Imbibe owner Bill McTavish and Kitchener-Waterloo Craft Beer Club founder Ryan Ward say they're looking to take the lager into their own hands with local alternatives to the Molson-dominated festhallen. The two say there's a lack of local options on tap at official Oktoberfest venues.

"The Oktoberfest scene right now is basically just Molson products," Ward told The Morning Edition on Friday. "With so many new craft breweries opening up, it would be nice to have an alternative for people who are into craft beers and to get people to try craft beers."

Ward said Craftoberfest will take a page from the original Oktoberfest celebration in Germany, which is a celebration of the local harvest. 

"That's why we're trying to get all the local breweries to come up with German-style, Oktoberfest-inspired beers for the upcoming event," he said. 

Craftoberfest not sanctioned by KW Oktoberfest

Craftoberfest will run concurrently with Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest from September 27 to October 17. 

However, McTavish says the event is in no way affiliated with the official festival.

"They understand what we're doing," he said. "We can't be sanctioned by them because of some of their restrictions, but they're certainly not opposed to what we're doing." 

Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest has a longstanding partnership with Molson Canadian, which has sponsored the festival for more than three decades and allows Molson to hold the exclusive rights to serve at Oktoberfest festival halls across Waterloo Region.

Molson monopoly a 'missed opportunity'

With an ever-growing number of craft breweries already operating or just starting up in Waterloo Region, Ward sees Molson's monopoly on official venues as a missed opportunity not only for local brewers, but beer drinkers as well. 

"Just in the last year alone in Kitchener-Waterloo we've had two breweries that have opened, which is Block Three and Innocente," he said, adding two more breweries are set to open their doors in the region soon. 


Molson Canadian holds the exclusive rights to serve at Oktoberfest festival halls across Waterloo Region. (Matthew Kang/CBC)

"For a region that's going to have so much craft beer, it's a shame they can't sell their beer during Oktoberfest." 

McTavish, who regularly keeps a rotation of locally-sourced craft beer on tap at his downtown restaurant Imbibe, agrees. 

"Oktoberfest brings a million people to our region and it just feels appropriate that we should be showcasing what this area is producing," he said.  

So far the only two establishments looking to partake in Carftoberfest are Imbibe Food and Drink and The Boathouse, which are both operated by McTavish, but he said he's had inquiries. 

"There's been a lot of interest for sure, a lot of phone calls, a lot of emails and tweetbacks."