Steamboat OktoberWest: September 16, 2023

Steamboat OktoberWest is a traditional German event done Rocky Mountain style. You’ll get to taste time-honored lagers and pilsners plus experimental “with a twist” Colorado craft brews. You’ll have the chance to don your dirndls and lederhosen, flower crowns and feather hats. And you’ll light up from the undeniably happy, rapid fire, rootstomping atmosphere when blues and bluegrass music come together with headliner Cousin Curtiss.

This fall, the 14th Steamboat OktoberWest revels in the return to Steamboat Resort. After a three-year hiatus due to COVID and Full Steam Ahead construction and improvement projects at the base area, the resort is ready again to host more than 30 brewers and an anticipated 1,500 participants. On September 16th, the Saturday Beer Garden takes place at Steamboat Square from 2-6pm. It’s a family friendly event with food, drink, and activities for all ages. Being back at the base offers the additional opportunity for guests to eat at the recently opened Range Food & Drink Hall.

If you’re making a weekend of Steamboat OktoberWest, plan to kick off on September 15th with the Friday Night Beer Stroll from 3-7pm. The four-hour self-guided is for ages 21 and older. The tour starts downtown and includes two tastings at each participating restaurant. The Beer Stroll is a fundraiser for Steamboat’s Young Professionals Network, a community development program of the Steamboat Chamber committed to building a better community by empowering the next generation of leaders through philanthropy, professional development, and networking.

Two of the most exciting activities on the festival schedule are the steinholding contest and axe throwing. Steinholding, or masskrugstemmen, is as German and Steamboat as you can get – it’s where beer meets sport. Steinholding rules are simple: hold a full glass stein straight out from your shoulder without bending your elbow or spilling your beer. Success requires both strength (in your deltoid) and the patience to not drink. The American steinholding record is 21 minutes, 17 seconds and the German record is reportedly 45 minutes, 2 seconds. The contest begins Saturday at 3:45pm. Contestants must sign up at the event and space is limited to 20 participants.

Axe throwing, historically prominent at lumberjack competitions, is another fun, adventurous activity that celebrates America’s western and outdoor heritage. If you aren’t well-versed in axe throwing, don’t worry. You can draw on your dart throwing skills you honed in college or any remnants of archery skills you may have learned at summer camps long gone. Or… you can be bold enough to try something new.

Steamboat OktoberWest’s Jennifer Grathwohl acknowledges that trying new things is one of the secrets to enjoying the event. Taking time to talk to brewers and listen to the story behind the beer is just as much of the experience as tasting the beer itself (there are unlimited samples, so there’s no need to rush). Being present in the moment is key to soaking in the occasion. “Be willing to try new foods, engage in conversations with other people, and do something you can only do in Steamboat – hit up a restaurant or go for a hike,” Jennifer emphasizes. “This mindset will help you feel what the celebration is all about.”

True immersion in Steamboat OktoberWest, Jennifer says, means people “lean into the western heritage and the dedication to hospitality we have here in Steamboat. People here are in such good moods, and they are so nice to each other. It’s one of the best places to be. Steamboat is kind, and it’s a real community.”

An essential element of the event that contributes to the sense of community is having local artisans on-site. This year’s vendors include: Coleman’s Haberdashery, outdoor lifestyle enthusiasts who make high quality leather accessories from American bison; Erin Gallagher Jewelry, who is committed to sustainable practices and whose creed is to “Do Good”; and Glacier Lilly, who uses locally grown flowers and plants and will be available to help people make Steamboat-style Bavarian flower crowns.

A few safety reminders to make the most of your time in northwest Colorado:

  • designate a driver, ride the free bus, or ride your bike
  • stay hydrated at altitude
  • no dogs allowed
  • check the weather (fall in the Rockies boasts a little bit of everything, and the event goes on rain or shine).

Learn more about the Steamboat OktoberWest event, schedule, VIP options, pricing, lodging, and vendors here.