This last weekend I attended the fourth annual Oktoberfest Northwest at the Western Washington Fairgrounds in Puyallup, WA. Before heading to this celebration, I was merely intrigued by this particular festival’s attempts at recreating an authentic Oktoberfest experience that is as much like the real deal in Munich as possible. There was a Munich-inspired Biergarten (beer garden for those who don’t speak German!), authentic costumes and folk dancing, as well as traditional treats such as handmade German pretzels, strudel, and schnitzel. Beers served at this Oktoberfest were limited to official beers of the Munich Oktoberfest and included Paulaner’s Weizen and Oktoberfest, Hofbrauhaus’s Oktoberfest and Lager, and Hacker-Pschorr’s Oktoberfest Marzen. There were games like Hammerschlagen and Holey Boards to while away the hours and a Miss Oktoberfest Northwest who spent the day swinging from the rafters on a swing as you would find in the beer hall in Munich.
I came to see this authentic representation of Oktoberfest and found that history was being honored in more than one way. Ezra Meeker, city planner of Puyallup, made more than half a million dollars in 1883 from the Puyallup valley’s crop of hops and became known as the Hop King of the World. The fertile soil and temperate climate of the Puyallup Valley made the area ideal for growing hops and hops alone brought over $20 million dollars to Puyallup’s economy between 1865 and 1891. Unfortunately, in 1891 hop lice and downy mildew ended the boom and the hop craze ended. Many farmers switched to berries and flower bulbs which are still a large part of the local economy. Today, only one or two hop kilns remain in the area as a reminder of a long ago way of life.