From Rob Fink. Email him at rob[AT]borderstan.com.
Autumn is a season teeming with multitudes of things; from steadily decreasing temperatures to foliage dressed in evolving interplays of red, orange and yellow, it conjures celebratory notions bound to harvest and holiday. Not surprisingly, nature’s transition to winter also carries with it a varied collection of heartier food and drink designed to withstand such a change. Naturally, beer is no exception.
One of the most widely recognized autumn beer styles in America is what is now known simply as Oktoberfest. It is a lager beer style with considerable similarity to both Vienna lager and Märzen, which all exhibit a varying malt profile redolent of biscuit, deep, almost juicy caramel, and toffee. Broadly speaking, Oktoberfest is not so much a beer style as it is a cultural phenomenon.
Staged on an open meadow known as the Theresienwiese in Munich beginning in the middle of each September and ending the first weekend in October, it is easily the most famous rollicking carnival of a beer festival in the entire world. In the fall of 1810, Bavaria’s King Maximilian I. Joseph held a celebration for the wedding of his son Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen, and there has been a similar celebration every year since except in times of war or disease.
Recreating the German Classic
American craft brewers have shown a deft hand in recreating the German classic. Samuel Adams is the largest craft brewery to make the style, but honorable renditions come from the likes of:
- Victory Brewing Company (Festbier)
- Great Lakes Brewing Company (Oktoberfest)
- Duck Rabbit Brewing Company (Märzen)
Though there are other reputable examples, the above three are some of the best American iterations, with the Great Lakes version being my personal favorite. Thankfully, all of the above can be found in Borderstan at Whole Foods, 1440 P Street NW and Connecticut Ave Wine and Liquor Deli, 1529 Connecticut Ave NW. Find an Oktoberfest gathering near you (don’t worry, you won’t have to travel too far outside of Borderstan) to celebrate this venerable German tradition.
Largely because of its malt complexity, Oktoberfest beers possess a plethora of food affinities. Anything grilled will have a natural partner in an Oktoberfest, whose toasty, bready sweetness will harmoniously latch onto the caramelized crust. Naturally, Oktoberfests are near exemplary with grilled sausages. Add a pile of onions and a bit of sweet mustard and you have a revelatory meal. Also, Oktoberfests are dry enough to be refreshing while it’s still warm.
I suggest you do as the Bavarians do and fire up your grill a few more times while the weather is still pleasant. As the Germans would say, Prosit!