Too much booze, not enough food
From its nationally sanctioned Ice Wars to the regionally acclaimed Applefest, Ithaca’s seemingly endless rotation of festivals provide a much-needed break from the monotony of the school year.
Oktoberfest, now in its third year, showcases local craft beers and wines as well as German food for college students in desperate need of an afternoon free of midterms and full of booze.
Admittedly, I was more excited about the food because I’m not a beer person, but I saw Oktoberfest as a good way to sample some of the offerings of the breweries in the area without having to commit to a whole glass.
Due to the Commons construction (which is coming along but still not even close to being done), the event was squeezed into one block of Aurora Street between Seneca and Buffalo Streets with a few stragglers in front of the Ithaca Ale House and Red’s Place. It was enough space for the vendors but definitely not for the attendees. The ticket line bled into the crosswalk, and it got to the point where I couldn’t tell if people were in line for this vendor, that vendor or just standing in the middle of the crowd.
As for the festival itself, $15 bought 10 drink tickets, a tasting cup and five food tickets, plus you could buy more in those increments. The majority of the food was potato-based, and while the food vendors weren’t as well-advertised as the beer vendors, they had the official German names of the dishes so you could ask for “kartoffelpuffer” if you really felt like getting fancy with your potato pancakes.
The vendors also had apple strudel and Bavarian chocolate pie for post-beer sweets, though the guy behind me in line for the hot chocolate had a point in saying that the “authentic” German hot chocolate would’ve been more realistic if the Swiss Miss packets weren’t in plain sight. (Eh, Swiss, Switzerland, close enough to Germany, right?)
With the exception of Six Mile Creek Winery, the rest of the drink vendors were local breweries offering between one and four varieties of beer that ranged from light ales to pitch-black porters. It was hard to tell whether there was a fan favorite judging by the lines alone because everyone was pretty busy and the lines all fused together, but a few offered their entire lineup for one ticket, which tended to back things up, but made customers pretty happy.
Unfortunately for me, this three-for-one — specifically the Wagner Valley Brewery trio of Les Raisonniers, Hop Tropic and Coffee Porter — is what did me in. It turns out that I have a really low tolerance for alcohol, so even though I only had the equivalent of one glass of beer over the course of an hour, my brain went mushy enough that I had to call it quits. I know that craft beer tends to have a much higher alcohol content than the stuff you can buy in a 24-pack for $5 — the ones I tried were between 5 percent and 8 percent alcohol by volume — but mush brain after one beer?
I was glad that I had been smart and hadn’t used all my food tickets so I could regroup with dessert, but in retrospect, using Oktoberfest as my lunch was a horrendous idea. A teeny cup of potato leek soup, some shredded turkey and the kartoffelpuffer weren’t nearly enough to help mitigate the effects of the beer samples, and I honestly could’ve used more food at the event even if I hadn’t fallen victim to my terrible metabolism.
My picks for the day? Our beloved kartoffelpuffer and the fantastically messy apple strudel topped the food category. The pancake was well-seasoned with just the right amount of sweet and tang from the applesauce and sour cream, and the strudel was warm and shattered into a million pieces when I bit into it, which is how it should be. If I had to pick a beer that I’d be willing to try again, I’d go with Hopshire’s Beehave Honey Blond Ale because it was light and sweet and didn’t kill me with hops, though Wagner Valley’s Hop Tropic had a neat fruitiness to it.
The real MVP of Oktoberfest, however, were the cider and hot chocolate vendors. Since I couldn’t use the rest of my drink tickets on food, and I sure wasn’t going to be trying any more beers, I used the last four on hot cider, cold cider, and two hot chocolates to get my head back on straight. The only thing that would have been better was maybe a big glass of water, but most people don’t go to a beer festival looking for water.
I probably would have enjoyed Oktoberfest a lot more if “mush brain” hadn’t happened, and most of the beers I tried weren’t even that bad. I guess this is what happens when a non-drinker tries craft beer for the first time at 21.
Amanda Hutchinson is a senior journalism major who has learned her limits. You can email her at [email protected].