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Originally published September 25, 2010 at 7:06 PM | Page modified September 25, 2010 at 10:45 PM

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Fremont Oktoberfest: a toast to microbrews, T-shirts and curly fries

Oktoberfest is happening in Fremont this weekend and there is beer, beer and beer.

Seattle Times staff reporter

More festivities

Oktoberfest continues Sunday, 10 a.m. — 6 p.m. Details: www.fremontoktoberfest.com

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Keith Meissner went to the Fremont Oktoberfest beer extravaganza with two single buddies with whom he drinks beer every week. But he did have to negotiate the deal with his girlfriend.

"I traded her going to the ballet. I got to come here," said Meissner, 37, as he sipped some hoppy Redhook ale from a little plastic beer mug. She had a hair appointment and skipped the beer fest. But he planned to keep his end of the bargain and go to the ballet in the evening.

"It's at 7. I just have to put a shirt on," Meissner said.

Early in a gorgeous, blue-sky Seattle afternoon, with the festival still relatively uncrowded, was the perfect time for him and his friends, beer aficionados all, to chill out for a few hours.

"I come to taste the beers, not really to see the scene," said Meissner.

In Fremont, the self-styled "center of the universe" for all things hip and arty, the scene was appropriately eclectic.

Anthony Martinez, a young man in his early 20s who moved here in May to take an IT job, wore a long, black brocade coat and had blue plastic plugs in his earlobes.

Martinez said he and his boyfriend brew beer at home. Where he came from in New Mexico, he said, they put green chilies in their beer, and he wants to experiment with mesquite beans.

But he conceded that the microbrew he was sampling was "much more flavorful" than anything he'd brewed at home.

A Seattle preponderance at Oktoberfest of guys who work for IT companies, and were wearing plaid shorts, T-shirts and sandals, was enlivened with a splash of cosmopolitan flavor.

Claire Baladou, 24, originally from Dunkirk, France — "Near the border with Belgium. We have good beer, too" — said she's been pleased to discover the quality of American microbrews.

"I was surprised," said Baladou, who has been in the U.S. two years. "It's not the image we have in France. I thought all American beers would be very light and not so tasty."

She attended with her American husband, Daniel Brackett, 29, and his twin 23-year-old brothers James and John.

Between the four of them, they held two gigantic, precarious bricks of curly fries.

Each portion of these very un-French French fries was the size and shape of a concrete block. Apparently they went well with the beer.

Even the petite Baladou, clearly well on her way to U.S. citizenship, indulged heartily.

But the absence of gourmet food did not inhibit a little beer snobbery.

Would you ever just order a Bud?

"Not even if I was homeless," said James Brackett.

"Oh no," said Meissner. "We're not here for cheap beers."

Nearby, the Blue Moon brewery, of Denver, offered its wares. Don't tell anyone, but it's a boutique subsidiary of beer giant MillerCoors.

Jake Harper, 36, a brewer with the Deschutes Brewery of Bend, Ore. — makers of Black Butte porter and Mirror Pond pale ale — is doing his bit to elevate beer.

Harper worked his way up at the brewery from forklift driver to his current job without formal training in brewing. Sporting long hair and a soul-patch goatee, he realizes a lot of guys think he has a cool job. So does he.

"The best job in the world," Harper said. Yes, he gets to drink beer "every day." And it's not taste, swirl and spit, as in the wine world.

"There's no spitting with beer," said Harper.

But Deschutes nevertheless promotes a touch of wine-world distinction. At the Deschutes trailer, shaped like a big, wooden beer barrel, people could sample vintage beers, their bottles sealed with wax and stamped with the year the beer was brewed.

Would you like a 2009 Abyss? A very good year. Or a 2008? These are limited-edition ales that supposedly improve with age.

Among some drinkers who took that particular comparison test, men favored the 2009, which tasted more strongly of alcohol, while women preferred the 2008.

The vintage-beer testers included Jeremy Jack, 36, who was stationed with the Army in Germany for four years, and his wife, Melinda Mosholder, 35, who was also posted there with the military. They went to the original Munich Oktoberfest — which stretches from mid-September into October — and rarely drank American beers in Germany.

"Most people tried to immerse themselves in the culture," said Mosholder.

"You don't have a choice," said Jack. "They don't serve water there."

He preferred the 2009 Abyss, she the 2008.

"Most men enjoy a harsher taste of alcohol," said Jack. "That's why they like whiskey rather than wine. Women want an easier, smoother taste."

Lisa Mosholder, 34, visiting from San Francisco, had the same preference as her cousin Melinda, but balked at Jack's gender-role interpretation. Melinda reluctantly backed her husband.

"Maybe he's on to something, but we don't want to admit it," said Melinda.

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com

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