Wurstfest 2014 - New Braunfels
In November, Landa Park comes alive with the sound of music and the smell of some good German food at Wurstfest. It's almost impossible to not have a good time at Wurstfest with great rousing music, a wide variety of cold beer, some good German food, a fun lively crowd, a variety of hats and outfits, and more beer. Wurstfest is rich in German culture and full of Texas fun.
This unique annual celebration located near the headwaters of the beautiful Comal River in New Braunfels started in 1961 as a one day festival honoring one the most delectable of local foods - sausage. Over the years the "Sausage Festival" morphed into the week long "Wurst Week" and finally into the 10 day "Wurstfest". Today Wurstfest has:
- over forty national and international live music acts performing on one of five different music stages
- a carnival with lots of rides the kids will love
- special events like the "beer stein holding contest" or "Fiddler on the Wurst" (an old time melodrama) and lots of children's entertainment
- a wide variety of vendors selling both German and Texas food - from German Chocolate Cake to Pork Schnitzel and lots of sausage
- a Marketplatz with vendors selling Bavarian merchandise, clothing, packaged foods, and more
- lots of outstanding choices for some great beer - several imported and domestic beers along with 30 craft beers.
- a Beirgarten where you can relax at picnic tables with friends
The Fun and Lively Fans of Wurstfest
Over the 10 days 120,000 people visit Wurstfest and they are lively, outgoing, and there to have some fun, listen to some music, dance, and drink lots of good beer while consuming some tasty food. To really get into the spirit of Wurstfest you need to wear something German and you'll see thousands of Wurstfest fans dressed in Lederhosen (German for leather britches), Bavarian hats decorated with lots of pins, and women in long flowing colorful German dresses.
A variety of German and other stylish hats are commonplace
along with some face paintings.
And it's great people watching!
Music, Music, and More Music At Wurstfest
The fans are great but music truly is the heartbeat of the Wurstfest festival. There are five different stages for music at Wurstfest and depending on which day of the week, the music starts at 11:30 and ends around 10 PM - your dancing legs will be a little wobbly as you meander back to your car. The five music stages range from a small outdoor stage with picnic tables to a huge stage with a great sound system under a large tent with multiple rows of picnic tables loaded with beer cups, pitchers, and beer steins. The hardest part of attending Wurstfest is deciding which band you want to hear!
We love German music - it's rambunctious and lively with lots of different instruments, and makes you want to get up and dance whether it's to a hokey pokey, a waltz, the chicken, a folk dance, a conga line dance, or the Schuhplattler dance - a German dance where young men would try to impress marriageable young ladies with their dancing prowess rhythmically striking their thighs, knees and soles of the feet, and stamping their feet. You can get on the dance floor and twist, twirl, two step, or jump up and down or do anything that makes you feel good! Just get on the dance floor - which is always full with all ages from 5 year olds to 85 year olds having a good time.
Several times during each set, the beer steins, cups, and pitchers of beer will be raised in the air for the traditional German toast of "Ticky tacky, ticky tacky!" from the band with resounding thunderous "Oy! Oy! Oy!" from the crowd. Germans love beer and they've got lots of rousing cheers.
All of the music that we heard during our visit was outstanding. Over 40 nationally and internationally known and award winning acts from around the world delivered a powerhouse of musical expertise with a wide variety of instruments and a rich mixture of:
- rock and roll with an alpine sound
seven talented, powerful, and beautiful soul sisters that play everything from guitar to saxophone during a performance full of energy and character
a surprise visit by Elvis Presley who was performing at a nearby theater - his outfit didn't seem to fit with the traditional German Lederhosen
traditional polkas, waltzes, yodeling, and zither music - including a set from the band voted "#1 Polka Music Band in the Country" for the last 10 years
hilarious genre-bending takes on some old classics like "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," and "Play That Funky Music, White Boy"
In addition to the music, there are several other interesting and fun things to see and do at Wurstfest. Kids will enjoy the Carnival and several rides, face painting, dance troupes, storytelling, magic shows, and more.
The Masskrugstemmen (literally, "beer-stein holding") was fun to watch and cheer for who you thought might be the potential winner in this traditional Bavarian endurance contest during which contestants must hold a one-liter stein of beer in one outstretched arm for as long as possible. The filled stein weighs roughly five pounds and must be kept parallel to the ground at all times and several judges are keeping close eye out for spills or mugs that tend to drop back toward the table. The world record is a whopping 19 minutes but the round we saw only lasted 5 minutes before all but one husky guy with a bushy black beard and lots of muscles won. Winners for each event get a Wurstfest Stein and 7 inch Masskrugstemmen medal.
