How to Host an Oktoberfest Homebrewing Party
BROOKLYN — You don’t have to own a brewery to enjoy the beers of Oktoberfest with your buds.
With homebrewing becoming increasingly popular, you can turn your house into a mini-beer hall, whipping up batches of suds in the comfort of your apartment to savor during the festivities and throughout the year.
"The community or social aspect of it is a big thing," said John La Polla, who co-owns Bitter and Esters, a booming homebrew supply shop in Prospect Heights.
"It's a lot of fun to brew beer — and at the end, you get to drink the beer."
Brewing your own beer takes days, if not weeks, but you can turn even the tedious tasks into a party. First, invite some friends over while you spend two or three hours boiling, mixing and stirring to get a good beer going. Of course, you’re going to need some inspiration, so be sure they pick up a few six-packs and some brats to throw on the grill or stove.
After two to three weeks of fermenting in a cool and dark place (like a closet or under the sink), it’s time to throw another party — when your guests return to sample the fruit of their labor.
“For me, it just makes sense,” said Eric Weisz, of Williamsburg, a frequent homebrewer who is organizing an Oktoberfest brewing party. “If I’m going to celebrate beer with my friends, it might as well be our own.”
WHAT YOU NEED
To kick off your homebrewing party, you’ll need a fermenter bottle or keg, tubes, siphons and a sanitizer. Homebrew starter kits at Bitter and Esters, at 700 Washington Ave., sell for $90.
The shop has a cornucopia of hops, grains, barley and other ingredients to make your favorite kind of brew and regularly host beginner brewing classes for $55. It also has a space where people can host their own homebrew parties.
The Brooklyn Brew Shop, a pop-up and online store, sells $40 beer making kits that have the ingredients and equipment you need to make 1 gallon of beer, complete with a handy video guide to basic brewing.
WHAT TO MAKE
The traditional Oktoberfest brew is a Marzen — a dark brown Bavarian lager typically brewed in March that’s made with malted barley and fermented with a traditional blend of German yeast. A true Märzen needs to ferment for three weeks, then undergo the lagering process (fermenting in a refrigerator) for another four.
“It takes up space and takes up time,” La Polla said.
Other brews — such as an ale — might not be as traditional, but can be just as delicious and brewed more quickly.
The Brooklyn Brew Shop has kits with specific flavors and beer types, such as the Chestnut Brown Ale and the Coffee & Donut Stout.
Other recipes can be found on Hopville.com, a homebrewer’s resource with a complete guide to ingredients and boil times.
Once the beer is made, you can bottle it or just let friends pour their own glasses (or steins) at your party. If there’s anything left over, Bitters and Esters hosts a free monthly beer swap on the first Wednesday of every month, where homebrewers show off their latest creations.
“Well, it’s not really a swap,” he said. “No one typically takes beer home — everyone just drinks everything right there.”
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