Every year at this time, Oktoberfest options spring up throughout the region. You will find no shortage of bars or pubs capitalizing on the Oktoberfest label, but their events may not be up to par.
For a full and satisfying experience, travel to a nook on the north side of Huntington Beach, wedged between the 405 Freeway, Bella Terra mall and Golden West College, and you'll find Old World Village, a site built solely for celebrating all things German, especially Oktoberfest.
It's been around since the late 1970s, and Surf City locals, old and young, like to go there year 'round. But during October, visitors from all over stop by to eat bratwurst and drink copious amounts of beer.
Sad to say, I'd never really gone to an authentic Oktoberfest. I'll admit that I did go to an event at a gastropub in Pasadena last year, but it wasn't what I'd imagined it to be. It had pricey (good, but not German) beers, plus I spilled beer all over me and had to walk around with drenched shorts that afternoon.
And no, I didn't have one too many. It happened to be my first pint.
Since I discovered Old World back in March, I knew it was a location that I needed to revisit to meet my Oktoberfest needs.
I finally carved out some time from my ridiculously packed schedule and brought my colleague, Bryce Alderton, who would serve as my bratwurst expert. He attended culinary school for six months, so he knows a thing or two about food.
After being patted down by a large bouncer, Bryce and I darted to one of the vendors serving the German sausage.
For a reasonable $10, we feasted on a bratwurst on a somewhat tangy bun, a side of potato salad and mustard.
The steamy brat was the perfect food for a chilly Friday evening. Bryce said there were hints of cardamom, and Indian spice with a sweet, floral taste. He added that probably was some fennel as well.
I have no idea what that all meant, but apparently it makes for a good sausage.
Now came the point where we needed something to wash the brat down, and what better than 16 ounces of German Oktoberfest beer.
I ordered a Hofbrau Oktoberfest while Bryce grabbed a Franziskaner hefeweizen. The two beers complimented the lingering flavors of the brat we had just ingested. But what pained us was the price: $10 for a pint, $8 if you opted for Coors Light.
We also had the option to dish out $30 for a commemorative boot-shaped mug, but that was out of my budget that night.
With our beers in hand, Bryce and I ran into women in dirndls, traditional alpine attire for women, carrying trays of shots in test tubes. They would ask if we'd like a shot of Fireball, Jagermeister or other liquor. We nicely declined one woman, and she smiled and walked to the next group of people, who yelled "Woo!" and "Shots!" when she arrived.
We continued on, walking through the large dining hall where the oom-pah band Schwaubapower played Bavarian folk tunes, taking short breaks in between and never seeming to lose any energy. The musicians would also play "The Chicken Dance" song at least every hour, and a herd of people would flock to the dance floor to strut their stuff.
After each song, master of ceremonies Herb "The Herbmeister" Schwarz would get the crowd chanting "Zicke Zacke Zicke Zacke, Hoi Hoi Hoi!"
What got my attention weren't the chicken dances or the multiple HDTVs playing the Los Angeles Dodgers game as the team headed into extra innings.
It was a 4-foot-something woman named Heidi, dressed in a leotard and doing acrobatic maneuvers. She would bend over backward, swing from her hoop-shaped structure and spin hula hoops on various limbs.
What left Bryce, me and others in awe was the fact that this woman was about 80 years old. But when I went over to Heidi to ask her how old she was, she told my colleague and I that we wouldn't believe that she was 40 years old. She winked and proceeded to collect donations from the crowd.
My first Oktoberfest was in the books and now I'm eager to go again next year, or possibly next week. Old World wraps up the festivities Oct. 27, so I have a bit more time to take other friends to experience a good brat, expensive beer and Heidi.