On St. Patrick’s Day, everybody’s Irish. On Cinco de Mayo, everybody drinks cerveza. But, for three days out of the year in Morrison, Colorado, everybody is German thanks to the German American Chamber of Commerce-sponsored Biergarten Festival which celebrated its 17th anniversary this past weekend!
With lederhosen donned, my girlfriend and I hopped in das Auto, drove down a secluded country road, and pulled up to the festival entrance (or, more accurately, made a u-turn and pulled up to the festival entrance; the entry gate is easy to miss). After acquiring our food and drink Fahrkarten at the front booth, we moseyed down to the festival grounds composed mainly of one permanent, wooden shelter, one large tent, and a beer truck pouring the wares of Paulaner Brauerei and, because of an impending Regensturm, a few scattered umbrellas that served as drying-off stations amidst the inclement weather.
As a man of German ancestry myself; I felt right at Zuhause among the dirndls, oompah bands, steins, and schnitzels. It must have shown, too, because when I went to order my bratwurst (with sauerkraut and curry ketchup), the German chef behind the table took one look at me all duded-up in my alpine hat and Bavarian-colored blue-and-white checked shirt and starting speaking to me in Deutsch! Whoa, there, Freund! I’m flattered you think I look so authentic but my German-ness only goes so far!
However, authentic though it may have been, there’s one major difference between Biergarten Festival and your typical, run-of-the-mill German festival: the setting. I give all due respect to Munich’s Hofbräuhaus, Rathaus-Glockenspiel, and Englischer Garten but it’s hard to compete with the open range, the craggy Mt. Glennon, and Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre shining bright in the distance, beckoning concert-goers with its rock-n-roll siren call. It’s not the classic setting for such an event but it has a certain charisma all its own.
After perusing some mighty fancy beer steins, we stopped by the Paulaner truck which was serving Wies’n, Märzen, Hefeweizen, and Dunkel. I am a German-American so, on one hand, I was psyched to see beers from the Old World but the old “Red, Weiß, and Blau” in me wanted to see some beers made right here in America; this event was sponsored by the German American Chamber of Commerce, right? Why not represent both countries? I could definitely see Prost Brewing or Grimm Brothers Brewhouse (both Colorado breweries famous for their German-style beers) pouring alongside the Munich favorite Paulaner. I suppose, though, that Biergarten Festival seeks to be as true-to-Germany as possible and, if you’ve ever been to Munich on an average day, most biergartens only serve two or three types of beer; they’re the epitome of “quality over quantity.” Perhaps Biergarten Festival would lose a certain amount of charm should it morph into a full-on beer festival but, then again, one or two local breweries would hardly put it into Great American Beer Festival territory. I’m just looking for a little more bier in my biergarten, that’s all. There were also people walking around with schnapps trays if you wanted to go that route, too.
We listened to the musical stylings of Helmut Fricker as we huddled under the wooden pavilion and drank our beers. Looking around the pavilion, I think there’s one thing you must know before attending Biergarten Festival: it’s an all-ages party. There’re plusses and minuses to being so family-friendly. On the downside, it’s perhaps not as raucous as one might like what with the majority of attendees being either younger than ten or older than 65 but, on the upside, you don’t have to deal with the frat boys, belligerents, and other unsavory characters that larger, 21-and-over beer festivals attract. It’s not like you can’t still have fun with a few rascals running underfoot—just watch where you step. And it wouldn’t kill you to strike up a conversation with a few of the more seasoned beer drinkers, too; they can be your surrogate Großeltern and maybe teach you a thing or two about how they downed brews back in their day.
It’s been going strong for 17 years so you know it’s coming back again for number 18! Next year, gather up the Kinder, grab your Ehemann or Ehefrau, and celebrate the way any family should—with beer, bratwurst, and all things Bavaria!