The Filling MachineThere is a story behind Oktoberfest—something about a grand wedding that took place in Bavaria two hundred years ago. But for us it’s just an excuse to drink a lot of good beer. One excellent place to start your celebration is Bierkraft in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Here you can choose from hundreds of different bottles. The shop also carries a wide selection of artisanal cheeses, and every Tuesday it offers a free tasting of beers paired with cheese. (Tastings start at 7pm, but it’s best to arrive around 6:30pm to secure a ticket as the small space fills up quickly.)

Next week, on October 17, the tasting’s focus is Oktoberfest brews, which are strong lagers characterized by a caramel hue and taste. Traditionally, these beers are brewed in the spring, aged all summer, and drunk in the fall. If you taste something you like, it might be available on tap to take home. How’s that, you ask? Bierkraft is one of the few stores in the city to bottle draft beer to order (and it’s the only retailer to carry Brooklyn’s own amazing Six Point ales in bottles). You decide which of a daily-changing group of about four beers you want, and then the counterman fills and seals up a 64-ounce jug (called a “growler”). In fact, one of the owners here, Ben Granger, is so serious about fresh beer that he has built his own Willy Wonka–like contraption (above) that pressurizes the bottles to avoid any loss of fizz or flavor. Each jug runs around $11, plus a $4.50 deposit (which, if you’re smart, you won’t get back—you’ll always return for refills). Unopened, they’ll keep in the fridge for a couple months, and they make impressive gifts for house parties. Then there is the very special macho thrill to be had from asking out loud for a “growler.”