After wrapping up their Food & Wine Festival in June, Busch Gardens Williamsburg swaps corks for barrels at their fourth annual Bier Fest. Coinciding with the conclusion of Virginia Craft Beer Month, the Oktoberfest celebration showcases the savors and expertise of over 50 national and international breweries with exclusive tastings, brewery talks and tasty food pairings courtesy of Busch Gardens’ Executive Chef Justin Watson.
Nearly half of the featured breweries are from the Commonwealth. Brewers from Virginia’s mountain region and central valleys to its bustling northern cities and eastern shores will be pouring their signature brews at the Williamsburg theme park until Sept. 3.
When Bier Fest first debuted in late 2015, the event spanned only four days over two consecutive weekends. This year’s German-inspired festival returns for 10 days spread over three weekends from Aug. 17 to Sept. 3.
Busch Gardens’ Irish and German villages are lined with German-style tasting stations complete with argyle siding and green garland. The taps are flowing with hoppy IPAs, refreshing pilsners, smooth stouts, fruity ciders and several specialty brews, including Passion Fruit Gose from Norfolk’s Coelacanth Brewing and Pale Fire Brewing’s Red Molly Irish Red Ale.
Just outside Das Festhaus lies the Firkin Keg, which is tapped every Friday at noon throughout Bier Fest. The keg is filled with small batches of cask-conditioned beer prepared by local brewers and is available in limited quantities at Busch Gardens’ Brauhaus Craft Bier Room.
Accompanying the festival’s hulking beer selection are handcrafted eats inspired by German cuisine. Chef Watson and his culinary team created their take on a Riesenbrezel, a giant pretzel coated in bacon salt, Currywurst spirals, beer-battered bratwurst and a bratwurst sandwich.
“Our giant pretzels are made and baked fresh daily in our in-house bakery along with all the pretzels we serve at our Pretzel World shop,” explains Watson. “We developed a few specialty cheese sauces paired with pretzel sticks served at our England and Ireland bars. The Welsh rarebit cheese sauce served at Cobblestone Ale & Spirits is based on the classic English dish, while the stout cheese is a perfect match for the pretzels in Grogan’s Pub.”
For park visitors wanting to learn more about the craft beverage industry, Grogan’s Pub and the Brauhaus host weekend brewery talks. Wasserhund Brewing Co., Wild Wolf Brewing Co. and Center of the Universe Brewing Company were among the Virginia breweries that shared their history and operations with Busch Gardens’ guests.
Attending the Labor Day weekend brewery talks are Hardywood Craft Brewery, Billsburg Brewery, Brothers Craft Brewing and Buskey Cider. (See the official schedule here.)
Other Bier Fest happenings include fireworks and a beer cruise along Busch Gardens’ Rhine River. The beer cruise offers four different flights consisting of three, 6-ounce pours. Among them are The Dark Flight, featuring James River Brewery’s Vanilla Bean Oatmeal Porter, Guinness and Champion Brewing Company’s Hogwaller Scramble; the Light Flight, including Kona Longboard, Bell's Brewery's Lager of the Lakes and Kronenbourg 1664; the Cider Flight featuring Wynridge Farm’s Crafty Cider, Crafty Cranberry and Strongbow; and the International Flight, which includes Strongbow, Guinness and Kronenbourg 1664.
For more information about Busch Gardens’ Bier Fest, visit BuschGardens.com/Williamsburg/Events/Beer-Festival.