Beer, Beer, and More Beer at Wurstfest
Part of the reason why the dance floor is so full and why everyone is singing, cheering, laughing, and having such a good time is because Wurstfest is not only about music - it's also about drinking lots of great beer. Several imported and domestic beers along with 30 craft beers (German, Texan and domestic beer) available during Wurstfest and as hard as I tried I wasn't able to taste them all - maybe next year. But I did get some samples and cups of several very tasty beers.
Descriptions of what is available at Wurstfest are enough to get you interested (or maybe not) in trying one of these beers which are are available in cups or pitchers. Some of the descriptions and names include:
- Classic Hefe-Weizen - A Bavarian style Hefeweizen with beautiful, opaque golden-straw color and flavors of banana and clove
- Weisse Versa Wheat - A hybrid between a German Hefeweizen and a Belgian Wit, Weisse Versa Wheat has notes of banana and clove and is spiced with citrus peel and coriander
- Presidio La Bahia Black Hefeweizen - A complex and interesting new take that has all the banana and clove you expect in a traditional hefeweizen, but with a dark chocolate center from the roasted wheat
- Pecan Porter - Nearly black in color, this beer has a full body and malty sweetness balanced with a subtle pecan aroma and flavor from locally grown pecans
- Wasatch Ghostrider IPA - Smooth & crisp, this white IPA is made using pale barley, coriander and citrusy hops and best served with squirrel over an open campfire
The beers are measured in International Bitterness Units (IBU) which is a scale by which the amount of a beer's hops is measured. Extra hoppy beers rate high on the scale, between 75-100, while less bitter beers, like stouts, porters, and lagers, will have lower IBU ratings. The IBUs range from 8 to over 100 - a Coors Light has an IBU of 10. In fact, after sampling several of the craft beers, I decided to try what I normally drink (Miller Lite with an IBU around 9) and it had no flavor and tasted like water!
In one of the Beirgartens (Der Spass Haus) was a portion of the collection of Jerome Nowotny's "World's Largest Beer Bottle Collection." The collection consists of over 17,000 bottles. There was also a lot of other historical festival memorabilia which was interesting.
Food and More at Wurstfest
After all of that drinking and dancing, you're going to need to soak up some beer and load up on some carbs and you've got lots of good choices at Wurstfest, some of which include:
- traditional German food like Dusseldog on a Pretzel, pork Schnitzel, Wurstkabob, ham hocks & Kraut, Kraut-n-taschen, potato pancakes, or lots of varieties of sausage
- good 'ole Texas favorites including Jalapeno poppers, frito pie, pork ribs, turkey legs, and plenty more
- some more common food like onion blossoms, Etouffee, gumbo, pizza, burgers, or nachos
- desserts like fried oreo cookie, gingerbread cake, German chocolate cake or pie, and funnel cakes
Between sets, you can shop for German hats, shirts, or dresses; floral garlands or headbands; quilts and other handmade items; steins, hat pins, or cuckoo clocks; Christmas ornaments and lots more.
New this year at Wurstfest is Stelzenplatz which is located along the Comal River and has 15-20 different vendor booths selling all sorts of high-quality Bavarian merchandise, clothing, packaged food and other delights; a couple beer booths offering all 30 craft beers and 5 domestic beers; a beirgarten under a huge tent which is home to the fifth music stage, a dance floor, and rows of picnic tables; new carnival rides; and four food trucks.
If you like good times, lots of music, excellent beer, a fun crowds, and good food, then I'll see you next year at Wurstfest. You can't sample enough food or craft beer in one day and you'll miss some great music, so make it a weekend and attend both days. During the week the music and beer and food are just as good but there aren't as many people. New Braunfels has lots of other fun things to do and over 2000 rooms (from B&Bs to well known hotels) waiting for Wurstfest guests.
If you like to camp, Hill Country Cottages and RV Resort has lots of RV sites and one or two bedroom cottages that sleep 2 to 8 people. During our visit to Wurstfest, we stayed in a two bedroom, two bath cottage that had two hide-a-bed couches, a fully stocked kitchen (all the utensils and pots and pans, a microwave, full refrigerator, coffee maker, etc.) plus a patio and outside grill and picnic table. They also have lots of amenities some of which include a game room, 3 pools, a sauna and hot tub (perfect after all that drinking and dancing), volleyball court, playground, bounce pad, and lots more. And a shuttle can take you to and from Wurstfest on the weekends. Read our review of Hill Country Cottages and RV Resort to learn more.
And if you go next year, wear something festive and German and go hungry and thirsty! See you there!