Grill smoke, kettle corn, and a crisp fall breeze. These scents greet your nose the second you step off the shuttle that takes you to the annual Oktoberfest celebration in the Kentlands neighborhood of Gaithersburg. Our mission was to find out whether people under 21 can enjoy Oktoberfest, a kind of German block party traditionally dripping with beer, and you definitely can!
One of the first things we noticed when we arrived was the number of people at the event. The Kentlands Oktoberfest activities filled all of Main Street, two side streets, as well as a large grassy area, and nearly every square inch was packed with families or couples.
Main Street featured face painting, an exquisite pumpkin carving demonstration, a stilt walker dressed in traditional German garb, vendors selling jewelry, crafts, clothes, and toys, an apple-cider making demonstration, live German folk music, live country music, and much more. Additionally, the shops lining Main Street were open, so on the off chance that visitors were tired of the myriad festival activities, they could pop into the local establishments open year-round.
Down Market Street West, those who paid a five dollar fee could decorate pumpkins (we had a blast doing this!). Younger children had the opportunity to go through an inflatable corn maze or climb an inflatable ninja wall. If you have younger siblings, cousins, nephews or nieces, etc., there is definitely plenty for them to do at the Kentlands Oktoberfest!
But, this is Blake Eats, and so our main objective was to review what you can consume at this event besides beer. We expected that we would be knee-deep in sauerkraut, but there was a surprisingly diverse selection of food at the event.
Visitors could choose from EuPHOria (a pho restaurant), the BobaPop tea bar, Sweet Farm (which served alternative forms of traditional German food), Bruster’s Homemade Ice Cream, Bli Man Kitchen (which served various satay dishes), kettle corn, funnel cakes, and fried Oreos to name a few options. We sampled food from Sweet Farm, Bruster’s, and Bli Man.
From Sweet Farm, we ordered and split a pork sausage. The total came to $8, so pretty reasonable, and they threw in a free bag of chips! Once we got the sausage, which came on a toasted bun, we went over to their sauerkraut bar, which featured a variety of sauerkrauts, from traditional to Chesapeake (seasoned with Old Bay) to Asian-inspired slaws. We tried the traditional sauerkraut, which was flavored with caraway seeds. The first bite had a really intense pickle flavor, and finished with a cool, fresh, savory flavor that nicely complimented the tender, juicy, charred sausage. Neither of us was really a fan of the sauerkraut, but we think it would be a really pleasant lunch for people who enjoy sausage and sauerkraut.
In true fall fashion, we ordered Caramel Apple Crunch ice cream from Bruster’s for dessert. It came out to $5 for two scoops. The ice cream was really creamy, super cinnamony, very sweet, and slathered with thick ribbons of caramel. The “crunch” factor turned out to be pieces of snickerdoodle cookies, adding a nice textural element. For some, the apple flavor might have been too overpowering or artificial, but Reese thought the flavor was spot-on. Our final assessment was that it tasted like a really creamy version of Apple Jacks cereal.
After walking around for a bit, our appetite came back, and we ordered sweet beef satay from Bli Man. For five skewers of beef and a handful of rice cubes, we paid $12. The beef was very tender, very sweet, and well-seasoned, but not terribly hot in terms of spice (which I found slightly disappointing). The rice cubes were cold and had a texture that we found off-putting, but it wasn’t bad when consumed with the beef. The skewers and the fact that the rice was cubed eliminated the need for utensils, but napkins were definitely a must!
Overall, we rank the event an 8/10, and here’s why it didn’t earn a perfect rating:
To access the event, you had to park at a satellite location and then board a shuttle that ran every 15-20 minutes. There was a serious lack of trash and recycling receptacles, a lot of little kids (which may be a drawback for older crowds), and a limited music selection There were limited food options for those with alternative diets (though Sweet Farm served a vegan hot dog and EuPHOria served veggie spring rolls), and although it was a family-friendly festival, there was an inarguable alcohol presence (which, again, could bother some attendees).
Final thoughts: definitely a fun event with a wide variety of good food and entertaining activities. The Kentlands Oktoberfest is a great outing for people of all ages, and something to consider attending next year!