With Oktoberfest opening in Munich Saturday September 21, 2019 it is time to take a look at a few Oktoberfest brews on the store shelves now. The original Oktoberfest was actually a royal wedding that was celebrated publically. October 12, 1810 was the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen. Free food and wine were served and the party lasted a few days and ended with a horse race. Today Oktoberfest begins in late September and runs just over 2 weeks into the beginning of October. The beer served is Märzen style, meaning it is brewed in March and is served the following September. Märzens are lagers that are amber hued and have a rich sweet malt character. American brewers honor this tradition with their own Oktoberfest beers. Here a couple recently sampled.
On a warm Richmond, VA afternoon I had my traditional first Oktoberfest beer, traditional because in the three Octobers I’ve been in Richmond I make a trip to Legend Brewing. Legend has a large outdoor deck with scenic vies of pieces of the James River, Downtown Richmond and often trains running on the elevated tracks running next to the river. Legend’s Oktoberfest is a true Märzen style. Amber colored and sweet malt on the nose and palate, the perfect pairing to the Wild Rose Sandwich, Pastrami, Andouille Sausage and spicy German mustard. The beer, food, view and crowded deck was the perfect atmosphere to have my first Oktoberfest brew.
Hacker-Pschorr, Original Oktoberfest, Amber Märzen, Munich Germany is a perennial favorite. With it’s deep caramel color and khaki head it captures the spirit of the season. Sweet roasted malt and dulce de leche gets the mouth watering. The mouth is hit with roasted malt with a slight sweetness in the background. While the Hacker-Pschorr, Original Oktoberfest has a full mouth feel, it goes down too smooth. Time to bread out the liter steins and lederhosen.
Devil’s Backbone, O’Fest, Lexington, VA has a rich caramel color and light tan head. The nose is tight, but has a clean roasted malt aroma backed by vanilla and brown sugar. This lager will give the German breweries a run for their money. The mouth has a creamy mouth feel of toasted malt, malted flakes of oats with a slight sweetness that adds balance to the malt flavors. It also has a fairly long finish that makes this a really satisfying beer.
Since Oktoberfest beers follow a traditional recipe and style there is not much variation in appearance, aroma, and taste, it is still nice to try different ones and maybe find if you prefer one over the other.