by Jenn Wirtz, Der Braumeister Restaurant owner & beer drinker
I have been asked many times the same question: Why is Oktoberfest celebrated in September? The answer is easy enough and anticlimactic. Because the prince wanted it that way. Oktoberfest was originally a week long celebration in 1810 in honor of Prince Ludwig’s marriage to the princess. Several years later, after continuing the ritual, the festivities moved to September because of weather. Bavarians could enjoy drinking, dancing, horse races, and walks through the meadows.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk beer. As you would expect, Munich has rules as to which beers can be served within the wall of the Oktoberfest party. The tents pitched and beers delivered are Augustinerbräu, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, and Spaten-Franziskaner-Bräu. The type of beer served since its start has actually changed, but the beers now synonymous with Oktoberfest are fest and marzen.
Märzens are typically amber, full bodied,carry a moderate IBU (International Bittering Units) and now brewed year round. My favorite marzen is none other than Hacker-Pschorr Märzen Oktoberfest. Once only brewed in March, never in the summer, and served at the festivities. With a low carbonation, this is a smooth beer with a sweet and nutty taste. Another Märzen is the coveted Löwenbräu, considered to be the first official Oktoberfest beer. Sadly, it is no longer available here in Cleveland, but I still consider it one of the best. Some are turned off by the candied malt taste, but it is an acquired taste and is a brewery I never skip when in Munich.
The other main type is festbier, which is malty, sweet, and pale in color. My favorite, and it could be because of my quick weekend partying as a VIP in their Munich tent, is Hofbräu Oktoberfest (Clevelanders, be weary of beer with the same name, but not brewed in Germany). The only real way to drink this beer is in a Masskrug, a giant liter glass. What better way to enjoy beer than by strengthening your biceps with each sip? This Oktoberfestbier has a slightly higher ABV, at 6.3%, more than an ordinary lager, but low enough to keep drinking them at a pace that doesn’t allow that last sip to get warm.
Lastly, the craft takes on Oktoberfest are endless here in America and bring a welcomed new spin on the Munich rules and regulations. Most are hoppy or higher in IBU. Oktoberfest traditionally brings beer and people together to celebrate. One thing that struck me in Germany, and within each tent, were the massive crowds of people from all over the world getting along. Singing and dancing to Neil Diamond (yes, the Germans LOVE Neil), clinking liter beers, and cheeks cherry with slight intoxication were present as every race and gender were packed tightly into tents and getting along. So…prost and a second one to Oktoberfest for bringing people, partying, beer traditions, and brewing experimentation together!