It has been over 200 years since Crown Prince Ludwig married the Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausens in 1810. The amazing love story captivated the German countryside and spawned one of the biggest celebrations in the world.
Ludwig’s and Theresa’s wedding nuptials and subsequent reception have become an annual event taking up three weekends in late September and early October in Munich, Germany. Over 6 million liters of exquisite German beer are consumed, countless German songs are sung, an infinite number of beer-drinking stories are exchanged, and millions of foreigners are indoctrinated into one of the great German traditions.
Oktoberfest in Munich is world-renowned for the camaraderie, great beers and awesome traditions. The style of beer to be mainly consumed under the tents in the heart of Munich from Sept. 19 to Oct. 4 is Oktoberfest/Marzen styles of beer.
Oktoberfest is my favorite seasonal beer. I like the wheaty, lighter, fruitier summer quaffers, I enjoy the robust dark stouts and flavorful winter and holiday beers, and I always indulge myself in the spring seasonals. But Oktoberfest beers have the perfect combination of flavor and color that always satisfies.
An Oktoberfest beer is technically a Marzen style. Marzen beers were made in the spring in such a way that they could last all through the hot summer months in the old days before refrigeration. Typically copper in color and about 5 to 6 percent alcohol.
There are seven German beers that are served at the original Oktoberfest celebration in Munich. Paulaner, Hacker Pschorr, Lowenbrau, Ayinger, Hofbrau, Augustiner and Spaten. All German beers must follow the Reinheitsgebot, the German purity law passed in 1516 by Bavarian law. This states that all beer can only be made using water, barley and hops.
Hacker Pschorr has been making beer since 1417. Its maltiness hits you up front with a touch of sweet grain. The foamy head exudes amazing aromas of bread and yeast. The taste is smooth yet bracing enough to startle your senses. It is a true representation of the Marzen style.
Ayinger is another great beer. Slightly more reddish in hue than the Hacker, it is a rich creamy foam top that has a rustic old-school style flavor. You open it up and it smells and tastes like Europe!
Erdinger has an interesting twist on the original Oktoberfest style. Erdinger is famous for its wheat beers and world-renowned for having the best weiss beers around. They make a cool Wheat Oktoberfest that is unique and will appeal to just about everybody. Lighter body and color than most — the addition of the classic fruity notes from the wheat base gives it a slightly softer backbone and really quenches your thirst.
Here in America, we are always looking for innovation and new things. Left Hand Brewing and New Belgium have both made some really cool Oktoberfest styles of beer. They really are taking the New World approach and expanding on the original masterpieces that came from Old World Europe. Next time I will bring up a few New World twists and also the phenomenon that is pumpkin beer.
But for this week — embrace the old masters and try a real traditional Oktoberfest! As the Germans say, “May you live a hundred years — with one extra year to repent.” Prost!