For DC-area craft beer lovers, the Mid-Atlantic Oktoberfest in Shirlington, VA comes close to Redskins-Cowboys at Fedex Field, the big local event you look forward to all year. With additional breweries and offerings, the Capitol City Brewing Company organizers made sure the fest’s 10th year continued the tradition (minus The Feats of Strength and The Airing of the Grievances). And of course, was there. Just a week after Das Best Oktoberfest on the National Harbor (the other big O-fest in town), this mid-Atlantic event caters a tad more to the craft beer crowd. Think a little less lederhosen and beer maids and a little more fermentation and microbreweries talk. All wonderful things; just a different emphasis.

Photo courtesy of Amber Wilkie (

Photo courtesy of Amber Wilkie (

Capitol City gathered 60 breweries in around 80 tents joined by German food and other typical (and addictive) fair food. Pumpkin ales and Oktoberfests dominated the offerings and were poured ably by dozens of volunteers from the DC Homebrewers Club. U.S. and mid-Atlantic microbreweries were the norm (Starr Hill, Heavy Seas, Olde Richmond, Left Hand, etc.), but we also ran into a few imports (HofBrau and Wetten’s “Delirium”). Mike McCarthy, Capitol City’s Director of Brewing Operations (in the picture below, on the right), aims each year to create an “Oktoberfest atmosphere,” but one that is more eclectic and “focused on craft beer.” Mission Accomplished, Mike. Please proceed with the requisite aircraft carrier landing, banner, and flight suit.

Shirlington Oktoberfest Organizers

Before we get into the beer, much praise and credit need to go to Amber Wilkie (at Amber Wilkie Photography) for the tremendous pictures she lent us for this post, including the banner! Thanks, Amber (below, right)!

Photo courtesy of Amber Wilkie (

Photo courtesy of Amber Wilkie (


Now to the best part: das bier! Joined by (another) Kevin – a self-confessed PBR and Bud stalwart – we each had ten tickets to burn on about 200+ offerings. A daunting task and one we intended to relish. We focused on pumpkin ales (‘tis the season), and along the way tried a few O-fests, IPAs, and stouts (love me some Crème Brulee Stout from Southern Tier). Toward the end, the urge to yell “Riii-Colaaa” at this guy proved too much (I’m sure he’s never heard that one before).

Shirlington Oktoberfest Big Horn Ricola

Thirsty Dog’s Leg Humper porter (sounds like a classy brew, right?) and Cap City’s O-fest were especially nice. Throughout the day, the lines became longer at the Boulder, Terrapin, and Heavy Seas tents. But nothing beat the 20-minute lines at the German Food tent. Lederhosen-laden sauerkraut man may have had something to do with that.

Shirlington Oktoberfest Sauerkraut

But this IS about beer, right? (Drumroll please) Here are DCBeer’s pumpkin ale picks and the actual winners of mid-Atlantic Oktoberfest 2010:

Our Pumpkin Ale Picks:

Gold: Terrapin PumpkinFest Ale – A quote from one reveler before I tried it, and repeated by me afterward: “Tastes like dessert…pumpkin pie in fact”. A perfect blend of sweetness and richness, but not too much to drown out the base taste of Terrapin’s Oktoberfest lager.

Silver: Capitol City Pumpkin Ale – “That’s the least objectionable pumpkin I’ve ever had” (from PBR/Bud Kevin). According to Mike from Cap City, it’s designed to be subtle and enjoyed for a second pint by not overwhelming you with the first.

Bronze: Southern Tier PumpKing – An “ode to the feared and respected Celtic god Púca,” pumpkin ale fanatics will be floored. “%&$@, that’s a lot of pumpkin” was heard in the line. Not for the pumpkin ale skeptic.

Mid-Atlantic Oktoberfest 2010 Award Winners included the following:

Gold: Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest

Silver: Blue Mountain Oktoberfest

Bronze: Heavy Seas Marzen

Thanks to all the breweries who brought excellent craft beer to this perennial favorite, and thanks to all of the craft beer fanatics who made this such a great event.

Did you make it down to Shirlington? What did you think of the event? Which beers were your favorites? Let us know in the comments!