Oktoberfest arrives in Miami this weekend from Brickell to Coral Gables

In Miami it’s common practice to borrow traditions from faraway places and give them a face-lift. To “put a Miami spin on it” is to make an event sexier, more sophisticated and more attractive to the swanky set. When it comes to Oktoberfest, a German festival that’s more than 200 years old, one wonders how anyone could glamorize a bratwurst or fit into their lederhosen or dirndl after eating a wiener schnitzel.

The answer is a master with a Michelin star. Enter Wolfgang Ban, chef/owner of two top-rated German/Austrian restaurants in New York City. Ban is in Miami to kick off the second annual Oktoberfest Brickell at the Miami Circle tonight at 6 p.m. Friday. We hear his schnitzel is the healthiest version of the classic this side of the Iron Curtain.

“It’s a difficult technique to make the schnitzel the way I do. The crust must flake off the meat in order to know it’s done right,” Ban says. “I stay true to the original flavors, but I bring it to the 21st century by making it lighter and healthier to eat.”

The three-day festival runs through Sunday at 10 p.m. and features the Bier Garden Pop Up Restaurant (by reservation only), a modern take on German food, live music, lots of beer, and beer cocktails. Ban teamed up with the folks from the forthcoming Brickell Bier Garden (coming soon to Brickell in Spring 2013) and the Radeberger Gruppe to elevate the typical American Oktoberfest to the next level with more to eat and drink.

The festival’s founder says traditional beer cocktails like a pilsner with grenadine or lemonade are as old school as the martini.

“Especially in Munich,” Michael Sponaugle says. “There’s nothing new about them. You can find them everywhere.”
Sponaugle worked closely with Radeberger, the market leader in German beer, to devise a bold list of beer cocktails that would provide a unique experience for guests while dovetailing with Miami’s innovative nightlife. The “BBG Punch” combines naturally sweetened pineapple juice, Yellow Chartreuse and Hovels beer, which is similar to ale. Sponaugle says the signature drink of the weekend is a crowd pleaser.

Next is the “German Fiesta.” There’s no ignoring the Miami twist here. With Barenjager honey liqueur, reposado tequila, fresh lime juice, and muddled strawberries and mint, it’s a mojito at its core.

These and three other specialty beer cocktails will be served by Miami mixologists throughout the weekend, along with a few of Radeberger’s best: Radeberger Pilsner (elegant hops); Hovels Original (red and malty); and, the Schofferhofer Weizen (the champagne of wheat beers).

Just a few blocks away, the Brickell Irish Pub has paradoxically been waiving the German flag since early-September. The popular spot closes out a month-long Oktoberfest with a block party for the neighborhood. This weekend, look for $6 beers in two craft beer gardens, a beer brunch, live music, and, most importantly, soft pretzels. This free event runs Friday to Saturday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. each night.

Then, there’s the Brickell Beer Festival in Mary Brickell Village, which celebrates Oktoberfest with eight hours of Sam Adams samplings for 16 styles of beer, food from nearby restaurants and live music from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. all weekend.

Can’t get enough of the Oktoberfest craze?

Head to Fritz & Franz Bierhaus for the 18th annual Coral Gables Oktoberfest where you can raise your bier stein from now until Oct. 14. The party starts at 11 a.m. every day and boasts what is always a wildly entertaining yodeling contest.

For a more old-fashioned experience, plan on attending Oktoberfest Miami the last two weekends of October at the German American Social Club on Miller Drive. In its 55th year, the highlight of this celebration is the German dancing. It gets easier to follow along as the tap continues to flow.

On your growing list of Oktoberfest stops, there’s a restaurant that’s not to be missed. The mecca of German food in Miami sits in an unassuming building on 79th Street near the John F. Kennedy Causeway. The Schnitzel Haus recreates Old World charm year-round, but the month of October is truly the time for it to shine. The outdoor grill is loaded with their famous dark beer-marinated ribs and chicken served with German potato-cucumber salad from Friday to Sunday. Their Glass Boots are polished and ready to be filled with copious amounts of Spaten or Paulaner Oktoberfest Maerzen beer, direct from Munich. The chef/owner, Alexander Richter, is a jolly man who says you should “come hungry and thirsty this month. I’ll give you a free beer if you wear a dirndl or lederhosen.”

Even with the best intentions, those outfits may not fit after you abandon Ban’s lean schnitzel this weekend.

Prost to that!