Biergartens Abound!

Oktoberfest is something we can get behind: It’s a celebration of camaraderie, home-cooked food, and lots and lots of good beer. The annual German tradition technically takes place during the month of September, but with biergartens making merry well into the month of October, why limit ourselves? From river-side picnic tables to historic urban drinking halls, here are some of our favorite Oktoberfests and Biergartens around the country (USA, that is). Prost!

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Frankford Hall, photo courtesy of Stephen Starr Group

Frankford Hall – Philedelphia, PA

You’ll know you’re in the right place when you see the fraus and fraulines queued up to enter Frankford Hall. Yes it’s worth it, and yes it moves quickly. Bundle up or grab a spot by the fire pits, but plan on spending a few hours at one of Philly’s go-to spots. Classic German beer and schnitzel abound, or go for a new-age beer cocktail (Respect Your Elder has a nice zip to it). The cheese spatzle with carmelized onions will definitely provoke getting seconds (they say spatzle, we say mac n’ cheese), or hail one of the “pretzel girls” who’s slinging hot soft pretzels right on the spot. Can’t get enough of this biergarten? Neither can the locals – Frankford Hall is open 7 days a week, all year round. We’ll drink to that.

Estabrook Beer Garden – Milwaukee, WI

If you can’t make your way to Munich, make your way to the next best place: Milwaukee. Located along the Milwaukee River in Estabrook Park, Estabrook Beer Garden is the real deal: German Hofbrau beer is served in heavy glass steins (1 Liter = 3 beers, so pace yourself), giant pretzels and bratwurst are always hot off the grill and live polka bands set the mood on weekends. The ‘Brook is in full swing now through Sunday, November 8.

Der Biergarten – Atlanta, GA

With a name like Der Biergarten, you know you’re in for something slightly kitschy, very delicious and distinctly Bavarian. Pull up a bench outside in traditional family style seating and cheers new friends and old with pints of Weihenstephan – the world’s oldest commercial brewery. And share (or don’t…) classic dishes like schweinshaxe, sauerbraten and strudel. If you’re a local with a love of beer, join the Stein Club – a personalized stein and any beer for $8, any time.

VBGB – Charlotte, NC

Though the Southern vibes are distinctly stronger than the German ones, Charlotte’s VBGB has still mastered the art of Getmütlichkeit (good times). Perhaps it’s the union of two great cultures: NC beer is served up in traditional German steins, long picnic tables are great for board games, and sauerkraut and jalapeño slaw makes a surprisingly excellent burger topping. A tasty melting pot, indeed!

Weekend Plan: Fall Hikes

Two words: Leaf Peeping. It may sound funny, but it’s that age old pastime of enjoying the changing foliage, and, for lack of a better term, peeping at the leaves. But we don’t think you should be limited to spying on the leaves, get out there and experience it. Feel the air as humidity gives way to a crisp breeze, throw yourself into a pile of freshly gathered foliage and take a hike though the seasons while summer fades into fall and fall into winter. Here are some of our favorite fall hikes around the country:

Aspen Vista Trail –  Santa Fe, NM

Bull Head Lake Trail – Glacier National Park, MT

Birchtoft Trail – Dublin, NH

Maroon Lake Trail – Aspen, CO 

Giant Mountain – Lake Placid, NY

Featured image “Alpenglow Maroon Bells, Maroon Lake, Colorado” by John Fowler

Weekend Plan: Apple Picking

Apple Orchard

They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Well what about an apple orchard in a day? Okay, it might not work the same way, but we think a day in the orchard is good for the soul. And now is the time to get to it! All through September, October and November the apple trees are overflowing. Grab some friends and spend a few hours getting provincial – take a hayride, swap your beer for cider and let the harvest begin. Here are some of our favorite spots to get your pick on.

All Seasons Orchard – Woodstock, IL

Three words: APPLE CIDER DONUTS. There’s a magical place halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee that serves up some of the finest homemade apple cider donuts east of the Mississippi (and probably west of it too, actually). You’ll work up an appetite after a few hours in the orchards – there’s 10,000 apple trees – so you’ll have earned a few pastries. With a donut in hand, head over to the corn maze or shooting gallery (apple shooters and pumpkin cannons, that is) and embrace all that is autumnal.

Carter Mountain Orchard – Charlottesville, VA

Virginia is for lovers, apple pickers and hard cider. Marked by a picturesque red barn in the hills of Appel-achia, you can’t get much more authentic than the rolling hills of Carter Mountain Orchard. Golden Supreme and Gala apples are the early crop, or take a break and switch to some sweet peaches. Whatever you choose, be sure to wash it all down with some hard cider (and maybe a growler to go, too).

Mt. View Orchard – Hood River, OR

“Hip” isn’t often a word associated with apple picking, but this may just be the hippest spot in the Pacific Northwest. With 50-acres of apple and pear farm nestled just north of Mt. Hood, Mt View Orchard has been growing delicious, top-grade, environmentally sustainable fruit for over 40 years. Pop in to pick a bushel, snag one of their famous applesauce cinnamon rolls (or five) and spend a day marveling the mountain and taking in that fresh Fall air. Check their website for fun events during the harvest season like regular farm-to-table dinners and Swiss-Edelweiss Day in late October.

Brackett’s Orchard – Limington, ME

40 minutes outside of Portland, Maine is a little slice of history (and a BIG slice of pie). Brackett’s has been a family operated farm since the 1780s so they’ve perfected the art of the harvest. Fresh apple varietals are popping up all winter long, so stop in every few weeks and see what’s new. Hayrides, U-pick, cider tasting, a country kitchen – everything you imagine when you hear “Apple Harvest” awaits you at Brackett’s. Go ahead, your taste buds will thank you.

Riley’s Apple Farm – Oak Glen, CA

California’s orange groves are known for their sweetness, but the little-known apple orchards are pretty darn good too! California’s apple country is in mile-high Oak Glen in Northern California, and it’s certainly keeping up with the apple orchards of the East. Riley’s Apple Farm is one of the original orchards in the area and they’ve got the log cabin and home-cooked fritters to prove it. U-pick is open until they run out, generally in late October so get up there while the gettin’s good.

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