Tapping the first keg at Revolution's Oktoberfest. Photo: Courtesy of Revolution

Oktoberfest has always been a great way to celebrate autumn, drink some Festbier, and indulge in grilled meats and pretzels. With so many Oktoberfests happening throughout the metro area, how do you find the right ones to ensure you’re making the most of your lederhosen purchases and polka-dancing classes?

For starters, live music is a must. It doesn’t have to be traditional German beer hall music or polka all the time, but the best Oktoberfest festivals blend these traditional sounds alongside other genres.

Next is the beer. While traditional Oktoberfest beers can only be brewed within Munich city limits, many American brewers have created their own varieties, typically dubbed Märzen​, Oktoberfest-style lager, or Festbier. A great Oktoberfest event should feature a varied assortment of local beers in this style, Oktoberfest imports directly from Munich, or a combination of both.

The final component is aesthetic — you have to feel like you’re at a true fall festival celebration. Long before it became an international phenomenon, the original Oktoberfest started in 1810 as a wedding celebration for King Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. While you shouldn’t expect the rowdiness of Munich beer tents, your criteria should include some festive ambiance, along with fun activities like stein-holding and ceremonial keg-tappings.

Here are five Oktoberfest celebrations that check all the boxes while putting a Chicago spin on the party.

Revolution Oktoberfest 2019

The good folks at Chicago’s largest independent brewery sure know how to throw a fest. With 10 musical acts (including YOB on Friday and Parquet Courts on Saturday), easy-drinking Revolution Oktoberfest, and tasty grilled sausages, this two-day Logan Square block party brings out the masses. Revolution’s ceremonial tapping of the first keg happens on Friday at 3 p.m. New this year is the Roll Out the Barrel Tent, which will pour a variety of Revolution’s Deep Wood series barrel-aged behemoths, like its Deth’s Tar stout. All proceeds from the festival go to Friends of Goethe School.
9/27 and 9/28. $5 dollar suggested entry fee. Revolution Brewpub.

St. Al’s Oktoberfest

19 years strong, this annual party outside of St. Alphonsus Church in Lake View is a North Side community favorite. To really get into the Bavarian spirit, the block party sells a variety of Munich-made Paulaner beer, including their Oktoberfest, with craft beer tasting sessions on Friday and Saturday night. Plus, the brats are made with an original Schreiner's Fine Sausages recipe that’s only available at St. Al’s. For those looking for a family-friendly outing, the fest also offers a variety of arts and crafts and kid-friendly entertainment. Ticket price gets you 20 samples, a pretzel necklace, and a souvenir glass.
9/27–29. $50. St. Alphonsus Church.

Naper Settlement Oktoberfest

At the historic Naper Settlement’s 10th annual Oktoberfest bash, you can imbibe traditional German Oktoberfest and grilled bratwursts regardless of the forecast, thanks to the fest’s massive heated tent. Catch German musical acts throughout the day on Friday and Saturday, along with a pumpkin carver, who will carve 10 pumpkins during the two-day event. Competitive fest-goers can partake in Oktoberfest pinball and a stein-holding competition to test their drinking grip.
10/4 and 10/5. $15 adults, $10 youth. Naper Settlement, Naperville.

Oktoberfestiversary with Begyle and Dovetail

Neighboring breweries Dovetail and Begyle team up for the fourth time with their Oktoberfestiversary street fest. Dovetail’s European-style brews, including lagers and festbier, will be offered alongside Begyle’s barrel-aged and IPA-forward offerings. You can also expect German-inspired snacks from food carts, including DönerMen and Paulina Meat Market, and tunes from more than a dozen bands. Balloon blowing, Skee-Ball, and on-demand T-shirt printing will take place throughout the weekend. Donations support The Friendship Center in Lincoln Square.
10/12 and 10/13. $5 suggested donation. Begyle Brewing Taproom.

Das Bueno Oktoberfest 2019

Perhaps the smallest Oktoberfest celebration, Cruz Blanca Brewery & Taqueria’s annual Mexican-German mashup at their brewpub means bratwurst tacos paired with Oktoberfest lagers — perhaps with a shot of mezcal on the side. The one-day celebration features Mr. Blotto’s three-piece acoustic jam band. Like Naper Settlement’s fest, this party also features a stein-holding competition, starting at 1 p.m.
10/19. $20. Cruz Blanca Brewery & Taquería.