You may be surprised to learn that Oktoberfest starts on September 18. Over the centuries, the 16-day fest has migrated a little south on the calendar from the original October 10 start date to take advantage of warmer fall weather (obviously elsewhere, not here).
This year, Oktoberfest is a little extra special — it’s the 200th anniversary of the world’s largest keg party. The sudsy celebration originally started as a wedding party for crown prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig) and princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The first shindig continued long after the wedding couple left. The party was such a success that the following year residents had another and have since made it an annual event.
If your vision of the party includes big clanking mugs, busty frauleins in dirndls and men in tight leather shorts with suspenders (lederhosen), you’re spot on — statistics show that only 15 per cent of Oktoberfest attendees are tourists. But it’s not all tradition. One oddity amongst many at the festival is the musical mix of classic German drinking songs and strange additions, including “Country Roads” and “YMCA,” played by oompahpah bands.
What I love most about Oktoberfest, besides having an excuse to wear my only pair of lederhosen for 16 straight days, is the release of the Märzen, or Oktoberfest beers. These highly poundable seasonal amber lagers are nutty and spicy — and cause this writer to forget all other beer styles... for at least 16 days.
Some tasty festive fall lagers:
• Ayinger Oktober Fest Märzen — This is the best example I drank in Munich — spicy warm-malt flavour with a huge aroma of baked cookie. This beer isn’t ideal for shipping, but after sampling four bottles I’m happy to report the stock on Alberta shelves appears to be in good shape.
• Samuel Adams Octoberfest — This brew has a balanced nutty malt character, but as an added bonus, this example is dry hopped and has a mouth-drying quality, which is unusual for the style. The brew has just the faintest notes of sherry in taste and is dangerously drinkable.
• Wild Rose Oktoberfest — Wild Rose Brewery is only going to celebrate the October part of Oktoberfest with a release party on Friday, October 1. Head brewer Dave Neilly is excited about his rendition of this seasonal treat, which is in the final conditioning tanks at press time. The recipe sounds über-good. For details, check wildrosebrewery.com.
• Brewsters Oktoberfest — Brewsters is celebrating all of Oktoberfest with its homage to this fall delight, with its beer available at all its locations this Saturday, September 18. I drank an impressive early sample at the brewpub. This beer is big, toasty and delicious, with some seriously tangy German noble-hops. Brewsters sells all sizes of kegs for those wanting to sing “YMCA” and wear their lederhosen or dirndls in the privacy their own German beer garden.