Matthew Pearson

Vegtoberfest: The Vegan Oktoberfest

Vegtoberfest, the UK’s first 100% vegan Oktoberfest, recently made our list of the Oktoberfest events we were most excited about this year. So, after proclaiming that, in the form of this plant-based party, there was a new sausage in town, we thought it best to go and see and smell and taste for ourselves just how a vegan Oktoberfest went down. Here’s what we found out, including...

  • What’s the food like at a vegan Oktoberfest?
  • Is it still all about the beer?
  • Is the entertainment also forward-thinking at Vegtoberfest?
  • And More

The Food and Drink

Rudy's Dirty Vegan Diner

The main food concession everyone wanted to hit up was run by Rudy’s Dirty Vegan Diner. It was a good choice from the organisers, bringing over one of Camden’s most popular vegan street food places, and one with a particular reputation for going big and dirty and celebrating indulgence. It’s in their name after all. And that’s what the event needed from its food, to celebrate the Bavarian obsession with all things big and meaty...even at a meat-free event. Rudy’s Dirty Vegan Diner were serving bockwurst, bratwurst, kartofellpuffer and their classic Dirty Burger. We had the bock and the brat, and they both came out with the wursts in satisfying disproportion to the brioche roll. You know the style, the sausage extending out from both sides like a whale in a human-size duvet. Before rectifying that mad equation by chomping down on meat-free meat, we headed to the condiment table to load up our dogs/paper plates with sauerkraut, crispy fried onions, American mustard and ketchup. It’s definitely possible to have eyes bigger than your belly/dog/paper plate when it comes to those salty, sugary crispy fried onions. So things got a little bit messy. The sauerkraut was pungent and powerful and fresh. Just as you want it to be. But it’s easy enough to stop at a spoon or two when it comes to something like that. Not so with the crispy fried onions. Not so at all. The bratwurst had a real smokiness to it, the bockwurst was herbier and more complex in its delicate spicing. Both were fantastically flavoured and superb at replicating the taste of the ‘real’ wursts they were stepping in for. But the best thing about both bock and brat were their textures: they had the classic ‘snap’ of the original sausages and were satisfyingly juicy. [caption id="attachment_5399" align="alignnone" width="1000"][/caption]

Fest Bar

The food on offer at the main Fest bar was less essential and not so well thought out. They were serving vegan pizzas, pretzels and loaded fries topped with pizza toppings. It was all great, 100% vegan, 100% competent cooking, but Rudy’s Dirty Vegan Diner were the main event, and the only place really fully in the spirit of Oktoberfest. Which was a shame. To pay entry to a festival of food, drink and music, and have only one outsider trader, one standalone stall serving food...wasn’t enough. Something to improve on next year, we think. Drinkswise, you couldn’t go wrong with either of the main vegan German lagers they had on, Spaten and Lowenbrau. It’d be nice to have them served in two pint steins, though. With just a limited selection of Bavarian lagers and craft ales, it didn’t feel like a celebration of beer, and that aspect of the night kind of retreated into the background. Elsewhere on the bar, the mulled wine was well-spiced and warming, as was the mulled cider. We didn’t get the chance to try a vegan Baileys, but if you’re looking for a boozy dessert at Vegtoberfest, it would surely be worth a shot.

The Entertainment

The cutting edge in the evening’s entertainment was brought by female drag queen and Neo-Burlesque superstar Lolo Brow. As compere she held the evening together, as an act she tore the evening apart. She was a witty, inclusive, fun host for proceedings, getting the audience involved and hyped and ready. But she kind of stole the show with her own performances, which included fire eating and an innovative, funny strip show, with the audience in charge of when to skip the track on her iPod. Vegtoberfest are proud of their progressive ethos, and look to update the traditions of Oktoberfest without completely ignoring them. So, instead of a traditional Oompah band, they booked a drum and brass band who play brassed-up versions of modern tunes and pop and rock classics. They’ve got a great name too: Old Dirty Brasstards. They were engaging performers and played wall-to-wall crowd-pleasing stuff. Total Eclipse of the Heart and Uptown Funk and some Winehouse songs and Shake It Off and Oasis tunes and so much more, often heading straight off into the next track or nicking the chorus from another pop track and sticking it on, creating a real brassy top of the pops mixtape feel. Besuited and with confetti guns set to stun, they were the feel good, family-friendly soundtrack to the evening. Balancing out the irreverence and progressiveness of Lolo, they were a good match for one another. [caption id="attachment_5402" align="alignnone" width="1000"][/caption]

The Venue

Fest in Camden is not the ideal place for Vegtoberfest. Oktoberfest tents are big and open from all sides, and Fest is small and has a lot of dead ends. So it was hard to get into the main room to see the entertainment. And Rudy’s Dirty Vegan Diner were stranded up the other end of the complex, with a single-file outdoor corridor separating the two. Ideally, Vegtoberfest would be held somewhere bigger, more open, where the different parts of the celebration can feel more connected. Still, it’s a great looking venue overlooking the market. The private rooms in the old stables are particularly attractive and atmospheric. The decor was all great, all done by Chou Rouge, the team behind Gala Festival and plenty of other parties. Mixing tradition and its antithesis, it set the scene for the evening. But it’s a shame they didn’t have a bigger canvas to work on. Vegtoberfest is back on October 19th 2019, with music from Brasstermind and Dee Riley hosting. [caption id="attachment_5400" align="alignnone" width="1000"][/caption]

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