-4287.
Cigar City Oktoberfest: Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn will tap the first keg to kick off the three-day festival at noon on Sept. 24. Special release beers include Cigar City's own Oktoberfest, Hefeweizen, Pilsner, Ligero Black Lager, Lager, Gose and Berliner Weisse. Food trucks will be serving German food throughout the event, and the brewery will be offering limited edition steins and bubble mugs for $10. Oct. 24 to 30, Cigar City Brewing Tasting Room, 3924 W Spruce St., Tampa. Free. (813) 348-6363. cigarcitybrewing.com/events.
Oktoberfest Tampa: It's all about the competition at this downtown celebration featuring grain-sack tossing, stein-hoisting, keg-stacking, tug-o-war, the best moustache contest and other individual and team competitions. The beer servers (and everyone else) breaks into song every 20 minutes — a signal to drink beer, which comes in two sizes, big (16 ounces), and bigger (one liter). The sauerbraten, a German-style pot roast, is always a favorite. Oct. 7, 4 to 11 p.m.; Oct. 8, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Oct. 9, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, 600 N. Ashley Drive, Tampa. $8 to $20. oktoberfesttampa.com.
Oktoberfest Ybor Pub Crawl: The ticket price gets you a four-ounce sample of Oktoberfest style or premium beer at 20 of Ybor's patio bars and pubs. Establishments along the way will offer a mix of German food, music and door prizes, and the first 400 guests will get an official event t-shirt. Oct. 15, 4 to 8 p.m., day-of registration is at Crowbar, 1812 N. 17th St. $35. ybor.org.
Brandon Oktoberfest: This Oktoberfest has more than German food and music. There's carnival games, bounce houses, pony rides, rock climbing, a costume contest, a giant slide and a bake sale. Oct. 15, noon, Immanuel Lutheran Church, 2913 John Moore Road, Brandon. Free. (813) 685-1978. godsoloved.org.
Top O' the Bay Oktoberfest: Organizers bill this event as both the longest running and the largest Oktoberfest in West Central Florida, usually drawing about 10,000 people to the Oldsmar area. It features Warsteiner beer and authentic German sausage, Hofbrauhaus chicken, traditional sweets, polka music by Joe Oberaitis and dancing under a big top tent, plus a carnival midway and an arts and crafts show. Some of the competitions include log sawing, barrel rolling and stein holding. 5 p.m. Oct. 21; 11 a.m. Oct. 22; noon Oct. 23. Tampa Bay Downs, 11225 Race Track Road, Tampa. $5, 12 and younger free. (813) 855-4233. utchamber.com.
Oktoberfest: A family-friendly, traditional German celebration with horse rides, a pony derby, a cake walk, a silent auction and a free Yuengling beer tasting. 11 am. Oct. 29. Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, 304 Druid Hills Road, Temple Terrace. Free. (813) 988-4025. corlutheran.org.
Oktoberfest: The Knights of Columbus Councils of West Pasco and Big Storm Brewing Company host a three day Oktoberfest to benefit John Hopkins All Children's Hospital Guild of Pasco. Dinners for $3-$5 feature bratwursts, knockwursts, hot dogs, footlong corn dogs and German potato salad. Big Storm Brewing Company's four most popular Craft Beers will be on tap. Commemorative beer steins and shirts will be for sale. 3 p.m. to midnight Sept. 30th, noon to midnight Oct. 1 and noon to 6 p.m. Oct. 2. Father Felix Knights of Columbus, 5850 K of C Drive, Port Richey. (727) 457-1618.
Oktoberfest and Running of the Wieners: Marker 48 Brewing's first annual fest encourages you to bring your pet along, and maybe enter it in the amateur dog races to benefit the Humane Society, including one for dachshunds only. There's also a pumpkin patch and carving station, lederhosen contest, photo booth, plus food trucks, beer and wine. Noon on Oct. 15. Marker 48 Brewing, 12147 Cortez Blvd., Spring Hill. Free. $20 registration for dog races. (352) 606-2509. runningofthewieners.com.
German American Club Oktoberfest: Traditional German or Bavarian clothing is recommended for this celebration with music by Manni Daum, food and dancing. 4 p.m. Oct. 14. Hernando County Shrine Club, 13400 Montour St., Brooksville. (352) 688-3744. $22, $18 members.
Oktoberfest Social Dance: Wear your lederhosen to enjoy franks and kraut while dancing to music by Starburst. BYOB welcome. 7:30 p.m. Oct. 1. Brookridge Clubhouse, 8150 Hampton St., Brooksville. $5. (352) 597-0723.