Munich, Germany, is in the throes of the greatest two-week party on earth.
Oktoberfest 2015 is in full gear and more than 6 million people can enjoy the German hospitality while celebrating Crown Prince Ludwig’s nuptials to Princess Therese of Saxony in 1810.
Rochester has its own Oktoberfest on Sept. 25. The Downtown Peace Plaza will become a great big German beer garden! Bratwurst, unlimited beer, German music and great German drinking toasts and games — all for a great charity, Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, to benefit our returning military veterans
America is known for innovation and taking something good and making it better. Beer is the same way. German Oktoberfest beers are great representation of the Marzen beer style: malty, dark copper in color, and slightly hoppy, but German brewmasters are limited in experimentation by the German Purity Law of 1516. The Reinheitsgebot decrees that beer can only be made with water, barley and hops.
American brewers don’t have their hands tied and have unleashed an amazing run of creativity in fall and seasonal beers. American craft brewers have pushed the envelope and created some of the greatest beers in the world.
The No. 1-selling Oktoberfest beer in the U.S. is Samuel Adams Octoberfest. Sam’s take on the style is both traditional and cutting edge. It uses two different German hop varieties and has a deep, smooth flavor with hints of caramel. It is one of my favorite beers.
Closer to home is Schell’s Brewery in New Ulm, a sixth-generation German family brewery making some amazing beers. Schell’s Oktoberfest is a little lighter body than Sam Adams’, but has a slight spiciness that is unique and makes it a great sipper.
A new style fall beer is the Lederhosen Lager from Pearl Street Brewing in La Crosse, Wis. Making beer since 1999, Pearl Street has some great varieties. The Lederhosen Lager is their seasonal take on the classic style, 5 percent alcohol and the smoothest Oktoberfest around.
Great Lakes Brewing Co., of Cleveland, Ohio, makes an excellent Oktoberfest. The great flavor comes from addition of Munich malt, which gives it a cool, nutty, bready flavor. Great Lakes has won numerous gold medals for their unique take on a classic style.
Pumpkin beers are a uniquely American phenomenon. There is a long history of pumpkin brewing, from the early American settlers. Pumpkin became a favored style because there was virtually nothing else to brew beer with. And we know after a hard day of farming and settling a foreign land, our early American pioneers needed a cold beer to relax!
After the 1800’s typical malts and grains came to be more readily available and economical, so pumpkin beers faded from the scene. But in the last few years, pumpkin has become the hot flavor in just about anything. We know Starbucks has popularized the pumpkin latte, but pumpkin beers are awesome. It is typically like a pumpkin pie in a bottle. Hints of cinnamon, clove and allspice are prevalent.
Try the Alaskan Pumpkin or Southern Tier’s Pumking, if you can find it — it’s considered a classic and among the best, an imperial ale with a huge 8.6 percent alcohol flavor explosion. The pumpkin pie flavors are outstanding and the undertone of pecans is amazing in the finish. Try this beer for the best of the best!
Alaskan Brewing Co. makes an awesome pumpkin beer with more of a clove and nutmeg flavor. A little hop flavor up front balances the sweetness of the pumpkin. Alaskan is a fast-growing craft brewery from Juneau, Alaska.
For a real kick and amazing American ingenuity, try the Funky Pumpkin from Boulevard Brewing in Kansas City, Mo. The funky pumpkin is spiced with the usual nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and ginger. But the “funky” part comes from the use of sour beer aged in stainless steel tanks with brettanomyces, the wild strain that is in all sour beer. Boulevard has created a one-of-a-kind pumpkin beer that is a true innovation!
Fall is a great time of year for many reasons — weather, football, and now beer and Oktoberfest. Enjoy in moderation, and cheers — or as they say in Munich, “Prost!”