Northside Oktoberfest: The boozy block party returns with beer from over 70 breweries

Northside Oktoberfest
The 19th annual Iowa City Brewfest will take place at the Northside Oktoberfest on Saturday, Sept. 23. — photo courtesy of Iowa City Downtown District

The Northside OktoberFest will give beer lovers a chance to try delicious beers from around the block — and the world — this weekend.

The festival kicks off this Friday, Sept. 26 with Blocktoberfest when eight Northside bars and restaurants will partner with breweries participating in Brewfest to host Oktoberfest-themed parties, dinners and beer releases. Home Ec will also host a class on Oktoberfest hat and headband making.

The highlight of the festival, the Iowa City BrewFest, takes place on Saturday, Sept. 27 from noon to 3 p.m. Doug Alberhasky, the store manager of John’s Grocery, said “a ton” of new beer will be available this year. Brews from nearly 70 breweries — including a few that just began distributing in Iowa like Great Divide, Lagunitas and New Holland — will be available for sampling.

Among the special and limited-release beers that will be available are Bell’s Mars The Bringer of War; Founders’ Dark Penance; Founders’ Breakfast Stout; New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk Bourbon Barrel Stout; and Great Divide’s Oatmeal Yeti Imperial Stout. Attendees will also be treated to four cask-conditioned beers from the Tallgrass Brewing Company, six special release beers from Solon’s Big Grove Brewery and Valar Morghulis, the fourth edition of Brewery Ommegang’s Game of Thrones series, which isn’t scheduled for release until Oct. 1. Alberhasky said the festival is also planning to have a keg of “Goose Island’s most world-renown beer,” Bourbon County Stout.

Along with a bevy of frothy beverages, Brewfest will offer a host of activities. The Old Capitol Roller Girls will be running the adult games, which include a beer slide, keg bowling and a traditional Bavarian game of skill called Hammerschlagen. An OktoberFest costume contest will crown a king and queen, who will each be awarded a tour of the Northside beer caves and a two-liter glass boot filled with gift certificates.

The Tallgrass Brewing Company is sponsoring a zombie contest and Alberhasky said there are rumors that the Iowa Alumni Band will play a zombie polka. The largest HDTV in the state will be set up between Bluebird Diner and George’s so festival-goers can watch the Iowa-Purdue football game.

The Little Village-sponsored Essenstrasse (Food Street) will feature food from John’s Grocery, Hamburg Inn, Linn Street Café, Devotay and Brix Cheese Shop & Wine Bar. Alberhasky said a couple other Northside food vendors will also be wandering the festival with food trays.

Northside Oktoberfest’s SodaFest will also take place on Saturday from 10 a.m.–3 p.m. for underage revelers. Tickets cost $5. Along with dozens of sodas from Millstream, Sprecher, DRY, Virgil’s and Reeds, SodaFest will feature crafts, a football toss and basketball shoot, a mini Dance Marathon, a rock climbing wall, a three-story inflatable slide, music from Steve Weeks and a magic show by Dave Panther.

General admission to Brewfest begins at noon and tickets costs $30. Unlike in years past, attendees will not be required to buy additional drink tickets once inside the festival. A limited number of BrewMaster tickets are available for $50, offering early admission beginning at 11 a.m. to taste limited-release and vintage beers. Tickets can be purchased online or in person at Big Grove Brewery in Solon, Brix Cheese Shop & Wine Bar, John’s Grocery and Reds Alehouse in North Liberty. All proceeds from Saturday’s events will benefit the American Heart Association and the Iowa Children’s Museum.

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