Friday, September 17, 2010

Oktoberfest; WTF is Oktoberfest?

Is it a beer? Is it a party? Is it a beer party?


Oktoberfest originated in Munich on October 18, 1810. (pay attention, there will be a test). It originally was a horse race that celebrated the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. Ludwig later became king, he's not the guy that the beer Konig Ludwig is named for. That would be Ludwig II. (He's most famous for building castles including the Neuschwanstein castle).

So, the original Oktoberfest was a horse race in honor of the wedding of the future king. The current festival is held at the Theresienwiese, which is the field named for her.

This year, Oktoberfest runs from September 18 to October 4. It's also the 200th Anniversary, so it's a huge party... even more so than normal.

Beer there is served in a Maß (mass), it's a liter of beer. It's a lot of beer. There are only 6 Munich breweries that are allowed to serve beer at the official Oktoberfest. They are: Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbrau, Lowenbrau, Paulaner, and Spaten. All of them except for Lowenbrau are normally available for purchase in the states.

Contrary to what you might think, the most eaten food during Oktoberfest is chicken. Of course, there are schnitzels and sausages and all kinds of other good "germany-y" foods. If you are hosting an Oktoberfest, I recommend getting a couple of whole rotisserie chickens, several different styles of sausages (wurst's), potatoes, cabbage (red and sauerkraut), and some hearty breads.

In addition to the big party, Oktoberfest is a common style of beer. Most breweries will put out an Oktoberfest around this time of year. The actual style of the beer is Märzen. Märzen means March. Originally, the Märzen beers would have been brewed in March. Why March? In 1539, there was a rule in Bavaria that people could only brew between September 29 and April 23. Apparently, brewing in the summer months back then caused a lot of fires. Enough so, that there was a Brauordnung (brewing ordinance) that set the dates for people to brew.

One of the last beers that people would brew before putting away their kettles for the summer, was the beer that would have to sit the longest before they drank it. They would have to have enough regular beer stored up to last from April until October (it will take a couple of weeks to ferment beer that's brewed at the end of September). If you read the dopplebock story, you'd see the first true dopplebock was brewed in 1773, however Einbeck was brewing thick dark beers back to 1352. So, people had experience brewing thicker beers. The original Märzen's would have been a thicker, maltier, higher ABV beer, to make it through the summer months. Conversely, instead of making it a maltier beer, there could have been a larger addition of hops to increase the storage-ability.

Here in America, most brewers make a malty version of a Märzen. Samuel Adams Oktoberfest is a prime example of that. It has huge malty flavors, and you can distinctly taste caramel, sugar, and some breads in the beer. Not all Oktoberfest beers are dark though (especially the original 6).

Augustiner Oktoberfestbier is very light in color. It almost looks like a regular light lager beer.

Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest is the caramel color that most people expect.

Hofbrau Oktoberfest is also light in color. You'll see a lot of bad reviews for this beer on beer advocate and ratebeer because people expect the Americanized version of Oktoberfest, but then this one is slightly hoppy.

Lowenbrou Oktoberfest is another light golden beer.

Paulaner Oktoberfest is a malty beer, but a little bit lighter than most American versions.

Spaten Oktoberfest has the caramel/copper color.

If you are in/around Champaign/Urbana during this years Oktoberfest dates, the Blind Pig will be having at least 5 Oktoberfest beers on until October 3.

The starting list is:
Avery The Kaiser
Hofbrau Oktoberfest
Capital Oktoberfest
Great Divide Hoss
Erdinger Oktoberfest
Left Hand Oktoberfest
Spaten Oktoberfest
Ayinger Oktoberfest
Summit Oktoberfest
Sprecher Oktoberfest
Coney Island Freaktoberfest
Rogue Maierfest
Bell's Oktoberfest

So, there are a couple of the original's there.

Sunday, September 19, Crane Alley is holding an Oktoberfest. They will be having Spaten Oktoberfest, along with some other German beers and Bells Octoberfest. Their party starts at noon. Tere will be schnitzel, cabbage, bratwurst, and other things. Glasses and tshirts will be given away.

Look for other Oktoberfest parties and beers around town.

Here's your quiz:

1. What are the original 6?

2. Who got married?

3. What's the most sold food at Oktoberfest?

4. Do you like your cabbage red or sauer?

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