Austin’s Oktoberfest Gets the Royal Treatment
Partying with the prince, per tradition, at Koko’s Bavarian Biergarten
We’re celebrating Oktoberfest here in Austin again, of course, even though our money-maddened metropolis is – clap-clap-clap-clap! – deep in the heart of Texas and nowhere near Germany or Germany’s biggest state, Bavaria, in which the holiday originally occurred.
But then, hell, Oktoberfest is celebrated all over the planet at this point. Oktoberfest is celebrated wherever there's a love of beer, whether that gregarious bastion of zythophiles is Austin or Toledo or Tokyo or Timbuktu. And, even though it's called Oktoberfest and it tends to pop up throughout the year's 10th month, the official Bavaria-based partying goes from mid- or late-September to around the first Sunday in October.
You may wonder, as you hoist your second or third stein of festbier at some down-home epicenter of brew-fueled mafficking, how this popular tradition started in the first place. You may wonder, as you adjust the rustic dirndl you've barely laced yourself into for the occasion, who the hell is this guy tapping the holiday's first keg at Koko's Bavarian Biergarten, Austin's most recently debuted German-forward fortress of food and frolic? And why do people keep referring to the smiling fellow as "The Prince"?
Well, citizen, those mysteries are closely related – because Konstantin Prinz von Bayern, the affable thirtysomething royal they call Prince Koko, is the great-great-great-great-great-grandson of Bavaria's King Ludwig I. And it was the celebration of that same Ludwig's marriage to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810, that led directly to the revelry that's bringing the sudsy elixir of John Barleycorn to your lips right now.
Yes, brewski hound, that's one hell of a lineage.
It's also what led to Prince Konstantin becoming a part-owner of this increasingly popular biergarten on Austin's Eastside. "After first visiting Austin in 2017," Koko tells us via email, "I fell in love with the city and its vibrant food scene. At my wedding in 2018, Charles [Attal, of ACL and C3 Presents fame], Jesse [Herman, the man behind La Condesa and Sway], and I started talking about possibly opening a Bavarian restaurant in Austin. At first, we were only playing with the idea. But then they called me in 2020, saying they have a potential location, and things got a bit more serious. After spending lots of time brainstorming, coming up with German words for a name, they called me one day to say, 'Why don't we call it Koko's?' And I thought, why not!"
We're sharing this story because it's basically compelling and resonant with current beery merrymaking. But also because, as we reported in a recent blogpost, a months-ago visit revealed that "Koko's Bavarian is, ach du lieber, a proper biergarten of many gastronomic delights. The array of beers – Pilsners, lagers, helles, hefeweizens, bocks, dunkels, IPAs – crafted on-site by head brewster Katie Lowe, the kitchen's lip-smacking perfection of roast chickens and various wonderful wursts (mmmm, that rabbit-and-rattlesnake sausage), the casual and welcoming vibe of the well-designed place there off E. Cesar Chavez ... yeah, we're definitely fans." We wouldn't be telling you about this place if it wasn't worth your while, see?
It's certainly worth the prince's while. "I am very proud that my family is affiliated with such a historic event that still holds huge importance within Bavaria and beyond," says Konstantin. "I am equally proud and excited to bring Oktoberfest to Austin to represent my homeland." And so he did, in person, tapping that inaugural keg onstage at his namesake venue on Saturday, September 24, amid much German-inflected hooting and hollering.
And now the Oktoberfestivities continue at Koko's Bavarian, ranging over three more weekends (Sept. 30-Oct. 2; Oct. 21-23; Oct. 28-30) with a two-week pause to vend at ACL Fest, with a special beer for the season, live bands, games, food specials, and more. In addition to the regular lineup of quaffables, sudsmeister Lowe will release Koko's Festbier (5.7% ABV), which boasts German hops and Texas malt from Ft. Worth. Live music and DJs will start at 3pm each day – including the Austin Polka Band, Off the Grid, Neon Bridges, and more – and will keep the place rocking as lively as an Ostrogoth on Adderall.
There are other such Oktoberfest events in town, of course, replete with more camaraderie and beer than a frat house on a Saturday night, and we've wrangled a few recommendations for you. But before we move on, since it's not every day one has the attention of the man whose direct ancestor started Oktoberfest, we had to ask the prince a final question: Beyond this annual celebration, what kind of beer do you most often prefer to drink?
