With the leaves just starting to change, what better way to prepare for Oktoberfest than with some insider tips from New York's first female cicerone, Anne Becerra? A cicerone is someone with professional credentials for serving beer and pairing it with food, so you can be sure that Becerra knows her stuff. We asked her what you should be drinking and eating throughout the fest, where you should go and even what you should be drinking from (yes, it makes a difference).
Say you want to hit a party with music and people that are all dressed up in German attire -- where should you go?
Zum Schneider (107 Ave. C, 212-598-1098) is definitely one of them. The owner is actually from Bavaria and he has an Oompah band and they do these festivals, it's really great. Radegast Hall and Biergarten in Williamsburg (113 N. 3rd St., 718-963-3973) does mug-holding competitions where people hold them for hours on end -- just basically people acting crazy but having a good time. There's another place, the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden in Queens (29-19 24th Ave., 718-274-4925). It's the oldest beer garden in New York. They have a lot of really great celebrations for Oktoberfest; they get into the spirit and it's outdoors so it has a great vibe.
If you want to have a low-key party at home, what local brews should you serve?
There's a couple that I really like. There's one from Blue Point which is in Patchogue, Long Island, called Blue Point Oktoberfest. They do it every year. It's pretty mild, it's slightly maltier than a typical lager, a little bit richer, slightly high in alcohol, but it's very balanced and it's really easy to drink. Another favorite of mine is from Victory Festbier in Pennsylvania. They use all German malts, all German ingredients and they brew it in a very traditional way. Another one that's super local is the Brooklyn Oktoberfest in Brooklyn Brewery. They have a long tradition -- they do a great job.
What do you like to eat during Oktoberfest?
My favorite place is in the East Village -- Sigmund's. It's a pretzel shop and they do all these amazing traditional and new takes on traditional pretzels with really great different mustards. They go great with beer. The Ottomanelli Brothers have sausages and bratwursts and knockwursts. You can pick those up and make them at home -- it's the best thing you could have.
How do you recommend making the most out of the festivities?
Have friends around. [That's] why it's become the biggest festival -- because it's very much about community. It's about being around friends and family and meeting new people and toasting. You're drinking these great beers and eating these things, but to be able to share it is the best way.
What should you be drinking your beer out of, and why does it matter?
It definitely matters for sure. A good beer you want to drink out of a glass. Personally, I use Spiegelau glasses because they’re blown thin. They’re made really well so they keep the beers colder for longer and they don’t lose carbonation. If you’re drinking something that you want to sip and not guzzle it’s really important to have something that’s going to let you sip it without going flat.
Beer gardens to check out
7 Rivington St.,
Der Schwarze Kolner
710 Fulton St.,
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848 Washington St., 212-645-4646
35-33 36th St.,
Long Island City
626 10th Ave.,
4 Berry St.,
321 Fifth Ave., Park Slope, 718-768-4329
618 St. Johns Pl., Prospect Heights,