In 1810 apparently, some Bavarian king got married and wanted everyone to celebrate. The marriage’s first product was what turned out to be the first Oktoberfest celebration that became an annual thing the following year. Now I’m no German/Bavarian history scholar, so I’ll leave the details to those who are. And its heteronormative origins notwithstanding, I’m sure glad ol’ Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese because I love Oktoberfest biers.
Beer Advocate (http://beeradvocate.com/beer/style/29) does a nice job of getting to the characteristics of a typical Oktoberfest, or Märzen style, beer, as well as the history of the beer itself. It was typically brewed in March and because of the altitude of Bavaria, was able to be cold-stored without spoiling through the spring and summer. The kegs were then tapped and beer a-flows from the end of September through the first week of October. These days, there are a lot of breweries that make a Märzen beer year-round, such as Gordon Biersch (Palo Alto, CA), though I’m sure there are some in Germany that follow the traditional brewing seasons and other purity laws for Oktoberfest beer. Style-wise, look for maltier beers that pour a nice copper or caramel color and range from medium-to high-alcohol content, something like 5.0%-7.5% or so. A lot of Märzen beers remind me of a good Vienna-stye Lager.
I drank a few Oktoberfest beers at Weiland Brewery in Downtown L.A. (Little Tokyo), but I’m sad to say I lost the flyer that listed all the beers they were featuring and my notes about each one. Yes, I nerded out that night (even while the Dodger game was on!) but now I have nothing to show for it. All the Oktoberfest beers they featured were in bottles, and I did have the Spaten Oktoberfest and the Paulaner Oktoberfest, pretty well-known and widely circulating beers.
I had to go to Vinatero in Uptown Whittier to get my favorite of all Oktoberfest beers. They had Hacker-Pschorr Märzen Original Oktoberfest on tap, and it was lovely. Sweet, caramel flavors, fresh malt, slight herbal hop with lots of depth and character, and listed at 5.8% alcohol. It’s a nice beer, much like the Spaten Doppelbock, another one of my darker German bier faves.
When I was down in La Jolla recently, I stopped at the Karl Strauss and drank a couple happy hour pints of their Oktoberfest offering. The Karl Strauss Oktoberfest was pretty good on tap. (http://karlstrauss.com/PAGES/Brews/OurBeer/OKT.html) It’s one of their seasonal brews, and I like that it’s made in San Diego. It pours a lighter caramel and was medium-bodied. Slightly sweet and easy to drink, it’s on the lower end of alcohol content at 5%. It’s also in bottles. It’s lighter than the Samuel Adams Oktoberfest which I find is a little bit closer to the kinds I like, a little heavier, maltier, and a deeper amber color. ( http://www.samueladams.com/world_of_beer.aspx?jump=styles) Heck, go get a 6-pack of both and have yourself a little blind taste-test to see which one you like better. Either way, you’ll feel alright 😉
On a non-Oktoberfest note, I’m slowly becoming a fan of Stone Brew’s porters. Last night, I had a pint of their Smoked Porter with Vanilla Beans. This is the ying to the Thirsty Bear Golden Vanilla Ale’s yang. It’s so smooth, like creamy vanilla coffee. But colder and without the cream and more alcoholic. I had mine at Setá in Uptown Whittier, CA. If you come across a place that serves the Stone Smoked Porter with Vanilla Beans, you’re a lucky gal/guy. Get yourself a pint before the keg runs dry on that one.
So although October is coming to an end, you can find many places that still serve or carry Oktoberfest beers, either in bottles or on tap. If you get one in a bottle, may I suggest you pour it in a glass and savor the color and aromas. Enjoy it ’cause it only comes around once a year. Mmmm…Oktoberfest!
Raising my stein,