Dr. Eileen Comstock’s Oompah Band plays at a previous Oktoberfest.
File photos

The Socorro County Historical Society will host the annual Oktoberfest at the Hammel Museum this Saturday, Oct. 1, beginning at 11 a.m.

This year the event celebrates the 140th anniversary of the founding of the Hammell Brewery on Sixth Street with traditional foods and drink, live music, baked goods, arts and crafts, model trains and tours of the brewery.

Admission is free, with lunch for a $10 per person donation. Gary Jaramillo and gang will be preparing two Oktoberfest lunches to choose from; brats and Sauerkraut or beef brisket and BBQ beans.

Oktoberfest Brew … $6 per glass

Bodega Burger Co. will be serving up Oktoberfest brew on tap for $6 a glass. Souvenir beer glasses with the original 1890s Hammel Lager Beer label will be available for $5.

Traditional Beerfest music will be provided by the Eileen Comstock Oompah Band at 11 a.m.

The Train Gang’s model railroad display upstairs delights both young and old.

Other acts include the Et Alia Belly Dance Troupe at noon, the Sax Kitten Band at 12:30 p.m., Roon at 1:30 p.m., and the Hamburg Band at 2:30 p.m.

Vendor tables will offer locally made arts and crafts, flowers and plants, baked goods, and other items.

Model railroads by the Socorro Train gang will be on display on the museum’s second floor.

The origin of Oktoberfest dates back to October 1810, in Munich, Germany, with the celebration of King Ludwig II’s marriage to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The event was repeated every year to celebrate the autumn harvest with good food and the year’s first brew, and by 1819 it was decided to make the Oktoberfest an official event.

Socorro’s Oktoberfest began in the 1880s by German brewmeister Jakob Hammel, founder of Socorro’s famed Illinois Brewery, for employees and their friends.

According to a history written for the Socorro Historical Society by Spencer Wilson and John DeWitt McKee, the family built a “wintergarten” behind their famous brewery as a place to have fun, relax, and enjoy the trees. They held an annual Oktoberfest for their employees, family, friends and neighbors to be a community picnic.

Hammel had immigrated from Munich, Bavaria, to the United States in the mid-1800s and founded the Illinois Brewing Company in Lebanon, Illinois, near St. Louis. In 1882, Jacob’s son William relocated to Socorro for health reasons. The brewery was built in 1886.

Hammel Brewery’s lager beers became popular statewide because they were shipped by trains and wagons and packed in ice from Hammel’s ice plant, New Mexico’s first. Along with brewer Francis Eppele and Jakob Hammel’s son William, the brewery gained the reputation as “the beer that made Socorro famous.”

When Prohibition became the law of the land in 1919, Clarence Hammel started turning out cases of Grapette, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper. He also operated the adjacent ice plant.

The Hammel Brewery building is now the Socorro Historical Society’s museum, home to the Socorro Train Gang and, of course, Oktoberfest.

All activities are held at the historic Hammel Museum, located at 600 Sixth Street, starting at 11 a.m. with Dr. Comstock’s Oompah Band with great “Oktoberfest-ish” music.