It's the most magical time of the year, at least for those of us who love liters of German beer flowing like water: Oktoberfest! Like the good festival city it is, San Francisco has plenty of options for celebrating the traditional German party, from the official Oktoberfest by the Bay to more sedate beer pairings and deals at local restaurants.
Oktoberfest by the Bay
When: Sept. 28-30
Where: Pier 48
Cost: $25 general admission, $75 VIP
The rundown: The city's annual celebration features oompah music, Bavarian folk dancing, and plenty of German food and beer. This year the festival split attendance into two sessions on Saturday and Sunday: the daytime session (11 a.m.-5 p.m.) is all ages, while the night session (6 p.m.-midnight) is 21+. The fifty extra bucks for VIP admission may be worth it, depending on how hard you're planning to hit the event -- it includes a German buffet, a commemorative liter mug with one free beer, guaranteed seating, and a private bar and bathrooms.
When: Fri., Sept. 28 5-8 p.m.
The rundown:FiDi's Cafe Prague is getting in the Oktoberfest action, with $4 specials on German food like sausages, schnitzel, potato salad and pretzels, along with five German beers on tap for $4.50 a half liter and $8 a liter.
When: Fri., Sept. 28 6-10 p.m.
The rundown: Polka music will provide the background for this cozy German restaurant's Oktoberfest celebration, which kicks off this Friday at 6 p.m. with Joe Smiell's Fest Band. Also available will be food specials and three Oktoberfest beers on tap, which will continue through next week.
When: Sun., Sept. 30 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Cost: Varies; a $10 bar special includes a sausage trio paired with a pint of beer.
The rundown: PSC is throwing an Oktoberfest party on their back patio on Sunday that will offer grilled, custom-made beer wursts, hot links, and all-beer knockwursts, along with plenty of beer. The party doesn't stop on Sunday, however -- throughout October, the restaurant will offer Sunday Suppers starting at 5 p.m. that will serve whole roasted pig with braised red cabbage and German potatoes, and apple strudel for dessert ($35/person).
When: Now through October
The rundown: Five seasonal Marzen beers make up an Oktoberfest beer flight, which is served with a house-made pretzel and spicy mustard ($14). There are also special sampler plates ($18-24) which include three or five types of German sausage, along with potato salad and sauerkraut.
When: Now through October
The rundown: Pair Paulaner Oktoberfest Marzen with a created-for-the-occasion Oktoberfest plate, which includes spicy beer sausage, whiskey fennel sausage, two types of mustard, and a warm soft pretzel with smoked cheese fondue ($19 for the pair; otherwise $14 for plate and $7 for beer).
The Hayes Valley German restaurant celebrated the kickoff of Oktoberfest last weekend, but it still offers 11 Oktoberfest beers on tap and a few more in the bottle -- plus all the German food you could ever want or need. Prost!