Tasting Notes with Jim Beauregard: Oktoberfest offeringsBy JIM BEAUREGARD September 04. 2018 10:31PM
It isn’t too early to start thinking about Oktoberfest, especially because the Germans start celebrating it in September.
There are two things to consider — the celebration and the beer that’s specially made for it.
The festival in Germany runs for about three weeks, with Munich as a historical center, during the second half of September through the first week in October.
It isn’t an ancient celebration. The first official one wasn’t held until 1810 when the Bavarian King Maximilian ordered a celebration for his son’s wedding. That’s pretty recent for people who have been making beer for many centuries prior. Notwithstanding its newness it attracts some 6 million visitors a year — about three times the population of New Hampshire, to put it into perspective.
Because this is Germany there are some strict rules about the beer that can be served, including that it has to be brewed in Munich.
In traditions familiar to denizens of New Hampshire, Oktoberfest has something of a country fair atmosphere that features amusement park rides like roller coasters and a flea circus. Yes, real fleas performing tricks. The festival is held in halls and in tents — huge tents that can accommodate thousands of people.
There is no one particular style of beer that is served at Oktoberfest celebrations, save that they are all German.
Originally, dark beers (dunkel) were served, though this has expanded to include lighter beers. The ones that are served tend to hover around 6% abv, and one of the most common is known as marzenbier, amber in color and flavorful.
Of course, craft brewers large and small in America have adopted the style, so there is no shortage of Oktoberfest beers available here.
In fact, the Boston Beer Company, producers of Sam Adams, claims that it is the largest brewer of Oktoberfest beers in the world, outstripping any of the individual Munich breweries.
As for style, many American makers look back to the märzenbier tradition, so Oktoberfest beers here in the states tend to be darker in color with sweet malt and loads of flavor.
März is the German word for March. In 1553 you were not allowed to brew beer between April and September — the warmest months of the year — when bacterial invasion was much more likely to ruin the beer. So beer was brewed during March in quantities sufficient to last until the fall, and stored in cool places like the cellar of the local town hall (aka the ratskeller).
Under the weight of all of this history and tradition, and mindful of my obligations to you, dear reader, I picked up a six-pack of Paulaner Oktoberfest Märzen.
It’s brewed in Munich, where the Paulaner folks have been brewing since 1634. The beer is a golden amber hue under a slightly off-white creamy head. The nose give you malt, not overwhelming, but definitely noticeable. The palate is dry, though there is a hint of sweetness from the malt, and it is of medium bitterness. The flavors are varied and include malt, noticeable grain flavors, some coffee hints along the way to the long and pleasing finish. The grain flavors are what stay with you.
I shall continue my Oktoberfest meditation with you next time.
Contact wine and beer writer Jim Beauregard at firstname.lastname@example.org