AustOberfest attracts students and alumni with larger festival

Jackie Wang

Electrical engineering senior Konrad Werzner skipped last year’s AustOberfest because he was underage, but he won’t have to worry about that this year.

“It’s an all-ages event, but a lot of people go for the beer because it’s all imported German beer,” Werzner said. “Some types of beer you can’t even get at Spec’s.”

Austin Saengerrunde Halle, located on San Jacinto Boulevard, will host their second annual AustOberfest, a mash-up of “Austin” and “Oktoberfest,” on Saturday. 

Saengerrunde Halle used to regularly host an Oktoberfest, but stopped in the 1980s. 

Reagan Roland stumbled upon Saengerrunde Halle two years ago, and she immediately thought of Oktoberfest.

“It’s kind of a funny story,” Roland said. “I live four blocks away, and my husband and I walked down and I was like, ‘What is this place? Is it a sports bar? Is it a German hall? … Why don’t we have an Oktoberfest here?’”

Roland met with the board of directors, who agreed to let her plan an Oktoberfest celebration for free. After its success, she was hired as an executive director for the club.

This year’s AustOberfest will be even bigger than before, featuring 18 different food vendors — all with craft sausages and German-style sides — and nine different German beers.

“The hall is amazingly decorated, but the inside stage is a competition stage,” Roland said. “We have a yodeling competition, a stein-holding competition and an air accordion competition.”

Roland said they would stay well below max capacity for quality control.

“The best part about the event is you pay $40, and you can eat your way through the next couple months,” Roland said. “We plan on keeping the ticket sales capped to eliminate large lines.”

Werzner said he’s looking forward to the unlimited food and drink.

“It’s a good hangout place,” Werzner said. “I want to try all the different vendors, and I’m kind of a beer snob. You can sample them all.”

Saengerrunde, the oldest German heritage club in Austin, was first founded in 1879 and organized itself as a singing society. The hall is home to the Saengerrunde Maennerchor, the governing body of Austin Saengerrunde, who meet every week to sing traditional German songs. 

Brian Michalk, the club’s president, graduated from UT in 1994 with a degree in computer science and was a member of the Longhorn Band. Michalk continued to play the tuba after graduation and is part of the Longhorn Alumni Band. For Michalk, Saengerrunde is more of a hobby, but one that he said takes up more time than it probably should.

“It’s a labor of love,” Michalk said. “It’s enjoyable. I really like seeing plans come together, like throwing this Oktoberfest celebration, and when it’s done, we can revel in the glory of a successful event.”

With such rapid growth after only one year, Michalk forsees bigger things for future AustOberfest celebrations.

“Next year, we’ll probably shut down the street,” Michalk said.

AustOberfest will take place at Saengerrunde Halle from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tickets are $50 at the door.