Casa Marana's color scheme is well-suited for the Bavarian aesthetic of Oktoberfest.

Growing up, my German mom would drive us all the way to Orange County to go to Oktoberfest. For us, Oktoberfest was a rare opportunity for her to immerse her family in the culture she grew up in. We would do the chicken dance to polka music and eat Sauerbraten with Rotkohl and Spaetzle. 

Nowadays, Tucson has an Oktoberfest season. I don’t attribute this to a resurgence of German culture as much as our city’s love for craft beer and the local breweries where we drink it. Nonetheless, my mom would be amazed by how many Tucsonans are eager to wear Tracht and participate in stein-holding contests.

I have long been amazed by the work our brewpubs put into organizing itineraries for the beer drinkers among us. One of my greatest resources as a food writer has been the food truck rosters of breweries looking to provide food to their patrons. These rosters are a crucible, where you can find trucks making their debut and where you can see if the truck has staying power.

I’m not the only one who keeps track of these rosters. “It’s also a major source of information for the Pima County Health Department,” Ellen McBride said. “If somebody is going to serve here, they better be legit, because (the health department knows) we post the food truck lineup, and they’ll come up and pay you a visit here for the same thing: the reliability and knowing the schedule in advance.”

Ellen is the manager of Arizona Beer House, an east-side brewpub at 150 S. Kolb Road, run by her brothers, David and Brian McBride. She will tell you she’s a direct person. She answered my first question right when she picked up the phone, before I even asked, in the deadpan voice busy people use because there’s no time for ornamentation.

“Booking the food trucks probably accounts for 50% of my time at Arizona Beer House. We book 800 slots per year. With cancellations, planning and parties, it requires that. It’s what I do. I’m good at it,” she said. 

“By June, I usually have the entire following year filled,” she said. This year, she’s behind schedule because she and her husband just opened One Hit Wonders smoke shop. She only has 90% of her 2024 schedule filled (though she is proud to say she has booked taco trucks for every Tuesday of the year).

She acknowledged that planning so far in advance doesn’t work for all trucks. “They don’t know if they’re working, but I do know I’ll be working, so it works out for me,” she said.

Ellen created a Facebook group for booking the food trucks. “If somebody tells me at 3:55 p.m. that they can’t make it by 5, I can get someone in the group to be there and ready by 5,” she said.

Food trucks are necessary for the brewpub’s bottom line.

“If you don’t have a booked food truck, we allow food from outside and we allow food to be delivered without restriction, but if people have to get up to leave after one beer, they aren’t coming back. They aren’t. So instead of two drinks, they might have one. It cuts their tab in half by not having a food truck,” Ellen said.

“Our customers know we will have a food truck every day at 5 p.m., Saturday serving by 4 p.m., Sunday serving by 3 p.m. Customers will ask, ‘Where’s so and so? Aren’t they supposed to serve in 10 minutes?’ It’s a big deal for a truck to not show up,” she said.

Ellen McBride manages her brother’s east-side craft brew pub, Arizona Beer House.

Though Ellen works 70-90-hour weeks between her jobs managing Arizona Beer House and owning One Hit Wonders, she doesn’t stop thinking about food trucks even when off-duty. She has paused a family vacation to reschedule trucks on late notice. When the family is driving around town, she’ll pull the car over if she sees an unfamiliar food truck, to give them her card.

Ellen’s brothers’ business would not be so successful without food trucks. Ellen has a deep appreciation for the brewpub’s symbiotic partner. 

Even as summer temperatures hover in the hundred-teens, Ellen has seen food truck cooks leave their trucks and get goosebumps from the change in temperature. “It’s 130 in there sometimes,” Ellen said.

“I have so much respect for food trucks,” Ellen said. “Talk about the smallest of businesses you could ever have, is hauling it around in a vehicle and finding someplace to show up, (to) do what you love, in the heat, in the rain, in the cold. It’s just an amazing thing.”

Arizona Beer House was the first place I ever tried the Haus of Brats German food truck. Haus of Brats is returning for Arizona Beer House's Oktoberfest celebration on Saturday, Sept. 30. 

If you can’t make it, fear not: we have a whole season of Oktoberfests at breweries and brewpubs across Tucson. Here’s the roundup of all the Oktoberfest celebrations going on in 2023! They are listed in chronological order.

The downtown brewing company Pueblo Vida is hosting one of Tucson's earliest Oktoberfests this season.

Pueblo Vida

This downtown brewery is releasing a new Oktoberfest-style lager this week, called Eiskalt. The lager will be available on tap, served in steins, alongside two other choice German brews: a Bavarian Hefeweizen and a Radler (the German version of a shandy).

Pretzels from Beyond Bread will be served on the evening of Friday, Sept. 15, but the steins will be out all weekend.

When: Starting at noon on Friday, Sept. 15

Location: 115 E. Broadway

For more information, check out the event page.

Tucson Hop Shop will be celebrating Oktoberfest on Friday, Sept. 15.

Tucson Hop Shop 

This is the first Oktoberfest where you can find Haus of Brats, the only German food truck catering these events this season (as of Sept. 14, it looks like German Food Station is still away for the summer). Haus of Brats will not only have real deal Bratwurst, shipped from a German butcher in California, but also Bavarian specialties like Leberkase (an addictive meatloaf). For those less adventurous, they’ll also have the Ciao Down pizza truck. Activities will include a stein hoist.

When: 6-8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15

Location: 3230 N. Dodge Blvd.

For more information, check out the event page.

Casa Marana

Not only will Casa Marana have the Haus of Brats food truck from 2-9 p.m., the brew pub is also hosting a market with local vendors in the afternoon. Casa Marana is also hosting a stein-holding contest.

