At Rusticos Oktobeerfest, the beers keep flowing


October is nearly over, and with its passing Alexandria says goodbye to beer and bratwurst, but not without a final hurrah.

Rustico Restaurants Oktobeerfest is arguably the last Oktoberfest of the year, but its appearance this Saturday is one more chance to enjoy the fruits of fall. Hosted in cooperation with the rest of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, the free outdoor event will feature signature food from each of the groups properties. Tallula, Evening Star Cafe, Vermilion, and others will contribute dishes. Meanwhile, Rustico chef Frank Morales will man a grill to provide brats, sauerkraut, peppers and onions, and Allgu soup.

Im just being me and cooking food and making sure folks have enough, Morales said.

He admits, though, that the real star of the day will be the beer: 12 types of Oktoberfest draught beers, special-ordered by Rustico beer director Greg Engert.
Oktoberfest takes place in early September in Germany, Engert explained. Every year, these beers are coming earlier and earlier. They were shipping Oktoberfest beers August 1…[so] I had to talk to distributors to ask them to put the kegs aside.

The end result is multiple kegs each of 12 rich, full-bodied lagers from both Germany and the US.

Distinctive flavor
Traditional Oktoberfest beers were brewed all summer. To preserve the drinks over the long summer, brewers used more amber malt and upped the alcohol content, which gives the beers their distinctive flavor, Engert said. Yet Engert himself is more excited to taste his keg of Dominion (out of Ashburn, Va), and he rhapsodizes about Otter Creek and Bells, both American beers.

German Oktoberfest beers have kind of lightened up because theyre trying to follow the global trend toward light Budweiser-y beers, said Engert. Its the Americans who are actually making the authentic Oktoberfests at the moment.

As for the German beers, patrons will be able to sample Hofbrau, Spaten, and Allguer Cambonator Doppelbock the last from the same region as Morales soup, touted as a perfect pairing. Engerts also ordered some other German draughts to round out the menu.

Some are already excited.

Im going to be really thirsty, said Bob Caulfield, 51, of Alexandria. Hes participating in a charity walk the morning of the festival, [so] Im primed. If Gregs getting special beers, then Im drinking them.

And John Gould, 40, of Leesburg, plans to make the hour-long drive to Alexandria specifically for Rusticos event. Such dedication hints at how some Rustico regulars are looking forward to the party.  Im going to get an IV, he joked.

Then, besides the German-themed food, there are the signature dishes from each Neighborhood Restaurant member. The offerings include pumpkin ravioli with sage butter from Star Catering, barbecue ribs courtesy of Vermilion, and cupcakes from Josh Short, executive pastry chef at Buzz. Each will have a different flavor of beer worked into its frostingthink pumpkin ale frosting or bourbon caramel.

Children arent left out, either, with pumpkin painting and face painting, said Amber Pfau, spokesperson for the restaurant group. And everyone can enjoy the live music, which will include both contemporary bands and traditional oom-pa-pa acts.

Still, no matter how one dresses it up, the festival is still an Oktoberfest; which means that no matter what musics playing and what foods on the plate, the brews are king.