The roots of Oktoberfest began with a Royal Wedding when Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, was married to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on 12 October 1810. The local folks in Munich were invited to join in on the festivities and much merriment was had by all. It was so fun that the festival became a regular event with libations provided by small beer stands, later becoming huge beer tents and brings us to the 186th Oktoberfest here in 2019 and known as the biggest festival in the world and celebrated world wide! (thanks ofest.com).
Once you reckon with the fact that Oktoberfest starts in September, I highly encourage you to be a part of the festivities by trying Marzen style beers, which were the original beverage of this season and better known as Oktoberfest beer as well as its modern day style counterpart Festbier, both lagers. I bet you will like both and here’s why. Lagers style beers are known for their smoothness and Marzens and Festbiers are no exception. They are old school (literally) session beers with Marzens typically centered around mellow to bold caramel flavors, some nuttiness, colored amber to dark, and typically well balanced hop and malt profiles with the nod going to slightly malty (sweeter) taste.
Festbiers are lighter in color, less malty though not hoppy like an IPA and have an overall delicious crisp flavor. If that were not enough, most of the Marzen and Festbier styles adhere to the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516 (Reinheitsgebot) which allows for only hops, barley, water and, later, yeast as ingredients. Straightforward ingredients providing delicious outcomes.
In a selfless gesture of journalistic authenticity, I purchased a variety of Oktoberfest offerings and have provided tasting notes below. By no means is this an exhaustive list as I continue to sample during this ‘Fest season and would like to hear what you have tried and liked.
Hacker-Pschor Amber Marzen: One of the originals dating back to 1410, this 5.8% abv light amber in color Marzen style beer provides a crisp caramel flavor with slight roastiness at the start and a nutty finish.
Flying Dog Dogtoberfest: Funky brewery originally out of Colorado and now Maryland that has been producing good beer for decades. On top of that, they have an interesting history with Hunter S. Thompson who declared: “Good people drink good beer.” I could not agree more and their 5.6% abv offering satisfies with a deep amber color and taste that starts sweet and ends bitter (both in reasonable amounts).
Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest: From a brewery that’s typically known for its hoppy suds, this 6.0% abv works for me with malty caramel nose and taste throughout and I really enjoyed the roasty undertone.
Ayinger Fest Beer: Founded in 1877 Ayinger has consistently awesome beer and their Fest Beer is a knockout with a nutty nose and absolute perfect mildly sweet taste. It was my favorite of what I tasted so far this season. I can picture it being served in a convenient 1-Liter vessel at a long table with old and new friends while OomPah band notes fill the room. For those that would like a similar experience to what I described check out the NYC beer hall called The Standard Biergarten by the High Line and under the Standard Hotel at 848 Washington St at 13th street.
HB Hofbrau Oktoberfest Bier: Old school! Around for hundreds of years and adhering to Reinheitsgebot this Munich based light colored yet 6.3% abv has a flowery nose and a taste like a more flavorful, fuller body pilsner. I happen to pair it with Mrs. KBM’s delectable kielbasa and sauerkraut dish and it was a perfect complement.
Von Trapp Oktoberfest Lager: The hills are alive… with the sounds of this mellow, light amber in color, hop forward, caramel taste finish 5.6% abv being poured. I really like Von Trapp beer having tried many varieties and have been pleased by them all. Located in Stowe Vermont on the grounds of the Trapp Family Lodge I hear it is a cool place to visit to soak up some all-around Austrian atmosphere as well as suds in the Bierhall. Let me know who’s in! My bags are packed.
Jack’s Abbey Copper Legend: I have mentioned this brewery in prior columns and it remains worthy for an encore because they make great, easy drinking, flavorful lager style beer. What more could one ask for? Copper Legend weighs in at 5.7% abv and starts with a nutty nose that carries into the flavor along with caramel undertones that start crisp and finish smooth.
Beer serving note: all the beers mentioned above will taste even better as they warm up a bit.. Sounds weird, right? A beer that is too cold deadens your taste buds and with flavorful beers, you’ll want to let them warm up slightly by leaving the bottle on the counter for a few minutes or cupping the glass with your hands. Think of it akin to the process for aerating a wine. Give it a try.
I would bet you’ll find plenty of Oktoberfest liquid satisfaction at these BrewFests:
Women’s Civic Club of Katonah Oktoberfest on Saturday, Oct. 19, 4-8 p.m.
This seasonally appropriate and enjoyable fundraiser is $50 per person, which includes Oktoberfest beer, food, wine, and nonalcoholic beverages. It will be held at The Katonah Memorial House 71 Bedford Rd, Katonah, next to Katonah Fire Department. Founded in 1918, the Women’s Civic Club works actively in the community supporting many local groups such as our local hamlet libraries and ambulance corps, Hope’s Door, Neighbors Link, Girl Scouts of Westchester-Putnam, Hudson Valley Honor Flights and many local high school scholarships. Mail R.S.V.P or donation checks to The Katonah Thrift Shop, Geraldine Kelly, 11 Green Hill Road Goldens Bridge. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more info. You can pay at the door if its not sold out.
Captain Lawrence Oktoberfest Oct. 5 & 6 from 12-10 p.m.: captainlawrencebrewing.com/event/oktoberfest/2019-10-05/
Vista Beer & Beverage: Stone In-Store Tasting, Sep 20, 4-6 p.m.; vistabeerandbeverage.com, 204 Oakridge Common South Salem, 914-533-0100
Brew & Co: Rotating Food Trucks Every Friday! Cask night September 28. Octoberfest! On October 12, 2-9 p.m. 914-666-3600 visit brewandcompany.com. 532 Bedford Rd, Bedford Hills.
*Please reach out with upcoming beer or related events as I’m happy to spread the word.
Prosit! (To good health!)
The Katonah Beer Man