"My favorites are Tegernseer Hell, Augustiner, König Ludwig Hell, Maxlrainer Hell, and Arcobrau Mooser Liesl," Koko told us. "The word 'hell' means light. Therefore, you can easily spot that I am a big lager fan. Here and there I also enjoy a Radler (shandy), which is beer served with sparkling lemonade."
Prost, Your Highness!
Oktoberfest in Fredericksburg
This is the big one, yes, the 42nd annual celebration of Oktoberfest out in the most deeply Germanic heart of the Texas Hill Country – and the Polka Capital of this state, no less! – featuring a weekend of oompah music at its best, the finest of German food and drink, local artisan markets, and a children’s area for all manner of family fun. Jah, that’s three days, five stages, and more festivity than you can shake a giant pretzel at, liebschen! Sept. 30-Oct. 2. Fri., 6pm-12mid; Sat., 10am-12mid; Sun., 11am-6pm. 126 W. Main, Fredericksburg. oktoberfestinfbg.com
Jester King Brewery
The Hill Country-hugging Jester King rolls out all the possible barrels of fun, with live music, Bavarian food specials, and plenty of beer – plus, trivia on Thursday, drag bingo on Friday, and keg-rolling and stein-holding contests on Sunday. Sept. 29-Oct. 2. Jester King, 13187 Fitzhugh. jesterkingbrewery.com.
The Hajimaleki brothers and their acclaimed culinary crew host a family-friendly Oktoberfest that features German food, beer, live music, face-painting, costume contests, and more. Enjoy some freshly grilled brats on a pretzel bun with sauerkraut, pork shank with pickled red cabbage and beer mustard on slider rolls, giant-sized gingersnap cookies, and more – abetted by fine draughts from Independence Brewing Co., Friends & Allies, and Whitestone Brewery. Oh, and the Jägermeister folks'll be there to build you a few potent cocktails as well. Bonus: a pet adoption pop-up from Austin Dog Rescue. Sat.-Sun., Oct. 1-2. Oasthouse, 5701 W. Slaughter. oasthouseaustin.com.
Sure an' the place is up in Round Rock (roll those arrrs, citizen!), but damned if this popular Irish pub isn't worth driving a little ways for. Especially at Cork & Barrel, where the Irish has gone briefly Germanic and there's a stein-holding competition and a Bavarian costume contest (there's one for your pets, too), and even a root beer tasting and lebkuchen-decorating station for the kiddos. Also, live music on Saturday – and pretzels and schnitzel and kartoffelsalat and homemade apple strudel and more on the menu all weekend long. Oct. 1-2. Sat., 2-10pm; Sun., 2-9pm. Cork & Barrel, 4000 E. Palm Valley, Round Rock. $38-65. corkandbarrelpub.com.
Banger's Sausage House
Gotta figure a place with such perfect sausages as this local gem serves up, they're gonna rock the Oktoberfestivities in a mighty big way. How about three days of oompah bands, schnitzel, lederhosen, dirndls, crispy potato cakes, weisswurst, and all manner of delightful, German-inflected pastimes for – oh! The beer? A palate-pleasing panoply of quaffs: Live Oak's Oaktoberfest, Austin Beerworks' Montecore, Zilker Wunderbier, Weihenstephan Festbier, Hacker-Pschorr Festbier, Whitestone Opa's Lederhosen, Paulaner Festbier, and more, more, more, 'til those steins runneth over. Oct. 6-8. Thu., 4-11pm; Fri., noon-11pm; Sat., 11am-12mid. Banger's Sausage House, 79 Rainey. bangersaustin.com.
It's time to don your lederhosen (or, jah, your prettiest dirndls) for a full afternoon and evening of das Deutschenshenaniganners. Here you'll find firkin tappings, 20-ounce mugs, a stein-hoisting competition, a keg toss, and (natürlich!) plenty of German food and live music among the famous Infamous brews. Fri., Oct. 7, 3-9pm. Infamous Brewing Company, 4602 Weletka. infamousbrewing.com.
German Texan Heritage Society
Here's the day in which this Austin institution invites the general public – that's you, citizen – to their historical building and terraced gardens "to enjoy an afternoon of all things German and gemütlichkeit [a state of belonging, warmth, and friendliness]." Sat., Oct. 8, 11am-7pm. The German Free School, 507 E. 10th. germantexans.org.