Why Oktoberfest is celebrated in September and what to drink for the occasion

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Keystone’s Oktoberfest is the first one happening in Summit County for the 2021 season. While the name comes from the month of October, September is commonly the start of many similar festivals, including the original in Munich.
Keystone Neighbourhood Co./Courtesy photo

The first Oktoberfest of the season happening during Labor Day weekend in Summit County might seem odd, but September is actually the standard time to take part in the misnomer of a celebration. Similar to how Fat Tuesday is actually the end of the carnival season in New Orleans, Oktoberfest ends rather than starts in October.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the festival originated when Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen on Oct. 12, 1810. The initial celebration lasted five days and included horse racing at the soon-to-be-named Theresienwiese, or “Theresa’s meadow.” Locally, the festival is sometimes referred to as d’Wiesn in honor of the fairgrounds.

The celebrations were repeated to mark the couple’s anniversary, and over the years the festival grew. Carousels and other carnival trappings appeared, and beer booths transformed into large beer halls complete with interior balconies and bandstands.

Eventually, it became tradition for the mayor of Munich to tap the first keg to open the festival, and events started earlier and earlier in the fall so people could take advantage of the longer daylight in the evenings and warmer weather. The official 2019 celebration in Munich went from Sept. 21 to Oct. 6.

Another misnomer can be found in the brews at the various festivals. Though not regularly found now at the tents in Munich, which opt for paler beers, stateside celebrations highlight the amber-colored marzen, German for “March.” Why is a beer named after March served at a September event named after October, you ask? That’s when the beer was historically brewed to be ready in time for the older versions of Oktoberfest.

As of this writing, marzens are currently on tap at Dillon Dam Brewery and Angry James Brewing Co. Both are emblematic of the smooth style with Angry James’ sitting at 5.5% alcohol by volume while the Dam’s Zuma Zen is 5.7%. Breckenridge Brewery also has an Oktoberfest marzen at 6% ABV in bottles.

Other German-style beers now available in the region include Highside Brewing’s Snows Bock; Outer Range Brewing Co.’s Waves of Grain kolsch; Broken Compass Brewing’s Slope Sipper Kolsch; Breckenridge Brewery’s Autumn Ale; Pug Ryan’s Brewery’s Helles, Kearney Street Kolsch and Deadeye Dunkel; in addition to the Jake’s Pils and Alpen Weisse from Angry James, and the Landeskolch, Dam Straight Lager and hefeweizens from Dillon Dam Brewery.

Once you’re done partying at Keystone’s Oktoberfest on Saturday, Sept. 4, head to Beaver Creek for its fest that lasts through Sunday, Sept. 5. It features bratwurst-eating and stein-hoisting competitions, live music from multiple bands and the opportunity to see who can pull off lederhosen the best.

Next up, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area’s Oktoberfest is Sept. 18. It includes draft beer from Denver’s Prost Brewing Co., free chairlift rides, music and food.

Lastly, Breckenridge’s Oktoberfest, downsized into Brecktoberfest, runs from Sept. 24-26. It will be a ticketed affair at the Riverwalk Center with music from The Polkanauts and runs tandem to the second annual Oktober-Feast. Visit, and for more information or to purchase tickets and steins.

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