Oktoberfest in Vancouver: What to expect from Harvest Haus

Are you ready to get messy in fine German style? Vv Magazine’s Vancouver editor Alexandra Gill rounds up the highlights of this year’s Harvest HausVancouver’s craziest Oktoberbest celebration returns tomorrow for a second weekend of beer-sloshing, thigh-slapping, dance-happy fun.

Having oom-pah-pah’d through (too) many harvest festivals, we can honestly say this is the best Oktoberfest outside Munich. Or at least that’s what our Bavarian-sized hangovers indicate.

Why? Well, here are the best bits and pieces we remember through the spiced-Jaeger brain fog.

Die Festhalle
The hall is an actual tent, or series of connected tents decked in evergreen garlands and gourds, hoisted over Queen Elizabeth Plaza. It’s conveniently located (right downtown). It doesn’t get overly crowded (1,100 guests, max, for each four-hour seating). It doesn’t get too hot (in fact, there is an outdoor smoking area and lounge bar with dart boards in the back – how European). Underneath all the straw, the dance floor is concrete (less slipping on spilled beer).

Men in White Stockings
A surprisingly large percentage of people dress up in embroidered leather shorts and sexy, cleavage-baring dirndls. Forgot your costume? You can always rent one at the onsite store. Or simply buy a cellophane-wrapped gingerbread heart and string it around your neck. (Warning: the traditional iced edible could attract ravenous lechery.)

It’s all about das bier, right? Two long rows of bar taps, on either side of the main tent, feature dozens of European and local European-inspired draught beer. Everyone must drink from rental ceramic steins, which hold a much bigger pour (500 ml) than a regular pint and aren’t even used in Germany anymore. (They went glass because too many steins were being stolen.)

Harvest Grapes
Don’t like beer, or can’t drink too much of it? Rest assured, you will not go empty-fisted. The bars offer a decent selection of German Riesling, Blanc de Blancs and Chardonnay Brut. There are also shots – Jagermeister and various schnapps. But you know what they say about German purity laws reducing the effects of a hangover? That all goes out the window when you start doing shots. Trust us.

Sauerkraut and Schnitzel
The marktplatz vendors dish out terrifically tasty nosh, from chewy pretzels to cheesy spatzle. The latter comes courtesy of Chef Stefan Hartmann at Bauhaus restaurant. There are also rotisserie-grilled pork hocks, bratwurst by Oyama, melted raclette stube from Dussa’s and traditional applestrudel from The Artisan Bake Shoppe. The grub is seriously high quality.

The plastic coins, which you carry in drawstring linen pouches, are so much more fun than regular old beer tickets. You can tip with them, too. A stein of beer ranges from four to seven gulden; food costs two to 10. 1 gulden = $2 (less if you buy more than 20).

O’zapft is! (It’s tapped!)
The tapping of the first keg marks the official opening of Oktoberfest. Although the beer is already flowing quite copiously, Harvest Haus’s master of ceremonies, a jolly fellow in green velvet and feathered cap, hosts a traditional tapping for each seating. Everyone rushes the keg and fills up their steins in waterfall fashion. There are also minstrels, jugglers and sword fighting for entertainment.

Polka Time
Can you say 99 Luftballoons? The house band is a group of grey-haired German rockers called The Oktoberators – “best pronounced in a thick German accent à la Schwarzenegger,” says one of the organizers. They perform all the greatest golden oldies, from Nena to The Monkees. The band is so not cool, which makes it super cool. Everybody dances!

GA Rocks
Sure, you could pay extra for the raised VIP section. But all it really gets you is front-of-the-line entry and a charcuterie board. General admission is where you want to be. This is an event designed for mingling. If you really want to reserve a long harvest table, appoint yourself Kapitan and organize a group of 12. But honestly, you’ll be too busy dancing and merry-making to sit for very long.

Zum Wohl! (To your health!)

Related Link: Bauhaus Vancouver: Exploring the controversial myths

Will you be at this weekend’s Harvest Haus? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below, or tweet us @ViewtheVibe

Alexandra Gill

Alexandra Gill

Alexandra Gill is the Vancouver Editor at Vv Magazine. The West Coast restaurant critic for the Globe and Mail, she has covered every imaginable topic – from fashion and gossip to arts and business – in her long, illustrious career. She is currently writing a motion picture screenplay and developing a reality television show. Follow her on Twitter @lexxgill.
Alexandra Gill