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Echo’s Oktoberfest draws world-traveling guests

German tourists happen upon town as event begins, pleased at the coincidence.
By Phil Wright

Staff Writer

Published on October 24, 2017 4:52PM

Michael Fielder pours a pint while Alan Kitchen stands ready to pour more Saturday evening at the Echo Oktoberfest. The brewers for the Hermiston Brewing Co. brought a slew of their best-sellers for the event, and midway through drained a keg of their Blue Mountain Blonde.

Staff photo by Phil Wright

Michael Fielder pours a pint while Alan Kitchen stands ready to pour more Saturday evening at the Echo Oktoberfest. The brewers for the Hermiston Brewing Co. brought a slew of their best-sellers for the event, and midway through drained a keg of their Blue Mountain Blonde.

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Liona Schmid, Julia Friess, and Sarah Weimer, all from Germany, take a moment Saturday evening with Hermiston’s Blake Bettencourt during the Echo Oktoberfest. The trio of travelers have been on a West Coast trip and found themselves in the small town. Bettencourt was the only one at the party sporting traditional Austrian garments.

Staff photo by Phil Wright

Liona Schmid, Julia Friess, and Sarah Weimer, all from Germany, take a moment Saturday evening with Hermiston’s Blake Bettencourt during the Echo Oktoberfest. The trio of travelers have been on a West Coast trip and found themselves in the small town. Bettencourt was the only one at the party sporting traditional Austrian garments.

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Echo’s second Oktoberfest garnered international attention.

Three Germans plunked themselves into the midst of the small town’s big fundraiser Saturday night. Sarah Weimer, Julia Friess and Liona Schmid said they were heading back to Vancouver, Washington, after visiting just about every sight they could cram into a three-week West Coast trip, from San Fransisco to Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon. Weimer said they pulled into Echo to find a place to rest for the night when the horse-drawn wagon advertising the town’s Oktoberfest caught her eye.

They had to check it out, she said.

Each member of the trio sported smiles and a pint of beer. Friess said the glasses in Germany, however, hold a liter of beer — a tad more than a quart.

The Germans were a smash at the downtown scene, which drew about 150 locals and started at 4 in the afternoon while the rain still was coming down. The downpour didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirits, though the crowd size was smaller than 2016’s.

Echo Kiwanis members started the Oktoberfest last year. Kiwanis member Phyllis Shovelski of Echo said the inaugural event drew more than 400 and raised $6,000, and this year’s festival sold 150 tickets in the weeks before. She said the proceeds benefit scholarships and the St. Peter’s Catholic Church restoration project.

The Hermiston Brewing Co. provided the beer for the party, giving locals the opportunity to take a step outside their safe zone. That’s just what Alan Kitchen and Micheal Fielder wanted.

Kitchen is the head brewer at Hermiston Brewing, and Fielder is the assistant brewer. They craft 21 beers and brought 10 of the brewery’s top sellers, plus one mass-produced domestic beer.

Kitchen said craft brewing still has a small footprint in Eastern Oregon, so some beer drinkers are comfortable staying with what has been on tap here for decades. Kitchen and Fielder, however, tried to steer folks to try something with a bit more local flavor. And if customers ask questions about the beers, that’s all the better.

“I can find you a beer you like,” Kitchen asserted.

Chris Klein of Hermiston said he has tried several of the brewery’s beers, so he went for something new — the Dunkle, for “dad’s your uncle.” After a few sips, he said, the dark concoction just might be his favorite.

The Dunkle and a Hefeweizen were the two more traditional German brews on the menu. Kitchen said they even used hops from Munich to craft the Dunkle.

Weimer and Friess said they found the brews were pretty good, even if they were not German.



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