The celebration starts in September where German beer takes centre stage, not just in Munich but all over the world. The party may be over but get your hands on some of these beers before they are gone for another year.
With the changing of the leaves and Edmonton giving us some amazingly jaw dropping Autumn palettes of colour in the River Valley, celebrations of Thanksgiving and Halloween come to the forefront of our planning. But for German beer purists, Oktoberfest is THE Autumnal celebration held annually in Munich, Germany, and it will return to an in-person party this year after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The first Oktoberfest began in 1810 as a celebration of the wedding of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig whose father provided drinks for some 40,000 guests. There was even a horse race! The party lasted for five days in mid-October and was so well received, it became an annual tradition. Slowly the dates were pushed back as the weather in Munich at the end of September often provides a pleasant, mild Indian summer – true Oktoberfest weather, in fact! This year, the festivities will conclude on October 2 as this issue is being released.
There are rigid constraints upon which breweries can be considered for Oktoberfest: they must be located within the city of Munich which makes them “pillars” of the yearly celebration. These six pillars are: Augustiner-Bräu, Hacker-Pschorr-Bräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner-Bräu, Spatenbräu, Staatliches and Hofbräu-München. The traditional beer served at the event are lagers. North American versions of Oktoberfest tend to be red hued, slightly sweet beers known as Märzen, but in Munich, the beers are closer to what most of us think of when we think of a German lager: pale, corn-coloured and around 6% abv.
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If one were to attend Oktoberfest, the Paulaner beer tent would not be missed with its famous beer mug rising 26m into the sky. Their lager has been brewed since 1818 (but only for Oktoberfest) and is considered an “institution” in Munich. This year’s version is gold in colour with cereal and citrus notes. Make sure you pour into a stein for optimum flavour!
Hofbräu may not have the largest beer mug on top of their tent, but they are known for their lively atmosphere inside the tent. Their Oktoberfest beer is a
full-bodied, bottom-fermented (yes, that’s a lager!) beer, with its fine hop aroma, that tastes just right with any traditional Bavarian cuisine. Golden in colour, it is smooth, with the perfect balance of bready malt, earth, and citrus hops with a sweet grain finish.
This brewery is outside the confines of Munich and Oktoberfest “purists” don’t like to include it, but they are considered part of Bavaria and they DO make an Oktoberfest that, unlike the two above, is made with both wheat AND barley. Because it is made with wheat, the main aromas are that of bread and grain, but vanilla creamy notes are also present. It is smooth and creamy and of medium body.
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