Raise your glass to a great German tradition


The Germans, they are a funny people. After all, they celebrate Octoberfest in September.

Then again, they invented it. They should be able to celebrate it whenever they want.

To get to the heart of this question, we went directly to the source:, the official English-language Web site of the official Oktoberfest in Munich. According to the site, the annual event began on Oct. 12, 1810, to celebrate the marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The festivities ended on Oct. 17, with a big horse race.

So at least the name makes sense. But why does it now take place in September? 

It turns out that, after several frigid events under the tents in October, the organizers long ago realized that temperatures might be warmer in September. This year’s version in Germany was scheduled to begin yesterday, with the lord mayor of Munich ceremoniously tapping the first keg of beer. It should be noted that the festival will, in fact, run into October, ending on the 7th.

Locally, Sylvania held an Almost Oktoberfest yesterday, and Put-In-Bay is having one Oct. 13-14, with restaurants serving up plenty of brats, wienerschnitzel, sauerkraut, potato pancakes, spätzel, apple dumplings, German chocolate cake, cabbage rolls, and sauerkraut balls. But what if you’re feeling Oktoberfesty now?

As it turns out, you’re in luck. The Middle Grounds Market in the Oliver House, 27 Broadway, is having a tasting of Oktoberfest beers Thursday from 5:30-7:30 p.m. for $10 per person. If you think that all that introduction is a long way to go just to announce a beer tasting, you’re right. So now that we've come this far, we may as well list the other upcoming beer tastings at the Middle Grounds Market, all of them from 5:30-7:30 p.m. and all of them $10:

Oct. 4, Hoppy is happy beers (beers brewed with an unusually large amount of hops)

Oct. 11, Pumpkin beers

Oct. 18, Imported beers

Oct. 25, Spooky beers. And no, we don't know what that means, either.

For more information, call 419-351-3335.

Next week, we will discuss why the October Revolution in Russia actually took place in November.

Food & Politics

One thing this column tries most vigorously to do is to keep all sense of politics out of itself. Politics and food don't mix.

Which is why we were so surprised to see a press release from the Ohio Restaurant Association stating the organization's firm opposition to Issue 2 in next month's election. According to its own mission statement, the ORA "is the leading not-for-profit business trade association committed solely to furthering Ohio's foodservice industry."

Its interest in government affairs, according to its Web site, is to pass laws and regulations designed to help restaurateurs "compete more successfully in the marketplace and defeat those that have a negative effect" on restaurants.

That seems reasonable enough for a group of restaurant owners. Obviously, Issue 2 must deal with some aspect of the food service industry — a regulation on selling liquor, perhaps, or maybe a law dealing with overtime pay.

Shockingly, that isn't the issue of Issue 2 at all. Issue 2, in the words of ORA itself, is "a constitutional amendment that would change the process by which Ohio’s legislative districts are drawn." The largest organization of restaurant owners in the state has decided to get involved in the political fight over how the lines are drawn for legislative districts.

It is indeed an important issue, one that will affect the political balance in both the state and the nation for years to come. However, for a business organization of restaurant owners to take a stand on it seems to make as much sense as the National Association for the Advancement of Left-Handed People (there really is such a group) coming out in favor of abortion rights, or the United States Chess Federation issuing a strong statement condemning the continued war in Afghanistan.

The stated reason for the ORA to take this stand is that Issue 2 "inappropriately remove[s] voters from the redistricting process and inserts an unelected commission that is unaccountable to taxpayers."

That may or may not be; it is not within this column's purview to determine it. But we did wonder what any of it has to do with restaurants.

So we called Jarrod A. Clabaugh, the organization's director of communications and a man in whose shoes we would very much not want to be right now.

To his credit, he called us back. He said, "the ORA believes that good government makes for a good business environment, and Issue 2 is not good government."

When it was suggested that some people might disagree with that statement, he said, "There are probably people on both sides of this issue."

If the ORA truly wishes to represent all the restaurant owners in the state, it might do well to remember that. Politics and food don't mix.

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