Brewer’s notes: Oktoberfest
Of all the beers we brewed in our first year, Oktoberfest is the one I have had the most requests to brew again. Big, malty, chewy and rich, this classic fall lager is an immensely satisfying glass of beer: something to look forward to as we move into Autumn in the Ozarks.
Beer geek’s note: our Oktoberfest beer really falls more in the style of a Marzen: richer, darker and more full-bodied than the more simple and lighter, but also delicious Festbier.
What can we say about Oktoberfest and Gotahold’s Oktoberfest specifically? The very appearance of the beer is beguiling: a brilliant, ruby-hued liquid topped with a thick, lasting head of foam. The aromas of malt and freshly toasted bread are as prominent in this brew as the hoppy aromas are in a great IPA, and the flavor is amazing. A rich mouthfeel gives the beer substance; a mild sweetness accompanies the lovely toasty grainy aromas. A well-made Oktoberfest is truly a delightful combination of everything that is great about malt in beer, balanced with a soft hop bitterness.
It’s pretty common for folks to ask why, if the beer is so great, we don’t make it all year round? Tradition is certainly part of it; historically Marzen-style beers were brewed in March, when the German breweries were preparing to shut down for the warm months. (The word “Marzen” comes from the German word for “March.”) Back before refrigeration, brewing beer during the warmer months was not practical, especially for lager breweries that need cool fermentation temperatures, so the breweries would operate from late September through March, making enough beer during those months to last the whole year. Those last beers brewed in March would be released around the time that the breweries started brewing again, in later September.
Lots of traditions fall by the wayside over time; why stick with the tradition of releasing this beer only once a year?
One reason is that a beer like Oktoberfest stays special because it’s only available for a short period of time each year. It gives us something to look forward to, a reward for the patient. Modern agriculture and shipping has given us the ability to have once-seasonal treats like flowers, berries and even seasonal veggies like asparagus year-round. There’s a lot to like about this, but it does take away from what used to make those items special and exciting treats. Going to the market and finding the first raspberries of the season used to be exciting. Apples used to be a fall treat, but now you can find crisp, delicious apples year-round. Not so with our Oktoberfest: it’ll be available from early September until it’s gone.