Brauhaus Schmitz chef Jeremy Nolen has carved out a niche for himself in Philly, and soon nationally, with his contemporary interpretations of German cooking. For the bierhall’s fifth annual Oktoberfest, however, he and his cooks are keeping things classic. Which is to say extremely porky.
“We’ll have 2,000 total pounds of pork products,” estimates Nolen. That actual factual ton, prepared to feed the thousands of stein-hoisting revelers who pack Brauhaus’ outdoor tents and tables, comprises a wide variety of porcine delights. Two 160-pound whole hogs, rubbed in nothing more than salt, pepper and marjoram and slow-roasted till the skin crackles. A slew of pork shoulders roasted off in a similar manner. Hundreds of pounds of housemade sausages — 600 pounds of bratwurst alone, to begin — ready to be grilled off and devoured by the oompah-loving crowd.
Activity-wise, Nolen’s kitchen currently resembles the galley of a warship, with his staff preparing hundreds of pounds of sauerkraut and German potato salad ahead of Saturday’s festivities, which run from noon to 8 p.m. (The latter dish, contrary to popular American belief, does not contain mayonnaise or bacon.)
The German beer will flow fast and free throughout the weekend, of course, but one fixture of this year’s Oktoberfest rewards endurance in the category of delayed alcoholic gratification. The 21st will see the championship round of the bar’s very own Masskrugstemmen, or liter-lifting competition.
The rules are simple: Competitors are handed a liter’s worth of beer that they hoist in the air, arm outstretched in a spirited prost-ian pose. You’re eliminated if you bend your arm, spill a drop or put down the liter. Every night this week, Brauhaus has hosted preliminary rounds to fill out the field for Saturday’s finals (sign up here to compete Thursday or Friday). If you win? One free Brauhaus beer every day of the 2014 calendar year. If you lose? Hey, you’re still holding a full beer, things could be way worse.