We have talked about German history, German wines and German beers — all because Oktoberfest is coming.
Why are we talking Oktoberfest in September? It all started in 1810 when King Ludwig married a beautiful woman. He was so excited and so happy that he created one of the greatest traditions known to man.
Next week in Munich, Germany, more than 6 million people will start to celebrate Oktoberfest. It is a huge festival featuring great beers and food, and the celebration will last until Oct. 5. It always ends on the first Sunday in October.
Oktoberfest beers are a unique style. Based on the Marzen style of beers, these beers have a great balance of malts and hops.
Originally, there are only six producers of original Oktoberfest beers: Paulaner, Hacker Pschorr, Spaten, Hofbrau and two beers not available in Minnesota — Augustiner Brau and Lowenbrau.
These six brewers create beer using the Reinheitsgebot — the original brewers law that states that beer can only be made with hops, barley, water and yeast. American brewers discovered this spectacular style a few years ago, and in the last five to eight years, Oktoberfest beers have become the No. 1 selling seasonal beer, outpacing summer beers, spring bocks and holiday porters.
The American brewers have added their own twist to the venerable style. Following is my totally unscientific rating of fall beers. These are my favorite beers and these are my personal ideas. I love discussing beers and love to argue. Don’t be afraid to disagree — that is what makes it fun!
The hardest thing is choosing a favorite — it is like choosing your favorite child, you can’t do it. These are 10 of my favorites but not the complete list:
10. Hacker Pschorr Oktoberfest. The original. Still the best and truest representation. Lighter color and a great beer to just drink and enjoy.
9. Paulaner Oktoberfest. A little darker than the Hacker Pschorr, and 5.8 percent alcohol. But smooth and bracing on the finish.
8. Weihenstephaner Oktoberfest. The oldest brewery in the world, since 1040 — almost a thousand years of beer-making experience. They should be good at it by now! It is good — but doesn’t stack up to the Paulaner and Hacker Pschorr!
7. Samuel Adams Oktoberfest. Americas No. 1selling Oktoberfest beer. It pours a little darker than the traditional German Oktoberfest beers. As usual, Sam always puts a different twist on their beers. This is a little sweeter than many others.
6. Schell’s Oktoberfest. Minnesota’s oldest brewery. Nestled in the hills of New Ulm, Schell’s is a sixth-generation German brewer. Thus you would expect the German flavors to shine thru, But they have reduced the hops to allow the sweet malts to take over.
5. Newcastle Werewolf. Not the traditional style of Oktoberfest beers. It is an Irish red style beer. Still good — but not a true Marzen style and more of a marketing gimmick to play off the venerable Newcastle name.
4. Summit Oktoberfest. Minnesota’s largest craft brewer. Great representation of Marzen style beers. I love it — but be careful, it is 6.7-percent alcohol. Medium color and lightly hopped — perfect beer for autumn!
3. Great Lakes Oktoberfest. From Cleveland, Ohio. But don’t worry, they don’t use Lake Erie in this great beer. Great color and flavors of toffee and caramel. A little spice on the finish. Really good!
2. Southern Tier Warlock. An imperial stout. Huge beer and a meal in itself. Not an Oktoberfest beer — about the total opposite. But an amazingly dark beer with a pumpkin twists.
1. Lefthand Brewing Oktoberfest. A malty representation of German Oktoberfest beers. Has a little biscuit flavor to it that is unique. Brewed in Colorado and all natural.
These are only a few of the many brands out there. Try one or try them all — you can’t go wrong! While you are sipping on the beers, imagine you are among the 6 million people in Munich munching on a perfectly grilled brat and celebrating the Good King Ludwig’s nuptials. Prost!