Featuring everything from actual weddings and a Miss Oktoberfest contest to $10 bourbon flights, tie-dyed T-shirt vendors, and free tattoos, Oktoberfest Pipestem surely reigns as the most eclectic Oktoberfest celebration held anywhere in West Virginia. The fest took place on Saturday, October 7.
This festival looked more like a real German fall festival than any other I’ve seen in West Virginia. With its festival banners and streamers, brightly-colored food stands and merch vendor tents, big music stage, beer tent, and gravel pathways, this site could have easily been in a small town in the Bavarian Alps.
Nowhere else on Saturday could you listen to a Metallica tribute band while eating a funnel cake and a brat, doing a Jäger shot and chasing it with a pint of Pubstomper Hoodie Weather Imperial IPA, then walk over to you rental cabin and crash for the night.
These are unique combinations of things that you may not find at any other festival anywhere. With this only the festival’s second year, it will be fun to see how they top the event next year.
While the festival beer tent got a little crowded at times, it offered a decent selection of craft beer from both West Virginia and out-of-state breweries. You could also pick up a Bud Light and a few different fruity malt liquor beverages, if that was more your style. If you weren’t into beer at all, you could hit the main spa building bar and order up liquor drinks and wine.
The $15 advance-purchase ticket, got you a tiny beer mug to use for beer sampling. That’s 12 hours of beer sampling from 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM, making it, undoubtedly, the longest duration beer festival in the state. Full-glass beer tickets were $5 a piece.
When folks tired of drinking beer they could graduate to $10 flights of High West bourbon from 5:00 to 6:00 PM, then relax with some two-for-one bourbon cocktails until 7:00.
By then, you were ready to try to sweet-talk the Miss Oktoberfest contest finalists into spending some of their $1,000 prize money on setting up the bar at the Buy-2-Get-One-Free Fireball Cinnamon Whisky shots promotion, running from 7:00 to 8:00.
Finishing your last Fireball shot just in time for the Metallica tribute band at 8:00 PM, you remembered you still had three hours of beer sampling time left. You headed back toward the beer tent. On the way there, the hunger pangs hit you, and you ordered some authentic German sausages (flown in from Deutschland), sauerkraut, potato salad, and Dussedorf mustard. That plate of food certainly called out for a full glass of beer, so you plunked down your $5 beer ticket and walked away with a glass of 9.5% Burley Barleywine from Weathered Ground Brewery.
The next morning at your cabin, you try on the bright pink and purple tie-dyed shirt you bought last night and admire the newly inked Oktoberfest tattoo on your right bicep. On the kitchen counter sits the portrait of you and your buddy dressed in vintage wedding garments. Looking around the cabin, you are relieved to find no evidence that you took your wedding vows. Whew, what a night.
Merriment, festivity, and a touch of craziness might all be a part of a day spent at Oktoberfest Pipestem. It would be hard not to have fun.
One of the really cool features on the festival website was a section of interviews with some of the West Virginia breweries. Oktoberfest Pipestem did a great job of putting up this information that lets each brewery tell its story. The website also included an Oktoberfest Pipestem Trivia Game with $500 in prizes. Several of the trivia questions were about West Virginia breweries. That’s cool.
Planning for 2018, event center manager Anthony Ferraraccio says he is constructing a 25-tap refrigerated beer house for use at his many outdoor events. This should improve the flow of beer and the flow of people in the beer lines.
Because the original Oktoberfest in Bavaria was conducted to celebrate a wedding, and since the Pipestem Spa and Event Center is a very popular place for people to hold their weddings these days, the Pipestem Spa folks decided to offer the opportunity for people to get married or renew their vows in the midst of the Oktoberfest. Now, you don’t see that at a festival every day.
Inspired by the beloved but now defunct Bramwell Oktoberfest, the Pipestem festival also holds competitions for homebrewers and for the commercial brewers who attend.
Anna Ferraraccio, Pipestem Spa’s proprietor, said her interest in Oktoberfests originated in her childhood. She grew up in LakeWorth, Florida, which is home to one of the largest Oktoberfest celebrations in the United States. Her family has German heritage and her father helped start that festival. Oktoberfests are just in her blood. In addition, she likes organizing things.
“We like groups,” she said. “Groups are something that we’re good at. We enjoy the process of creating events. We enjoy the whole thing.”
She likes involving the local breweries because she thinks brewers are like artists. “They are very proud,” she said. “I like to have those kind of people around me.”
Next year, the Ferraraccios will hold five major events from spring through fall, each with beer featured.
Things that happened at Oktoberfest Pipestem 2017
- Weddings. People got married or renewed their vows.
- Miss Oktoberfest contest with $1,000 in prizes
- Free tattoo booth
- Photo booth with 1800s period dress-up clothes
- Authentic German sausages, saurkraut and mustard
- Donation stand for animal shelter and rescue
- Music by Hot DJ and light show
- Five local bands playing bluegrass, blues, and classic rock
- Beer tent with lots of local, regional, and national beer
- Jägermeister shots promotion
- Fireball Whiskey shots promotion
- BATTERY – the world’s greatest Metallica tribute band
- Funnel cakes , cheesesteaks, pretzels, BarBQ and more
- Oktoberfest Pipestem Trivia game
- $10 bourbon flights & BOGO High West bourbon cocktails
- Homebrew competition
- Commercial beer People’s Choice Award
- Spa tours
- On-site Cabin rentals
- Free shuttle service to Pipestem State Park lodge
Pipestem Spa & Event Center
41 Pipestem Spa Way
Pipestem, WV 25979
Pipestem Spa an Event Center is located about 8 miles north of the town of Athens, WV, on highway WV-20. It sits directly across the highway from the entrance to Pipestem State Park.
Approximate driving times are:
• 30 minutes from Princeton, WV
• 50 minutes from Beckley, WV
• One hour and 45 minutes from Charleston, WV