The local variation is the annual Autumn Suds-Fest at the Berman Museum, now in its ninth year.
The original celebration has a few important rules and traditions, according to the Munich City Council:
It lasts for 16 days.
The crowds devour traditional Bavarian food — sausage, radishes, roast chicken and spicy fish on a stick.
All that food is washed down with the real reason for the festival — the special Oktoberfest beer brewed only by Munich’s six major breweries.
The idea is to have a good time, the Bavarian way. Fortunately, Annistonians are under no such strictures. The party at the museum starts at 6 p.m. — and since it’s only a few hours long (not 16 days) attendees should have plenty of energy left over for Alabama’s own annual autumn party, college football season.
Plus, tradition doesn’t restrict the selection of food or — especially — beer. According to Gina Morey, program director for Anniston’s museums, a big part of the event in recent years has been the opportunity for attendees to try new things, “It’s kind of exciting the way the beer industry is going in Alabama now with the laws that have opened up,” Morey said. That includes brewers firing up kettles all over the state, Anniston’s Cheaha Brewing Company among them, and the many new brands and styles being trucked in from all over the country.
In Anniston’s version of Oktoberfest, all the beer is a means to another end: raising money for the Berman Museum and the Anniston Museum of Natural History. Last year’s Suds-Fest raised $12,000, according to David Ford, business development coordinator of the Berman. Tickets must be purchased in advance. As of Tuesday, some were still available, but were expected to go fast. Tickets are $35 each, $30 for museum members, $28 each for groups of 10 or more and $20 for designated drivers. To order, visit the museum or call 256-237-6261.
Along with the area’s beer distributors, local restaurants have been big supporters of the event, Morey said.
“Our restaurant support has been just phenomenal,” she said. “They jump on board early, and we always have plenty of food.”
This year, restaurants chipping in specialties from their menus include Classic on Noble, Covalli’s Italian Kitchen, Effina’s Tuscan Grill, Garfrerick’s Cafe, Heroes Grille, Mellow Mushroom, the Peerless Saloon and Grille, Prime Dining and Bar, Smoke-N-Hot BBQ and Struts.
The suds, meanwhile, are being provided by the distributors Alabama Crown, Bama Budweiser of Anniston and Supreme Beverage, plus area brewers Cheaha Brewing and Gadsden’s Back Forty Beer. There’s likely to be a dozen or more different brands to try in a variety of styles — far more than can be covered here.
For those planning to attend, here are a few to try:
Peanut Butter Porter, Beer Engineers, Birmingham
This one’s new to the Anniston area and, yes, the brewers used peanut flour in the recipe, and the results are delightful. It’s often described as a “Reese’s cup in a glass.” Rich and sweet, the peanut butter flavor is there but isn’t overpowering. Maybe it’s the 12 percent alcohol content that keeps it from sticking to the roof of your mouth.
Save this one for dessert, although if you wait too long, the supply might be gone.
Wee Heavy Scotch Ale, Cheaha Brewing, Anniston
Anniston’s own beer makers have brewed up this version of a traditional Scottish-style ale, which is fuller-bodied (meaning made with more grain — think “thicker”) than a standard pale ale, and normally has a slightly higher alcohol content, too. Hence the name, Scots for “a little heavy.”
Try it with some hickory-smoked barbecue or a buttery cheese like smoked gouda.
Organic Kolsch, Cheaha Brewing, Anniston
Oktoberfest is a Munich thing, but there’s no harm in raising a glass of this style native to the German city of Cologne. It’s a light-bodied and lightly hopped ale that’s normally crisp, slightly bitter and relatively low in alcohol content.
This should be great for washing down any authentic German bratwurst.
Bière de Garde, Back Forty Beer, Gadsden
This seasonal release from Back Forty is in a style native to northern France, where farmers sometimes brewed beer with a higher alcohol content so it would keep longer. Back Forty’s version, according to the brewery, is at the upper end of the alcohol content range for the style — about 8 percent. (As the brewery’s marketing director put it, the alcohol is “very bioavailable.)
The style is normally medium-bodied, has moderate hop bitterness, and is a little earthy. Try with fish or shellfish.
Oktoberfest, Goose Island Beer, Chicago
This American-brewed version of the seasonal Oktoberfest style is as traditional a choice as you’re likely to find. It’s a medium-bodied amber lager with a moderately high alcohol content, this version at 6.5 percent by volume.
It may not be from Munich, but at least Chicago is known for a historically strong German immigrant community. Since you’re going traditional, try it with lots of sausage, and — if you can find it — spicy fish on a stick.