Kyle Doyle isn’t German – let’s point that out right away. The Irish-American does, however, have a deep-rooted love for German culture, and one aspect of it has defined his life in many ways: German beer.
It all started when Doyle – who was born in Missouri, but spent half of his life in Wyoming – was living in St. Louis. Being in the home of the biggest name in American brewing, Anheuser-Busch, he quickly gained an appreciation for not only the beverage, but one of the biggest celebrations of it.
“Those German roots are really deep in St. Louis, so there’s some really great Oktoberfest parties there,” he said. “So eight years ago, when I moved back to Cheyenne and got into the beer business, I was like, ‘Man, we don’t have an Oktoberfest.’”
In 2018, Doyle changed that. His first Downtown Cheyenne Oktoberfest didn’t have the best weather – the high was 42 that day – but a couple hundred people still braved the cold to toast to German-style beer, which he considered a success. In 2019, he moved the festivities to the Cheyenne Depot Plaza. Despite a pandemic-induced cancellation last year, the event is back Saturday, Sept. 18, on the plaza, and Doyle is confident it’ll offer something for everybody.
His Oktoberfest – which takes place in September because that’s when the original event kicks off in Munich, for anyone wondering why it’s not in October – will be laid out just like Fridays on the Plaza, with the same stage and beer trailers. (Volunteers will even accept your leftover Fridays on the Plaza beer tickets.)
Event partner Sierra Nevada will have multiple craft beers on tap, including its 2021 Oktoberfest Marzen Lager, its Munich Helles Lager and its classic Oktoberfest Lager. If you’re not a lager person, never fear, because the lineup will also feature a pale ale, fruited sour and IPA.
For those whose palate or stomach prevent them from enjoying a brew, Doyle said there will be several nonalcoholic beverages and a gluten-free hard kombucha available for purchase. Several food trucks will also be on the plaza to make sure you have some grub to soak it all up.
This year’s food lineup includes Cruisin Thru, Border Dogs and La Barata, and there will also be a catering company on site from Colorado. Although none of them specialize in German-style food, Doyle said the more people who support the event, the better possibility he has of attracting that type of vendor in the future.
“We don’t really have a rich German expat community in Cheyenne, so we’re kind of creating this out of thin air,” he said. “It’s not like we have a German food truck and a bunch of polka bands or some multi-generational German families that can add to the culture … but we also just want to make it a fun event that people can come out for and celebrate the start of fall.”
The festival will also feature live music, all of which will be provided by regional rock groups that Doyle ensured will be paid for their performance. Headlining is Pearl Jam tribute band TEN, which will take the stage after supporting acts Mr. Byrd and the Perfect Strangers and Sentrum.
Doyle is excited by the big age range among the performers, from the experienced Cheyenne musicians that make up Mr. Byrd and the Perfect Strangers to the teen rockers of Sentrum, and though it’s not live polka music, he’s positive you’d rather hear these pros and up-and-comers throughout the afternoon.
“I’m not even a Pearl Jam fan, necessarily, but I thought TEN sounded really good during the Cheyenne Brewers Festival, so we figured we’d give people a cross-section of stuff,” he said. “It is pretty hard to listen to polka the whole damn day, so I figure some rock ‘n’ roll is not gonna hurt anybody’s feelings.”
This year’s event will also feature a costume contest and steinhoisting competition, the latter of which will crown the person who sticks their arms out straight with huge glasses of beer held aloft the best. The Steinhoisting Open Qualifying happens from 1-3 p.m. on event day, and the finals will take over the main stage at 4:15 p.m.
Anybody worried about attending the event while Cheyenne’s COVID-19 case numbers continue to rise should know that volunteers are thoroughly trained in sanitation protocols, Doyle said, particularly when it comes to serving beer – which is why, if you choose to purchase a $25 souvenir beer mug, they’re not allowed to pour your beer directly into it (but they’ll gladly pour it in a plastic cup that you can pour into your mug yourself).
There will be plenty of space to spread out throughout the Depot Plaza, Doyle added, and he’s encouraging everyone to “use their common sense,” and if they don’t feel well, stay home.
It was important for Doyle to have the festival this year because he feels like everyone needs to socialize outside and enjoy the last of the nice weather while we still can – and what better way to do that than with a cold one in your hand?
Doyle, a beer wholesaler with Bison Beverage, said his career in the beer business didn’t happen by chance. He’s passionate about craft beer and its ability to bring people together, and that’s what keeps him inspired to grow this festival year after year.
“Historically speaking, I’m a beer history buff … so after all of that, coupled with my previous encounters with cool Oktoberfest parties, I guess throwing an Oktoberfest in my backyard wasn’t big enough,” he said. “I wanted to try and do something that would interest the community and give everybody something cool to do at the depot downtown.
“I think what motivates me is trying to grow this out of nothing into something that I think Cheyenne should already be proud of.”