Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Oktoberfest

Well the latest trip to the beer store makes it apparent; “Tis The Season”, no, not that season, it’s Oktoberfest Season. Yes, beers have seasons; well at least they do in the craft beer world that I live in. We are just starting one of those seasons, a nice Bavarian one, the Oktoberfest season. This is the first of several that will take us through the much awaited fall and winter beer seasons. Oh I can’t wait, say goodbye to the Summer Ales and the Shandy’s its time to get ready for some great seasonal brews. Just around the corner are Pumpkin Ales, Imperial Stouts and Porters, Winter Warmers and those great Christmas beers from all over the world, and it all starts with the Oktoberfest.

So here is my take on the first of many great fall and winter brews the Oktoberfest.

The original "Oktoberfest" occurred in Munich, on October 18, 1810: For the commemoration of the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. Over the centuries it changed to a sixteen-day festival held each year in Munich, Germany during late September (and running to early October).

More importantly, to me, it signifies a style of beer, mainly the Oktoberfest Marzen. This style of beer was originally brewed in March (Marzen) and lagered or stored in cold storage (deep in a cellar) though the summer until the fall which also coincided with the Oktoberfest. Now-a-days there are only a few German breweries that actually brew in March and store or age the brew until the fall. Most brewers mimic the rich flavors and character of the Oktoberfest Marzen without the aging process.

All Oktoberfest beers are not Marzens and all Marzens are not Oktoberfest beers. There are verities of Marzens since most beers back in the day in Germany could not be brewed in the summer heat. So March was basically the end of the brewing season and then it started up again when the weather cooled.

In modern times these are just nostalgic beer terms. But there really is an Oktoberfest season for craft beers and we are just getting into it. Normally these beers are released starting at the end of August through October. So we are just starting to see the August releases in the stores about now.

Typically these beers are fuller bodied then your typical lager. They are richer with a toasty malt characteristic, typically dark copper in color with a medium to high alcohol content, 5 to 7% ABV. They sometimes seem to have a spicier character also, I don’t know if they are brewed with extra spice or if that comes from the toasted malts. A malty lager for sure but not as malty as a dunkel bock or some of the maltier Bavarian wheat ales like a Dunkelweizen or a Weizenbock. They typically stay in that range that you would consider an easy drinking or refreshing beer. An Oktoberfest beer is definitely a notch above your typical lager.

I have two Oktoberfest reviews that I’m editing now and I’m sure there’ll be more to come. I’m going to a German Beer tasting on Thursday so I’m sure I’ll pick up something good to review there.

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