The best party in the world
What is it about the Munich Oktoberfest that makes it the world’s best beerdrinkery? Is it the Giant tents and the adjoining fair? Is it the corny but lovable German folk bands? Is it the sheer scale of thousands of merry drinkers?
These are all very nice, but the Munich Oktoberfest and the thousands of copycat festivals that spring up around the globe would be pale shadows of themselves without Oktoberfest beer.
Predating refrigeration, the beer served at the Munich Oktoberfest was brewed in March, then stored (or ‘lagered’) in cool Alpine caves during the summer months in which brewing was impossible due to the heat. In October, as the weather cooled, the beer would be brought forth and ceremoniously tapped. This resulted in great merriment among the Bavarians, who like beer more than practically any other people in the world.
So naturally, this was the beer to have on hand if you were getting married in Munich and it was October. And you were marrying a princess. And you were Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria. Ludwig threw the first Oktoberfest in 1810 as a party and horse race to celebrate his marriage to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen (let’s see them fit that name on a sports jersey).
Anyway, apart from the occasional interruption by Napoleon, or the Prussians, or Allied bombs, Oktoberfest has been an annual thing. And the mass consumption of awesome beer proved to be a pretty popular idea. Today, there are hundreds of Oktoberfests varying in size and quality, including Rochester’s own at Camp Eastman the weekend of September 14, 15, and 16, as well as the weekend of September 21, 22 and 23.
Anyway, we’re not really here to pimp the festival (although you can catch us there putting away beer until buying leather shorts with suspenders seems like a good idea), we’re supposed to be discussing Oktoberfest beer.
It’s lager, but maybe not like the pale golden stuff most people are used to; the beer is dusky reddish-amber in color. Oktoberfest is brewed with darker malt and a less bitter hop balance than many lagers, giving it a roasted, hearty character, the malt’s sweet flavor sweeping aside the hop notes.
Compared to the already sweet Munich Helles (Spaten Lager, for example), Oktoberfest beer is chewier, breadier, and has a slightly thicker texture. It’s also strong, clocking in around 6% alcohol by volume. There are stronger beers, but those beers aren’t traditionally served in half-liter mugs.
Regular readers of this column will know that we’re going to say the best Oktoberfest beers are the ‘Big Six’ from Munich: Spaten, Paulaner, Hofbrau, Hacker-Pschorr, Loewenbrau and Augustiner. There are, however, plenty of good American interpretations of the style, which might be easier to obtain.
Brooklyn Oktoberfest is one such beer. It has the characteristic rich, coppery color, with a substantial cream-hued head. Putting your nose over the glass provides a bloom of toasted malt.
The taste is very German, malty as you’d expect, with detectable vanilla and caramel flavors. The beer is balanced with just enough hops to provide a clean flavor and eliminate heavy aftertaste.
Closer to home, the Rohrbach Brewing Company is featuring an Oktoberfest that’s a bit bigger in flavor profile. Their version is darker than most, with a powerful malt taste reminiscent of a doppelbock. Like the Brooklyn, judicious use of hops keeps Rohrbach Oktoberfest from being syrupy, but expect a ton of malt character nonetheless.
Enjoy your Oktoberfest beer at your local, at home, or in big tents watching dancers slap their shoes and yodel. You’re drinking a fun beer- a party beer. As an illustrious German statesman once famously said: “zicki-zacki, zicki-zacki, Heu! Heu! Heu!”
Bruce is a certified beer judge and commercial brewer. Mark owns a laptop and likes beer. For more on beer, check out the beercraft blog, updated regularly, at https://beercraft.wordpress.com. Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to email@example.com.