When: 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 16

Location: 8225 N. Courtney Page Way

For more information, check out the event page.

Dragoon Brewing Company

Dragoon’s Oktoberfest will feature games, specials and offer prizes for best dressed. Trident Grill is catering.

When: Noon to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16

Location: 1859 W. Grant Road

For more information, check out the event page.

Customers line up at The Curry Pot Sri Lankan Fusion food trailer at Casa Video and Film Bar, 2905 E. Speedway, on July 20, 2023. 

Casa Video and Film Bar

Casa Video is hosting a double feature of on-theme movies in addition to having Haus of Brats in the parking lot. First up, they’re screening the beer comedy classic "Strange Brew" at 7 p.m. They’ll close the night with the German '90s classic "Run Lola Run."

When: 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 18

Location: 2905 E. Speedway

For more information, check out the event page.

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base

If you happen to have access to the base, Haus of Brats is showing up for Davis Monthan’s Oktoberfest from 4:30-8 p.m.

When: 4:30-8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22

Location: on base

For more information, check out the event page.

Members of the Tucson Ethnic Dance Ensemble perform during the first weekend of Oktoberfest at Ski Valley on Mount Lemmon in 2012.

Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley 

Get a taste of Alpine spirit on Mount Lemmon this fall. This Oktoberfest has all of the traditional hallmarks of the festival, like a large outdoor dance floor, live German-style music as well as German beer and food. For peak fall foliage, try the first weeks of October.

Note: If you drive up the mountain with your dog, you might have to drive right back home — dogs aren’t allowed at the festival.

When: Every weekend from Sept. 23-Oct. 15

Location: 10300 E. Ski Run Road, Mount Lemmon

For more information, check out the event page.

Forty Niner Country Club 

The east-side country club is hosting a party with cold beer and grilled brats, along with a stein-holding contest and live music. They’re encouraging visitors to come in Lederhosen and Dirndls. Tickets cost $35, with additional beer vouchers going for $20 for two steins.

When: 3-7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23

Location: 12000 E. Tanque Verde Road

For more information, check out the event page.

Union Public House is embracing a European vibe this fall with their Oktoberfest celebration.

Union Public House

What might be Tucson’s only Oktoberfest event with a bratwurst-eating competition, Union Public House’s Rocktoberfest is a free event at the St. Philip's Plaza. Live music will entertain in the background while attendants compete in German-themed contests. There will be specials on brats ($6 each) and Sam Adams Oktoberfest beer.

When: 5-10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23

Location: 4340 N. Campbell Ave.

For more information, check out the event page.

Crooked Tooth Brewing Co.

Crooked Tooth is releasing Oktoberfest brews this Saturday. Bavarian-style pretzels and German sausages will also be part of the party. 

When: Noon on Saturday, Sept. 23

Location: 228 E. Sixth St.

For more information, check out the event page.

Community Foundation for Southern Arizona

The Community Foundation of Southern Arizona is opening up its campus to Tucson to celebrate Oktoberfest with food, games and prizes. There might be some nonprofit networking going on while beers are slung and Haus of Brats serves German food. RSVP to snag a spot.

When: 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 28

Location: 5049 E. Broadway

For more information, check out the event page.

You can find Haus of Brats food truck at a few Oktoberfest events this year.

Arizona Beer House

The brewpub will offer a large selection of Oktoberfest-style beers alongside food from Haus of Brats and Pies the Limit. Buy a commemorative stein and your first drink is included in the price. Kids rejoice: the venue will offer a 45-foot bouncy house obstacle course.

“We’re also having it as a fundraiser for the Roadrunners softball team, they’re having a bake sale,” Ellen said. “It would be great for (customers) to support that. We don’t have a cover, we’ll never have a cover. We’re family-friendly, dog-friendly. It’s always just a great time.”

When: Noon to midnight Saturday, Sept. 30

Location: 150 S. Kolb Road

For more information, check out the event page.

Button Brew House

Button Brew House is hosting the only Oktoberfest in Tucson with mead on tap. Activities include live music, a costume contest and a stein-holding competition. The $40 ticket includes admission and a commemorative glass with 5 nine-ounce fills.

When: Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30

Location: 6800 N. Camino Martin

For more information, check out the event page.

Catalina Brewing Company

Catalina Brewing's roster of activities for Oktoberfest includes beer yoga, a stein-holding contest, a log-sawing competition, German trivia, face painting and open mic comedy. Haus of Brats will be there!

When: Noon to 8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 1

Location: 6918 N. Camino Martin

For more information, check out the event page.

The Hut

The charitable organization Active 20-30 Club is hosting an Oktoberfest party at The Hut whose proceeds will benefit the Autism Society of Southern Arizona. Activities at the event will include a stein-holding competition, a pie-eating contest and prizes for best dressed and most spirited, along with standards like live music, food vendors and beer.

When: Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7 

Location: 305 N. Fourth Ave.

For more information, check out the event page.

Trail Dust Town

Six breweries will be pouring drinks at Trail Dust Town's Oktoberfest on Oct. 7. German food, including brats and pretzels, will be on the menu. While admission is free, tickets are on sale for beer tastings, food and amusement rides.

When: 3-9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7

Location: 6541 E. Tanque Verde Road

For more information, check out the event page.

1912 Brewing Co.

1912 Brewing is preparing to release an Oktoberfest brew dubbed the Metiche Märzen. Food truck Daniela's Cooking will be serving German specials and a stein-holding contest will take place at 4 p.m.

When: Noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14

Location: 2045 N. Forbes Blvd.

For more information, check out the event page.

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