By Saxon Knight
“You got an ID and a thirst, you can come on in!”
That’s what Whole Foods Market patrons heard Saturday, Oct. 3, as they were greeted with free beer and food in celebration of the annual German Oktoberfest.
The local version of the event, which was held from 4 to 6 p.m. at the main entrance of Whole Foods Market in Maui Mall garnered looks of confusion and delight as people slowly began to realize what they had walked into. Sophia Bowman-Albirt, the woman behind the voice who was dressed in Oktoberfest fashion, encouraged customers to sit and have some beer―for free. “Sometimes you just need a little beer; I know,” said Bowman-Albirt as she poured some Marzen into a customer’s cup. “You’ll get tired of my face,” said one of the customers with a smile before sitting down at the table.
Sitting on a cart in a tub of ice was Whole Foods’ choice selection of Oktoberfest and Oktoberfest-themed beers, including the authentic Ayinger Oktober Fest-Marzen and the German Weihenstephaner and Weihenstephaner Korbinian from the oldest still-standing brewery in the world. There were also a couple of spinoff selections from American companies like The Boston Beer Company, Goose Island Beer Co. and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. One of the Oktoberfest-themed beers, the Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest, which had been contracted out to a private brewery in Germany, seemed to be the crowd favorite of all the beers present, and customers even asked for it by name after the first and second rounds of sampling.
In addition to the free beer, participants were also given small souvenirs consisting of bottle openers and chapstick, both courtesy of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and bearing its name.
Participants were surprised even further with the unannounced inclusion of an authentic German meat salad, which had graciously been prepared earlier that day by an employee originally from Munich, Germany. The salad’s container had a handwritten label that read: “GERMAN MORTADELLA SALAD OCT. 3 T. 10.” The salad contained mayonnaise, chives, what appeared to be lettuce and hardy chunks of mortadella, a smooth, pink Italian sausage with tiny bits of fat.
Sponsored by Whole Foods Market and open to the public, the event was both coordinated and executed by Bowman-Albirt, the self-proclaimed adventurer who earned her extensive knowledge of beer “purely as a layperson.”
Prior to her position at Whole Foods, Bowman-Albirt worked as a buyer of supplies for the art supply outlet known as Sam Flax in Atlanta. She moved with her husband to Maui last July, where she settled in before learning of the posting for the beer-buyer position at Whole Foods. “I was like, ‘Well I know buying… and I love beer,’ so I applied and I got it,” she said. “Tomorrow’s actually my last day [and] I’m a little sorry to see it go—I’m moving to Portland, hopefully to do more beer stuff.”
Her position will be filled by Ashley Correa, who assisted Bowman-Albirt during the event by pouring beers and answering questions.
Whole Foods Market hosts events almost daily and this was just one of the many opportunities to get in on the fun.
The special events remaining for October include Bingo Night on Wednesday Oct. 21, beginning at 6 p.m.; Story Time with Read Aloud America (a snack and a book will be provided free to children) on Sunday, Oct. 25, beginning at 2 p.m.; and an all-day pumpkin painting and carving contest on Friday Oct. 30.
More events are listed on the Whole Foods Market website at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/events.