On Saturday, Sept. 24, three local Ardmore pubs worked together to put on an all-day outdoor Oktoberfest for the first time. The event was almost put on hold due to yet another storm expected to hit Lower Merion, but the event planners decided to go forward, rain or shine.
The overwhelmingly Irish-themed bar scene of Cricket Avenue was turned into a 150-foot beer garden on Saturday, and the road, which used to be nicknamed "The Emerald Isle" because of the Irish influence, gave a little nod to the Germans.
The idea came about when McCloskey's owner Phil Doherty and his brother Paddy, the general manager, were at Milkboy Recording discussing community events with Milkboy’s Tommy Joyner. They wanted to create an event that would bring local residents and businesses together, Phil Doherty said.
"The idea wasn't initially an Oktoberfest, but more of a community day where the local businesses can showcase what they are known for, and both Ardmore residents and people who live outside of Ardmore could come and enjoy what Ardmore has to offer," Doherty said.
After tossing ideas around with several local businesses and the Ardmore Initiative, the Ardmore Oktoberfest started to take shape. There's already a close-knit pub community in Ardmore, as seen with events like the Ardmore Express, but the Oktoberfest was going to be a little different.
Doherty explained the event planners wanted this to be more for the community and families. They promoted the event as welcoming to all ages. The adults had some great German beers, while there were also face and pumpkin painting and games for the kids. Families could relax, hang out and enjoy German-influenced food from all three pubs.
Doherty also credits the Ardmore Initiative with helping the planners get over a few of the hurdles involved in setting up such a big event. The planners had to work with Lower Merion Township to allow the beer drinking outside of the bars. The organizers roped off a section of the event area to confine beer drinking to only one specific area.
The event kicked off at noon and ran until 8 p.m. The afternoon was filled with DJ’d music and games for the kids. As the day progressed, the beer garden quickly filled up and by the evening it was packed. A traditional German Oompah band took the stage and completed the Oktoberfest setting.
The three American-Irish pubs had a great selection of simple German favorites. As for German sausage, John Henry's Pub brought bratwursts (which were sold out by evening) and Gillane's served up knockwursts.
Gillane's also served up Bavarian grilled cheese sandwiches—which consisted of a thick pretzel roll filled with gooey melted cheese—and Sauerbraten sandwiches. Sauerbraten is a beef roast that has been marinated to taste tart and tangy, and the pub served the tender beef on a roll with gravy.
McCloskey's served up their amazing burgers with German style potato salad.
Then there was the beer.
Guests purchased tickets and for $6 a pint, could pick from Spaten, Hacker-Pschorr and Paulaner's Oktoberfest brews along with Franziskaner Weissbier. All beers were kept cold and on tap. The bartenders kept everything moving and despite the crowd, no one appeared to wait too long.
Bruce Davis of Wayne and Vincent Duame of Ardmore were on their way to dinner and stopped by the event for German beer. While neither of them have German heritage, they could get the hang of German fun, they said.
"Today we're German," announced Duame.
McCloskey's recruited the James D. Oompah Band to play into the evening of the Oktoberfest. The band's James D. plays at many Oktoberfests, and was highly impressed with the turnout for Ardmore's first go, he said.
"I think this is fantastic, we did not expect this big of a crowd. This is phenomenal," he said.
Despite weather warnings and the impending grey skies, the rain held off for Ardmore's first Oktoberfest. Even as the evening came to a close, the beer garden was still full. Most people trickled out or headed off to one of the three pubs for one last round. After a day of being German, it might have been time for a Guinness.