King's Oktoberfest is right around the corner. So put on your lederhosen and head down to King's Biergarten & Restaurant for the fourth annual celebration on September 26 through September 28 at the Pearland restaurant.
During the first year of King's Oktoberfest, the restaurant only had seating for 45 people and the festival was held outside on the patio. The second year, folks gathered at the patio again, and then last year, they opened up the parking lot to its guests. Now, the restaurant has expanded to seating 350 guests and co-owner Philipp Sitter says nearly 9,000 people will attend Oktoberfest this year. Sitter filled us in on some of the happenings at this year's celebration. Hint: There will be lots of German beer, sausage and sauerkraut.
The weekend kicks off on Friday at 7 p.m. with a ceremonial keg tapping with the mayors of Friendswood and Pearland.
"We base it off just like they do in Munich, Germany, where the mayor of Friendswood and Pearland - over there it is the mayor of Munich - but we are right on the border of Friendswood and Pearland, so we have the mayor of Friendswood come out, we have the mayor of Pearland come out and they tap the wooden keg," Sitter says. "It's a 100-year-old wooden keg and the beer comes out, and we drink the beer out of there. The beer is not 100 years old, of course. It's a classic wooden keg."
Guests also have the chance to win an all-inclusive trip for two to the Oktoberfest 2015 in Munich, Germany. Each day you attend the festival, you will enter a raffle ticket into the drawing for the prize, which includes the flight, hotel, Oktoberfest Tent reservations and tour guide for Oktoberfest 2015 in Munich. Every night there will be a drawing for ten finalists, but only one will win the trip, which will be announced at 7 p.m. on Sunday. You must be present to win.
Other activities include a Bavarian Strongman Competition, which will be held every hour from 8 p.m. until 10 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday to see who can hold a liter mug filled with beer the longest without bending their arm.
This year's festival will also include four or five bands, instead of the usual two, as well as a watch party for the Houston Texans football game against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at noon.
Sitter explains that he wants the King's Oktoberfest to make guests feel like they aren't in Houston anymore.
"What we try to do with Oktoberfest, we try to do as much as we can, just like our restaurant, to be authentic and as fun as possible," Sitter says. "Not to the point where no one can understand what is going on, of course, but to a point where it really feels like you are transported to Munich or Vienna. That's the whole point of our business, our restaurant, our Oktoberfest celebrations."
Aside from activities and lederhosen, King's Biergarten also has a variety of German beers and authentic German cuisine. Folks can nosh on German pretzels, homemade sauerkraut, Austrian potato salad, apple strudel, Vienna Sacher torte, as well as four different types of sausages and an eight-hour smoked pork loin. Make a sandwich out of the pork loin, or get one of the four available sausages stuffed inside a brochen. According to Sitter, it's "like a glorified kolache," where the French baguette is filled with sausage.
The VIP area will have 18 German beers on draft, and general admission will have access to approximately six German beers, including the Oktoberfest brew that Hofbrau serves in Munich. Sitter says the restaurant just got a whole container of it imported for the festival. Other German beers available include Hofbrau Dunkel, Hofbrau Hefeweizen, a limited batch of Paulaner Oktoberfest, Staropramen Lager and Stiegl Radler, which is a grapefruit infusion Austrian beer.
King's Oktoberfest will also have Jagermeister, a selection of wines and non-alcoholic beverages.
"The food and the beer is ranged anywhere from $6 to $12. $12 being a liter of beer; $6 being a half-liter of beer. And the food per item, it doesn't go above $6 to $8," Sitter says. "The reason why we don't go overboard for our prices with our festival as well is because our concept is always true that we want to be the type of environment where anyone can have fun. A lot of times when you go to the Rodeo or any type of festival, you feel like you're paying to have fun. You have to pay $20 for a turkey leg; you have to pay $15 for a beer that normally would cost $6. And what we want to do always is create an environment where customers don't feel like they have to pay to have fun."
General admission tickets, which only include access into the event (food and drink are additional purchases) are currently 50 percent off, so instead of the regular $10 fee, you can purchase your one-day pass for $5. This special will only be available until September 15. While general admission tickets likely will be sold at the doors each day, VIP tickets sell out quickly. Sitter anticipates those $20 one-day passes will be sold out in approximately ten days.
VIP tickets are all-inclusive for beer and wine, and a three-course meal including a selection of starters from smoked wings to Hungarian goulash, second course options such as a Wurst Platter of bratwurst, hot cheese, Polish and Weisswurst sausages served with sauerkraut and Austrian potato salad, and dessert options like German chocolate cake and strawberry or Nutella crepes.
Sitter says there are plans to expand the festival in the next couple of years. He wants it to be a massive Oktoberfest with the entire city of Pearland. That means a parade, fireworks, a carnival and possibly a celebrity keg tapping with someone like David Hasselhoff.
"We are looking to add some more value to the Houston community and pull off a real Oktoberfest in the future where we have the whole shebang," Sitter says. "We will eventually do it, whether it be 2015 or 2016, but the city of Pearland has been incredibly supportive, and our customers and our bands have been incredibly supportive, so we're going to continue to grow and that's what we are looking forward to."