MERIDEN — The Turner Society attracted a full house Saturday evening for its 34th annual German Bierfest, with included plenty of Bavarian beers, ethnic food, music and laughs on a cool August night at Turner Hall on Old Colony Road.
Michael and Ann Beier, of Meriden, attended with their two young children, four-year-old Deirdre, and three-year-old Markus and were enjoying dinner and listening to the music of the Diamond Chips, a German festival band from New York.
“We’ve come before we had children, and after we had children for the music and the food,” Ann Beier said. “It’s kind of a different experience. You don’t see anything like this in Meriden. It’s unique,” she said while watching a German dance group in full Austrian costumes performing under the Turner Society’s outdoor pavilion.
It wasn’t too long after that Michael Beier and his son Markus were headed up to the bandstand to watch the dancing of Austrian Club Donau from New Britain and the traditional German music had Markus hopping around in step. Michael Beier, 42, grew up in Meriden, and his parents were parishoners at St. Mary’s, the German Roman Catholic Church in the city’s downtown area.
While it’s hard to compete with Bavarian brews at a beer fest, an item added to the menu after its July Bier Garten event, Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes), might have stolen the show. The German recipe is for shallow-fried pancakes of grated potato, flour and eggs flavored with onion and seasoning.
Two hours into the five-hour event, the potato pancakes were “moving like hot cakes, literally,” according to Matt Cerasale, one of the members of Turner Society. An hour later, the organizers had sold out of 80 pounds of potato pancakes and were scrambling to prepare another 50-pound batch.
The mastermind behind the scenes was Hilda Manville preparing the potato pancakes batter for the event. Mrs. Manville said she brought her recipe to the Turner club in Meriden after making Kartoffelpufer for 10 years at Hartford-area German club.
Other menu items included tasty Bavarian Leberkase, a veal “loaf” or patty served on a bun with sauerkraut.
“We’re just happy to see the people come out,” said Leo Manvile, Turner Society president and events coordinator. The Bierfest brought together about 130 people, not including children who attended with their parents, and matched that number in pounds of potatoes required to feed a hungry crowd.