When Oktoberfest Hit Palo Alto
Peter Brewer thought his event would be a one-off. Instead, it became a must-attend occasion for 20 years
Super Lawyers online-exclusive
By Jessica Ogilvie on October 1, 2023
When Peter Brewer first had the idea to throw a party for Oktoberfest, it was a way to connect with his clients.
“We wanted to show our appreciation for [them],” he says. “And we were really excited with the idea that we could spend some social time with people with whom we otherwise have only a business relationship.”
His Palo Alto office was housed in a soft story building which featured an overhang above the ground-floor parking lot. It provided built-in shade, as well as guarding against spills on an indoor carpet. Brewer figured the party would be a fun way to spend the evening.
What he could not have anticipated was that the event, initially conceived as a one-off, would turn into an annual party that took place every October for 20 years. (Check this site out for a taste of the 2017 shindig.)
“It grew and grew,” he says. “We had such positive responses from it. And throughout the year, clients would hearken back to the to the October party: ‘Are you going to do that again? Because we’re coming.’ And so it was really a nice day. In fact, people are still asking about the party.”
To make the day authentic, the party planner—Clayton Dodds, Brewer’s firm’s in-house marketing expert—decorated the space with a large canvas mural depicting a Bavarian town. Servers were hired to ensure no one’s beer stein went empty, and the firm employed the same catering company every year to serve traditional German fare, such as sausages and sauerkraut.
“That was kind of fun, because when you interview a catering company, they like to come out and give you a demonstration meal,” says Brewer. “So the office got a bonus lunch out of it.”
The inaugural event was such a success that employees and clients alike began asking months ahead of time when their invitation would be arriving.
“Clayton just knocked it out of the park,” says Brewer. “He was so great.”
Over the years, the firm got more creative with the party, even bringing in a hot pretzel making machine one year.
And one practice that surprised everyone, says Brewer, was inviting opposing counsel.
“They were probably pretty stunned,” he says. “Several of them showed up, and that was fun…I always thought, you can get along with them. You can joke, you can be friendly, and that does not diminish the intensity of your effort on behalf of your client.”
The party also hosted an unexpected reunion for Brewer one year, which he still treasures. A friend he hadn’t seen for well over a decade, a Stanford professor whom he knew through an old roommate—“this was one of those cool professors, who people used to like to hang out with him because he was an easygoing guy,” Brewer says—was in town and came to the party with his wife.
That would be the last time Brewer saw him; the professor died the following year.
“I was thrilled to see him at the party,” Brewer says, “and then even more pleased that I had seen him, [after] he passed away.” Since the pandemic, Brewer, Offord & Pederson LLP hasn’t reignited the Oktoberfest shindig. And Brewer is, as he says, “trying to retire”—“I spent decades building up a clientele, and no one tells you how to build in an off switch!” he says with a laugh—but no matter where his path leads next, he will always have fond memories of the October event that came to be a highlight on his calendar.
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