Monday, October 6, 2014

31 Days of Halloween: Vegan Oktoberfest 2014 Report

This past Saturday I attended the first ever Vegan Oktoberfest, held right on the beach in Santa Monica, California. Oktoberfest is such a quintessential October celebration, I was so, so excited that we finally had an all-vegan option for this celebration of drink and food! I had grabbed early-bird VIP tickets (cost: $50 each, though after the early bird sale they went up to $65 each) pretty much the day they announced the event many months back, so I had been eagerly anticipating attending this vegan event.

This was around noon when we first got there...I wish I had an 
"after" picture to show what it looked like later!

Of course, a Southern Californian heat wave just had to occur on the weekend of the event, so that was a major bummer. It was in the high 90s, even right on the beach. That also meant that droves turned out for a beach day, making parking at the event a nightmare. With VIP tickets, I had early entry and showed up early, but the lot the event organizers said there would be parking in was already full (half of it taken up by the event itself), so we wasted a good 1/2 hour - 45 minutes driving around looking for alternate parking. We finally found a lot, but we could only park there for 4 hours, definitely putting a damper on the event before we even got there. Event organizers (this goes for all events, not just this one) - PLEASE figure out the parking situation and let your patrons know ahead of time. We would have arrived a lot earlier if we knew parking was going to be such a pain in the ass.

Lots and lots of tables, but these filled up ridiculously fast! I also
wish the canopy made it shadier instead of just providing 
light cover from the awful heat.

We finally arrived at the event, already annoyed. We got there a little after noon, which was the VIP entry time. There was no line, and we got in really fast after showing our IDs, getting our tickets scanned and getting our VIP wristbands. We picked up our mini beer steins (about 5 oz. size, similar to Vegan Beer Fest's beer glasses, though these were plastic) and were good to go! At this point, the lines for everything were pretty short, so I made a beeline for Sage Vegan Bistro and got their pretzels ($7 each), with some maple and jalapeno dipping sauces. YUM! I knew the food lines would be atrocious later, so while Mister Spooky went and got us beer, I hit up Southern Fried Vegan and picked up a beer brat with with kraut in a pretzel bun, which was $12 with a bag of chips (unfortunately, their Deep Fried Cheez Steaks weren't ready yet, so I didn't get to try those, dammit). I also tried The Grilled Cheese Truck's special vegan option, which my friend bought, so I don't know the price. It was some kind of grilled cheese with sauerkraut and sausage (sorry, don't remember the name!). The same friend also got Sage's fish and chips, which I tried as well. I loved the pretzels, beer brat and grilled cheese sandwich, but though the texture of the fish was (scarily) spot-on, I didn't care for the flavor too much. The "chips" (aka French fries) were perfect, though!

Food I tried, clockwise from top left: grilled cheese sauerkraut 
sausage sammie from The Grilled Cheese Truck, pretzels with 
dipping sauces from Sage, fish and chips from Sage, beer brat
 from Southern Fried Vegan.

After all that food and multiple brews, I needed something sweet, so I headed over to Life is Sweet Bakeshop for their three beer cupcakes (all three for $10!) and traditional apple strudel ($4.50). The three flavors of the cupcakes were Pumpkin Spice, German Chocolate, and Lemon Wheat, and they were all made with beer from several breweries at the fest! They were the highlight of the festival for me - so light, fluffy and delicious!! The icing was divine and the flavor was out-of-this-world. As you probably know, I am partial to all things pumpkin, so I assumed that would be my favorite cupcake. However, after sampling all three I can't pick a clear favorite because they were all so dang amazing! I also tried the apple strudel from Life is Sweet. It was made the traditional way, with raisins, but you could also get it without the raisins if you preferred. I got it traditional style and loved every bite!

Beer cupcakes from Life is Sweet!

I also got to try KindKreme's vegan ice cream for the first time. I got their Cookies and Cream flavor and it was a welcome respite from the heat! I thought the consistency was a bit grainy, and the aftertaste was funky, but overall it was okay. I also tried their berry flavor, and I thought that tasted way better than the Cookies and Cream one I got. One scoop ran me $4.38 (yes, I remember the stupid .38 because I had to dig through change to find it...can't they just make it $4 as advertised??).

Kind Kreme's Cookies n Cream ice cream.

I was happy to see that Nary Dairy was on hand, and got several samples of their delicious nut-based vegan cheese. I loved those guys, they were so friendly and sweet! They and the people from Life is Sweet definitely had the nicest people working their booth! I think their cheeses are my new favorite (sorry, Parmela!), and I left the fest with three of their flavors. They were definitely another food highlight from Oktoberfest!

Picked up three Nary Dairy cheeses - their special Bavarian Beer flavor,
Chia Cheddar and Hickory Smoked! All so delicious!

Favorite brews included Einstok's Icelandic White Ale and Four Son's Vanilla Bean brew, with Einstok being my clear favorite! I didn't get to try many other brews, as I was the designated driver for the event. Definitely gonna seek out some Einstok now, though! Great beer!

