Days of Oktoberfest - A Tasting Challenge
It's that time of year again - you know the one. Pumpkin and Oktoberfest beers overflowing the shelves of your local grocery or bottle shop. However for the focus of this post we are only interested in the latter. Pumpkin and spiced beers need not apply. The problem most of us have in this situation is the overwhelming number of Oktoberfest beers that pop up randomly from August to October. Some are likely familiar from years previous as they are from more established breweries or are long standing imports from Germany. The rest are likely from new breweries or breweries who only recently gained distribution in your local market. Where do you start when confronted with a sea of beers that are only available for 2-3 months out of the year?
Oktoberfest for most folks is synonymous with the Märzen style of beer which is a malty lager brewed in March and fermented for nearly 6 months before being consumed. This is understandable as some of the more popular German and American examples are brewed to this specification. Well known examples of this style are produced by Ayinger, Paulaner, and Samuel Adams. However there is a whole other side of the Oktoberfest seasonal offering that some folks might not be familiar with - Festbier. Whats the difference you say? Festbier while being rich and malty is decidedly lighter in color compared to Märzen. For a full breakdown of each style check out the 2015 BJCP guidelines. Look to Weihenstephan and Sierra Nevada for shining examples. Even then some breweries just brew whatever they want and label the beer a "Oktoberfest" which is fine because the term in itself is not a beer classification.
So again I ask the following - "Where to start?"
This is my mission should I chose to accept it. Try every single Oktoberfest beer available in my market. Bottle, can, draft, and growler. Taste the good, the bad, and the ugly. Be it German, American, mega brewed or hyper-local hipster craft brewed I will pour it straight into my face. From the tried and true Märzen Lager style to the ubiquitous Festbier all we be counted if they have the words "Oktoberfest" on the label. Thus far 11 different Oktoberfest beers have been imbibed with more queued up. You can follow my progress by subscribing to the Entry Proof Twitter account or by searching #daysofoktoberfest.
Got a suggestion? Feel like your beloved (or hated) Okfest was left out. Let me know in the comments section below and I'll do my best to hunt down a pour but remember availability is often restricted to the local market. For example you would be surprised at what I went through just to get two growlers of Ayinger Oktoberfest. This is a beer that used to see wide distribution in the greater Charleston area but that has fallen off in the past couple of years. It's a shame because Ayinger brews what could possibly be called the gold standard for the Oktoberfest Märzen style. This recent vacuum is more or less why I have decided to embark on this adventure. And not to spoil anything ahead of my follow up post but there are some stunning examples on the shelves that have far exceeded my expectations. Let the Oktoberfest flow! Prost!