What is it about Americans that makes us go absolutely bonkers over the holidays and observances of other cultures? Then, after we latch on to a holiday, it’s not long before we completely strip it of its original meaning and reinvent it as our own. It started with St. Patrick’s Day (which is now just an excuse to drink lots of beer) and soon devoured Cinco de Mayo (also just an excuse to drink lots of beer).
The trend now seems to have taken shape in the form of another Americanized beer-drinking holiday: Oktoberfest. (Although, to be fair, even in Germany it was always just an excuse to drink beer.) The funny thing is, after years being relegated to bars and seasonal offerings by brewers, Oktoberfest is evolving away from beer and has finally crossed over into restaurants and food offerings. Family-friendly burger chain Red Robin is leading the charge with three crossover menu items: an Oktoberfest burger (above), pretzel bites, and an Oktoberfest milkshake.
The burger, which debuted in 2011 and has reappeared for this year’s observance, features a “toasted pretzel bun slathered with beer mustard, topped with a fire-grilled beef patty, melted Swiss cheese, beer mustard sautéed onions, Black Forest ham and green leaf lettuce.”
To wash it down, Red Robin has concocted the Samuel Adams Oktoberfest Milkshake. The adults-only treat is made with Samuel Adams’ seasonal Oktoberfest draft, vanilla soft serve ice cream and caramel.
“Now, our guests don’t have to choose between a beer or a shake to go with their burger,” said a master mixologist for the restaurant. Whether a milkshake – even one mixed with beer – is a viable alternative to an ice cold lager is debatable, but we get their point.
Of course, the Double-R isn’t the only restaurant to get in on the Oktoberfest fun. Locations across the nation have added German grub and brew to their menus to celebrate the 16-day fall festivities. The Boheme Restaurant in Orlando, Florida, offers a slightly more upscale “Taste of Oktoberfest” experience ($49).
Don’t have a dinner jacket? Then check out the Lazy Dog Café (10 locations in California). The casual eatery has a variety of German fare, all for under $10. Of course, they also offer a limited time selection of beer specials with unpronounceable names like the Hofbrau Schwarzbier, the Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier and the Spaten Optimater Doppelbock.
The Boheme and The Lazy Dog are among the many restaurants that are joining the party. Chances are good that there’s at least one dinner destination in your region that’s offering brats and pretzels, all slathered in German mustard. And beer. Lots and lots of delicious beer.
MARKETING LESSON: The biggest holidays represent the most obvious tie-in opportunities, but the smaller ones are sometimes even better.