BeerDorks.com: Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

 
August 31, 2009

Beer Diary:

September Doesn’t Suck

Oktoberfest brews are the perfect panacea for those end-of-summer blahs.
by Eddie Glick

I like my beer like my women: pale, strong, full-bodied, and extremely bitter.
Contact Eddie»
Yep, the popular definition of summer is coming to an end. You know, Labor Day. I know more than a few people who have an unhealthy attachment to the idea of summer and get all maudlin around September 1st. Which I think is pretty dumb. September has so much to look forward to: baseball playoffs, the beginning of football, hunting seasons. Plus, the weather in September is the best of the year. No more humidity, no more mosquitoes, but still plenty of days warm enough to grill out, lay in the grass, or sit out on the porch with a nice beer. And speaking of beer, that’s yet another reason to look forward to the ninth month of the year: Oktoberfest brews are starting to hit the shelves en masse.

Oktoberfests are also called Märzens—German for March—because traditionally they were brewed in the spring to be served at harvest festivals in the fall. Because of their long lagering times—and they are, indeed, lagers—they were brewed a little stronger. That tradition has held true to today: expect Oktoberfests to fall within the 6 to 7 percent ABV range. A good Oktoberfestbier should be medium amber in color, with a caramel-rich aroma, and a smooth, clean, but malty body. And, yes, don’t forget that subtle-but-distinct kiss of German hops in both the nose and the taste.

(Well, that description applies to American craft-brewed versions. German Oktoberfests have become so watered down over the last half century that it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between them and their parent breweries’ year-round lagers. A perfect example is Hofbräu. Get a regular Hofbräu and the Hofbräu Oktoberfest and taste them side-by-side. It’s a challenge to tell them apart.)

Luckily, with the Midwest having a strong German heritage, we’ve got Oktoberfests to choose from in spades. One of the better takes on the style is New Glarus Staghorn, a rich, malty version that still manages to be smooth and, yes, even refreshing. Atwater Blocktoberfest from the Detroit, Michigan brewer is also another beer that’s worth seeking out. Great Lakes has an Oktoberfest brew out again this year, and it’s a keeper: wonderful caramel malt balanced by a nice little hop kick. Perhaps my favorite Oktoberfest brew is Sprecher’s release, a deep red, enticingly sweet Märzen with one of the best aromas of the bunch. Then there’s Capital’s Oktoberfest, definitely no slouch, deep amber with a yummy touch of roastiness in the background to keep things interesting.

And since we’re on Capital, let me throw this one out there: Capital Autumnal Fire. Yes, I know it’s marketed as a doppelbock, but it’s really an amped up Oktoberfest. Capital even describes it as a “doppelbock based on an Oktoberfest personality,” and it’s no coincidence that it comes out to play around the beginning of September. In fact, you could call Autumnal Fire the world’s first—and probably only—imperial Oktoberfest, if you will. Plus, it’s just flat-out a fucking fantastic beer.

A great way to combat those end-of-summmer blahs for even the whiniest of weather whiners is to organize a quick but fun Oktoberfest tasting. Get a few friends, pool your dough, and buy four or five different Oktoberfests. Get one of you to volunteer to pour, and serve samples of one brewery’s version to the rest of the group—keeping the name of the brewery a secret. Rinse the glasses and repeat, until all the different Oktoberfests have been sampled. Then have the group vote on the favorite or have the tasters try to guess which brewery brewed which beer, or both. It’s great fun to blindly try a bunch of different takes on the same style, plus it’s immensely interesting to see how each brewery’s vision of what an Oktoberfest should be plays out. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up loving a beer you thought you didn’t like …

Gemütlichkeit!



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