So, after getting all the food I could and drinking as many brews possible in an hour, the general admission people started to be let in and that's when it clearly got clusterfucked. It got over-crowded really fast, and we had to leave at 3:30 anyway because the lot where we parked had a 4 hour maximum. It was probably for the best that we left early, because it got so overcrowded you could barely walk. Plus, you couldn't really talk to anyone you ran into because the music was so freaking loud. Seriously, I don't need to hear "The Chicken Dance" for the 1,000th time at full blast, thanks. I go to concerts all the time, but for a festival the music was just too loud and annoying. And when it got overcrowded, you couldn't even sit down...the special VIP section was always full with no place to sit and the regular area was full as well. I really appreciate they had actual places to sit, but the VIP area was tiny and needed to be bigger to accommodate everyone who bought a ticket.

Traditional apple strudel from Life is Sweet Bakeshop!

Don't get me wrong, I really appreciate that there is a Vegan Oktoberfest and I am lucky to have such an event in my area, however, I hope they make improvements if they ever have this again, because there was some serious issues that need to be addressed and I am not sure if I would ever attend this event again. You'll find my pros and cons below.


  • VIP entry was quick and easy.
  • VIP was worth it ONLY to take advantage of the short lines for 1 hour before general admission - protip: buy all the food you want during this hour, because you DO NOT want to wait in the long lines after GA is let in.
  • It was 21 and over. If they had let kids or people with strollers in I probably would have murdered somebody. So glad it was 21 and over! 
  • There was a good selection of breweries on-hand. 
  • There was a decent selection of food available, a big enough selection where I didn't get to try everything I wanted. 
  • I liked that they had a big section of tables and chairs where you could eat your food and rest (though these filled up fast and later you couldn't find a place to sit).
  • The Porta Potties were set up in two locations and there was never a line. They were pretty clean, too.
  • Bottled water was only $1.


  • Parking was awful. Next time they should more clearly anticipate the large crowds and tell people exact locations of alternate options to park at (and not just the crappy 4 hour lots!!!). 
  • The location itself was meh. I didn't like that it was just in the parking would have been better if it was in the adjacent park (though I'm not sure if this would have been possible due to city regulations). And can they pick a location that is not smack-dab in the one of the most popular beach spots? Maybe somewhere off-the-beaten path where traffic isn't hell? Maybe they could consider hosting the event inside a building as well - I don't get the appeal of outside festivals. 
  • The VIP section was too small - I didn't even get to utilize it since it was always full. It felt like a rip-off that we didn't get access to what we paid for.
  • Some of the selections for food vendors was iffy - the Green Truck was there, even though they have lied about stuff being vegan when it really wasn't before. It seems like the organizers could have selected more honest and dedicated vegan food trucks or better vegan vendors. 
  • It was nice they had lots of tables and chairs, but these still filled up fast! They definitely needed more room for the 1,000s of people that attended.
  • The music was too loud and I couldn't even hear what friends were saying. Seriously, no reason for it to be so loud except to annoy patrons. Not to mention the band played the same two songs over and over again. Spend more money on a bigger, better venue and just ditch the band next time. 
  • Not enough shade, especially since we were all walking around a hot parking lot. Definitely needed more shade and maybe a "cool-off" station with misters. 
  • They had Bavarian maidens, but why not Bavarian dudes for the ladies??
  • The crowds. By far the biggest complaint of everyone there! There was barely any room to walk inside the event and when we left there were still people waiting to get IN (I guess the event reached its capacity early on and they couldn't let anyone in unless people left due to fire and city codes). I know people that just ended up leaving before they got in because the entry line was so long. Even if they had gotten in, they would have faced daunting lines for food or missed out on food/beer since many places were selling out. TONS of people are complaining about the event being oversold. Vegan Oktoberfest needs to consider either getting a bigger (and better) venue, or releasing less tickets so their event isn't so crowded. Soooo many people are asking for refunds because they couldn't get in, or they got in and couldn't do anything because the lines were long and it was too crowded to move. Poor planning, Oktoberfest, and I hope you are refunding people!
I feel like such a grumpy vegan ragging on this event, but I honestly didn't have that great of a time. I felt like they could have planned the event a lot better and overall was let-down and disappointed. I know this is their first year, so I have to give them a bit of slack due to that, but they need to make serious improvements in coming years. I love that a vegan event completely sold out, but if it's poorly planned and ill-executed, people won't be back next year. 

I had really hoped Oktoberfest would be a fun kick-off to my October, but it was more disappointing than anything else. 

For more info, visit Vegan Oktoberfest's website or Facebook page.


  1. good looking food though the event itself seemed a let down. i cannot handle crowds and that + heat would have not made me happy.

  2. On the one hand it's great to see interest in vegan events, but the crowds ruin it for me. This is why I stopped going to DC vegfest. The line for Vegan Treats alone is usually e to 4 hundred people deep in the first half hour, and the vendor booths get so backed up you can't see everything. These events planners really need to step it up. I'd love a VIP ticket with special browsing time. I totally pay for those things, though it would suck to feel like you didn't get your moneys worth.

  3. i am glad i am pregnant and was unable to go!! i like a lot the other event, vegan beer fest though the drive is a schlep!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...